EN Today: Winter Q&A with Jennie Brannigan

Top event rider Jennie Brannigan answers reader questions about winter training and care. Compiled by Jenni Autry.

Top photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Winter Q&A Series gives Eventing Nation readers a forum to ask their most burning winter-training questions. Panelists Katie Murphy, Doug Payne, Denny Emerson and Jennie Brannigan will answer reader-submitted questions through March, with their answers appearing each week on the blog. Have a question for our panelists? Submit it to [email protected]. Jennie Brannigan is answering today’s questions. -Jenni Autry

My biggest question, and I debate about it every year, is whether or not to do a partial clip. I ride regularly, but I end up just doing a lot of walking and hacking in the woods because it gets too icy to do much. (Submitted by EN reader Chelsie)

Jennie: I would have to say that when it comes to picking out what kind of clip you would like to go for through the winter, the most important part is to think about how sweaty your horse is going to get when being ridden and how prone to skin issues your horse is. At our farm at True Prospect Farm, if a horse is coming back from a vacation or doing a lot of walking and jogging, we will just give it a trace clip. The majority of horses will just have their bodies clipped. The ones that are prone to getting scurf or rainrot I like to have fully clipped so I can see what’s going on under all the hair. It sounds like in your situation you would best be suited for a trace clip. It keeps your pony warm and, hey, it’s less time for you to be clipping!

Also, if the ground is icy or frozen, I would say to not jump on it. Trailer over to a friend’s indoor and do some grids! A little hard is one thing, but completely frozen is a definite safety factor!

During the dark months, there’s just no way I can ride during the week. The OTTB I work with will get out hunting, so fitness isn’t a big concern. Keeping in mind that he’s green and still thinks he’s a racehorse, I’m wondering what I should do with him — if anything — to keep up his eventing education. I hope he doesn’t turn into the kind of field hunter that can’t focus on the boring stuff come spring. (Submitted by EN reader Julie)

Jennie: It sounds like you’ve got a nice horse that can go out and hunt as well as event! What a bummer you can’t ride during the week. To be honest with you, I love hunting and think it’s a fanstatic thing to do with horses to get them savvy with learning about how to cover ground and getting them calm in groups. To me the biggest challenge would be making sure your OTTB’s mind stays in good form for when you switch back to eventing. If you’re only riding on the weekends and one day is spent hunting, I would say your best bet is to do some flatwork on the other day with a lot of relaxation work — maybe even just in a long and low frame to remind him to stay relaxed and over the back. If his mind is quite good with the hunting, you’re already doing great prep work for next year’s eventing season, so hunt on. In the spring, I would do a lot of work in grids and trotting jumps to make sure he’s rideable and mix back in a lot of flatwork in and out of the jumping ring to make sure you have your rideability.

Assuming bare feet are not an option, what is the safest way to shoe a horse who will remain in work throughout the winter months? (Submitted by EN reader Jacqueline)

Jennie: If you’re shoeing a horse for the winter months and bare feet aren’t an option, ask your farrier to put borium on the shoes. They will literally weld it on and it helps with road riding and icy conditions. We often do this at True Prospect when we start doing road work in the winter to ensure our horses aren’t slipping.

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