I’ve rarely had to battle the elements in order to ride during the winter. For the first 22 years of my life, both my horses and I called Houston, Texas, home. There, our idea of a polar vortex was a few weeks of daytime temperatures in the 40s. And since I’ve lived in Kentucky, winters have either been mild or my horses have been in Florida.

So this year’s uncharacteristically brutal season has opened my eyes to some of the challenges of winter riding. Here’s what I’ve learned (and you probably already know):

A well-maintained indoor arena has been a riding must-have this winter.

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett

An Indoor Arena is Essential

I can’t imagine any other way to keep a sport horse in form over a long, icy winter than having access to a good indoor arena. My barn’s indoor allows us to ride long past sunset and regardless of the temperature. We did, however, encounter some footing hiccups. When temps first dipped below freezing for days on end, watering and dragging risked turning the riding ring into an ice rink. So the place was a bit of a dust bowl until the owner added magnesium chloride–the same compound applied to roads for ice control–to the footing. Don’t worry, it’s safe for use around horses, unlike another road salt–caustic calcium chloride. (One pony mom thought this