What better way to enjoy the stunning white and frosty landscapes during winter than riding your horse! Although riding on ice without appropriate protection from sliding can be dangerous for both you and your horse. Discover how Matilde from Norway manages to protect her horses from slipping on the icy ground and is able to drive and ride her horse safely throughout the frosty winter months.
By Helle Maigaard Erhardsen
Every single day during winter Matilde Brandt takes about 100 liters of hot water from her shower and carries it down to her car, before she drives out to see her horses. She lives in an apartment in the center of Oslo, the capital of Norway, and her horses are agisted just 15 minutes drive away in the great forests that surrounds Oslo.
“It usually freezes from minus fifteen to zero degrees celsius here in winter and there’s no electricity or hot water where my horses are. So I need to bring out hot water to defrost their drinking water and give them a temperate drink,” Matilde explained.
Simple daily tasks like mucking out the paddock also becomes a challenge in the freezing Norwegian winter, as Matilde first needs to chop the frozen manure free with an ice pick, before she can clean it away.
“People do ask me how I can be bothered with such a hassle, but winter is actually my favorite time of the year with my horses. There’s no mosquitos to harass us in winter, the horses turn wonderfully fluffy and the magical, white snow and frost brightens up the entire landscape - it’s just beautiful,” Matilde said.
The multi-talented horse Iver is trained by Matilde herself. He recently co-starred in the new Norwegian film “Tre Nøtter til Askepott”
(Three Wishes for Cinderella) as the Prince’s horse.
Go Barefoot to Prevent Build-up of Ice in your Horses’ Hooves
Currently, Matilde has two Norwegian Døle Horses; Eira, a youngster, and seven year old Iver. Both horses are barefoot, which is an advantage not least in winter time, as the natural heat in the hooves help to prevent the packing up of snow and ice underneath the hooves that can otherwise cause lameness and injuries.
The accumulation of snow and ice that freezes rock-hard under the horses’ feet, is most prevalent is horses that are shod. Firstly, because the horseshoes create extra cavities for the snow to get stuck in. Secondly, research has shown that iron shoes can drain horses of body heat through their feet and shod horses tend to have colder feet compared to barefoot horses.
If your barefoot horse should still be struggling with hard lumps of ice and snow under his hooves, hoof boots are a great way to protect his feet. Hoof Boots such as Scoot Boots are made from flexible material, which is harder for ice and snow to set on compared to the naked hoof. Scoot Boots offer superior ventilation, which makes them suitable for turnout in the paddock where they will also provide your horse with traction and protection from hard, frozen ground.
Riding your horse in winter time can also be dangerous due to the risk of slipping on snow, ice and uneven frozen ground. Although letting your horse wear hoof boots - either as they are or with extra traction studs applied - can make many difficult winter riding conditions much safer.
“Studded Scoot Boots have excellent grip on ice and they stay on at full speed and in deep snow. I’m beyond amazed by these boots,” Matilde said.
Ice Studs to Prevent your Horse from Slipping on Icy Roads
By applying studs to your hoof boots, you will maximize their traction as the studs will dig into the ground - just like the studs on football players’ boots that prevent slipping on the grass field. Scoot Boots are made to provide excellent grip on all surfaces and have ample room to apply studs to the sole of the boots to enhance their grip even further.
Ice studs from Scoot Boots are ideal for riding on flat ice like frozen roads, as the small size of the studs makes it possible for them to pierce through the ice and create a grip on this most slippery surface. These ice studs also work excellent on slippery, flat grass arenas. However, if you’re riding on an uneven surface, you’ll need longer and thicker studs to provide sufficient grip.
Studs are very easy to apply and below you can watch a video on how to do it. Although amending Scoot Boots does cancel the warranty on them, the drill holes don't ruin the boots and you can still use them as normal without studs attached.
“I use my hoof boots 80 percent of the time in winter, mostly with ice studs applied or bigger studs for more traction. I love that Scoot Boots don’t get wet and heavy from snow and ice slush like some other brands of hoof boots, that takes many hours to dry out between each use,” Matilde said.
Check Surface Conditions before Winter Riding
There are conditions, however, that make winter riding unsafe, no matter the size of the studs in your hoof boots. So make sure to always check the surface of the places you want to go - especially if you can’t see the ground due to snow cover.
“Be very careful when riding onto a new area covered in snow, as you never know if the snow is sitting on top of a layer of ice. In that case there are hardly any studs that can help you and it’s just too dangerous,” Matilde said, who has 20 years of experience riding and driving horses in Norwegian winters.
A more obvious surface condition to stay away from is when highly uneven ground has frozen rock-hard. You may be able to walk through it if your horse’s feet are protected by hoof boots, but the great risk of your horse stumbling or twisting his lower limbs might not be worth taking.
Once the ground starts to defrost again, you’re probably left with a slushy mud soup. But no need to worry, now your studded hoof boots are back in effect and will provide your horse with a safe grip on mud, slippery grass and ice slush. Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather as long as you make sure to dress for the occasion.
Iver always wears hoof boots when driving to protect his hooves from excessive wear.
Check out Matilde's Instagram to see more stunning photos from her horsey adventures.
Building a Supportive Barefoot Community
The team at Scoot Boot believe passionately in the barefoot horse and strive to build a supportive community of barefoot horse lovers.
Find more information about using Scoot Boots here.
About the author
Helle Maigaard Erhardsen is an investigative journalist specialising in environmental issues. Her devotion to the outdoors includes a life long passion for horses of which she has two: Pannigan, an off-the-track Thoroughbred and Audrey, a Shetland pony, who are both bitless and barefoot. Helle is born in Denmark, where she graduated from the Danish School of Media and Journalism in 2015. Her work is characterised by comprehensive research and she was nominated for the special media award Bording Prisen for her investigative reporting with the newspaper Ing.dk. She later obtained a Master’s degree in Journalism, Media and Communication from UTAS, when she relocated to Tasmania.