For students like me, winter break is a glorious two-week break off of school, off of work, off of getting up early and going to sports. For horses, it's basically the same thing. No schooling, no working, no getting up early, no going to sports. The only difference is: Winter break is two weeks for us. For horses, it's a whole season.

"Winter break" is when a horse's owner stops riding a horse over the winter because weather conditions do not permit it. You don't usually see horses going on winter breaks in Southern States (there's not much of a point) but up north, where it freezes the arena sand and snows on the trails, this is more common. People will usually stop riding their horse when the weather gets bad and start back up again in the spring, leaving the horse to a schedule of getting up, going out to the field, coming in to the stall, going to sleep, and repeating the same thing. Lots of horses can get sick this way because all of their exercise is cut out, but with proper diet and help from a vet, an owner can avoid the bitter winter months and keep still get their horse back in shape in time for the summer showing season.

I was nervous, though. Wouldn't a horse get bored sitting around for a few months with nothing to do? I decided to ask the readers. This is what some of you guys said:

Yay:

"Where I live, the temperature drops below zero for most of December and January. Knowing that I don't have to layer my socks and shirts to go ride my horse in the freezing cold is such a relief."
"There are just some days you can't ride. When you have too many of those, you start to consider giving your horse a break. It's very common where I live, especially with students. We have lots of testing around that time so it's nice not to have to fit the barn into our study schedules."
"My riding stable doesn't have an indoor arena, so as soon as the weather turns for the worse, I start weaning my horse off of exercise. Most of the other people at my barn do the same thing. It's not unhealthy! It takes a few weeks to get the horse back into shape, but the break is worth it."

Neigh:

"The reason a lot of horses have vices, like chewing on the fence or rocking on their hooves, is because they get bored. I've seen a lot of horses come back from winter break with vices because they get so bored without being cared for. Vices are so bad for a horse to have - I just don't understand why you would do something like that to a horse to let it get that bored, especially if you loved it!"
"I think some people think it is easier to just leave their horse alone all winter, but if you think about it, somebody has to be taking the horse in and out of the field, feeding it, and putting its blankets on. You're just making it harder for them!"
"How would you feel if you couldn't play any sports or get any exercise, just because it was cold? I know that some people think the horse likes not to have to be ridden, but horses are just like people. They need to move around! A few hours outside a day isn't enough!"
In the end, the majority of readers agreed that giving a horse a winter break is bad. 88% of TE subscribers decided that you'd be better off giving your horse at least a little exercise during the winter. Of course, it's up to you what you do with your horse. Whatever you decide, remember to consult your instructor or vet first. It's always better to be safe! Happy holidays,
                                                                                                                          - Emma
 


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