I do a lot of riding and I am always surprised when I see people missing one of what I consider to be the most basic of winter riding gear: the cooler.

There are many varieties of coolers in different shapes, materials, colors, and prices.

Photo: Alayne Blickle

Having the right winter clothing, both for you and your horse, is critical at this time of the year, but shopping for horse clothes can be confusing, especially for those new to horse keeping.

In the winter when we are finally able to get out to ride, our hairy horses are fresh and our rides long. This increases the odds of ending up with a hot, sweaty horse that takes what seems like forever to dry. It is especially important to deal with this situation when a wet horse is returning to outdoor living in a pasture or paddock, or in frigid temperatures or windy conditions (which further lower body temperatures. Any of this can lead to sore backs, soft-tissue problems, achy joints, or other illnesses.

If you are riding in the cold winter months a cooler is a necessary winter-time piece of equipment for horse keeping. Coolers, which look like a large blanket or sheet, are placed across the horse’s back and body to keep a horse comfortable after a tough workout. They are made of either fleece or wool and work by wicking away the moisture generated by the heat of the horse's body.

Moisture goes through the cooler (which is also keeping the horse warm) and is wicked away into the air. This helps to dry a horse more quickly while keeping them from getting too cold. There are many, many varieties of coolers in different shapes, materials, colors and prices – do an Internet search for more ideas. Or, save money by making an inexpensive cooler out of an old woolen or fleece household blanket (yes, the kind from your bed!) with a few clips (or cloth ties stitched in place) under the horse’s neck to fasten it closed.

 Stay warm!