When riding our horses, it’s important to acclimate them to many different terrains. If you ride solely in an arena then this may not apply to you, but if you plan on doing any riding outside of the arena then it’s important to try your best to acclimate your horse to any terrain you can possibly find.
In the video below we have a horse that has seen very little ice in it’s time as we really don’t get that much that would be available to him. Knowing this, I somewhat encouraged him along a shallow frozen over puddle to see what he would do. His natural curiosity got him checking it out on the edges but a bit of encouragement got him going further until he was stepping all over it.
As you can see he’s not far from safe ground where he can get traction again if he needs it. Horses actually have a very hard time getting up if they fall down on ice, as they get most of their purchase from being able to dig their toes into the ground. If a horse gets on ice, it’s imperative to keep them calm and slowly lead them off if you can. As expected, the more experience the horse has with ice, or any terrain, the better they will be at maneuvering on it. This is why we do this when we have the opportunity to do so.
Overall you don’t really want to take horses on to ice. If they have shoes or boots on that have studs in them then maybe, but again, it’s very important they are well acclimated to the feeling of walking on ice. Like any terrain you might take your horse on or over, small steps are the best steps to take. At first, don’t ride them on it. Let them get used to what it’s like without you on their back. The weight of a rider, especially a poorly balanced one, can send you both to the ground and cause injuries all around.
Whether it’s ice or mud, hills, logs, rocky areas or water, acclimating your horse to them first is great horsemanship and good training practice for groundwork at first and riding practice later. Keep in mind and keep close watch on your horse’s feel and if you find him looking to bail on you then react accordingly. This may mean backing up, getting off if you’re on or just coming through quickly and then trying again. Horses are smart, they can figure things out really quickly and it may just be a matter of getting the motor skills and experience to get around without trouble.
Each opportunity you find to grow both yourself and your horse is always a great opportunity to take, sometimes you just have to look for it though.