top of page


WCI Snowy Barn.jpg

Take a Winter Break from Riding

January 20, 2024

By: Meghan Slaughter, BS Animal Science, Master of Kinesiology

          For those of us who ride in outdoor arenas, winter weather can feel like a frustrating obstacle to our riding fun and training. You may feel tempted to jump back in the saddle before the arena has thawed and dried out. After all, no one wants to lose the progress that they made before the winter storms hit. However, riding in wet and icy conditions can increase the risk of injury to our horses (1). 


          Even though a weather-mandated break from riding can be disappointing, the good news is that it should not set you back in your training as long as you maintain your own fitness through a regular exercise program. Human athletes lose their fitness after only a couple of weeks without exercise (2), but research shows that horses can maintain their fitness levels even over a five or six week break from training (3,4). If anything, an occasional break from riding can actually help to reduce your horse’s risk of common overuse injuries, like suspensory ligament tears (5).

          Once the weather and your arena footing finally improves, start light work during the first week, then gradually return to full work. This will give you and your horse time to re-adjust back to the training load.  Then, you can pick up your training program right where you left off.




1. Murray, R.C., Walters, J.M., Snart, H., Dyson, S.J., & Parkin, T.D. (2010). Identification of

risk factors for lameness in dressage horses. Vet J, 184(1), 27-36.

2. McArdle, W.D., Katch, F.I., & Katch, V.L. (2014). Exercise physiology: Nutrition, energy, and

human performance (8th ed.). Wolters Kluwer Health.

3. Rivero, J.L. (2007). A scientific background for skeletal muscle conditioning in equine

practice. J Vet Med, 54(6), 321-332.

4. Tyler, C.M., Golland, L.C., Evans, D.L., Hodgson, D.R., & Rose, R.J. (1996). Changes in

maximum oxygen uptake during prolonged training, overtraining, and detraining in horses. J Appl Physiol, 81(5), 2244-2249.

5. Murray, R.C., Dyson, S.J., Tranquille, C. & Adams, V. (2006). Association of type of sport and

performance level with anatomical site of orthopaedic injury diagnosis. Equine Vet J

Suppl, 36(1), 411-416.

bottom of page