for Winter Riding
2006 Cherry Hill www.horsekeeping.com
biggest challenge for a rider in winter is staying warm. Here are some tested
tips that can help make your winter riding more comfortable and enjoyable.
Select fabrics carefully. Some fibers make you feel toasty and comfortable
while others make you feel cold and clammy. Cotton absorbs perspiration
and does not retain insulating properties when wet so is not the best choice
for very cold riding. Silk doesn't retain soil or odor yet absorbs up to
33 percent of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. It is ideal for
under layers because it is thin yet very warm. Polyester is good as a thin
under layer and fluffy insulation. Wool is lightweight, absorbs up
to 16-18 percent of its weight, and retains its insulating properties even when
wet; it can be itchy. Down, depending on the grade, can be light, resilient,
and provide good insulation. Cordura nylon is lightweight, durable, abrasion
resistant, and rot and mildew proof so it is good for outer layers. Gore-Tex
has pores that block water penetration but allow for perspiration evaporation.
It is windproof, waterproof, and breathable.
Plan for perspiration release. Choose necklines with zippers or buttons.
Select fabrics that move moisture away from your body and release it. Silk,
open-weave fabrics, and treated polyester wick moisture away from your body.
The drier you stay, the warmer you will be.
Use layering. Layering traps air which keeps cold out and body heat in.
You can peel off layers as you exercise and avoid overheating, soggy clothes,
and subsequent chill. Use an under layer to handle perspiration, a middle
layer to provide insulation, and an outer layer to cut the wind and provide protection
4. Dress according
to your activity level. Is your riding passive, active, or very active?
Trail riding at the walk is passive, so extremities (fingers and toes) may get
cold from decreased circulation. Cross-country galloping is very active
for the rider and rarely results in coldness during reasonable environmental conditions.
If you are cold, you can increase your activity level. Move from a jog into
a posting trot, or get off and lead your horse to restore the blood flow in your
legs and arms. If you are too warm, decrease your activity level temporarily,
gradually vent body heat, or remove a layer.
Carry compact, lightweight accessories. When appropriate, take along added
protection such as a neck gaiter, scarf, extra gloves or socks. They take
little space in your pockets or saddle bags but can make a real difference in
6. Avoid tight
clothing. Pressure on surface capillaries from tight garments will slow
circulation and decrease body warmth. Loose clothing traps fluffy layers
of air which act as insulation.
Target problem areas.
Use a sheepskin saddle seat cover. The fibers of the sheepskin and the air
trapped between them warms up much more quickly than cold stiff saddle leather.
Feet. Start with warm,
dry boots, warm feet, and dont impair your circulation by tight boots or
socks that are too small. Use a thin sock liner with a medium weight wool
outer-sock. This provides wicking, insulation, and cushion. Choose
boots that fit well but are not the least bit tight. Even slight pressure
will cut off circulation and result in cold feet. Good winter riding boots
have an inner layer of perspiration-wicking material. Often the insole is
removable to allow drying. The middle layer should act as a mediator between
perspiration and the snow and slush. The outer layer should be durable yet
If your toes get especially cold, you
can use tapaderos which are stirrup covers.
If your riding doesnt require intricate rein aids, use fluffy, lightweight
polyester-filled gloves. If you ride with precise contact, use a pair of
thin glove liners under a pair of slightly over-sized leather riding gloves.
For temperatures around thirty degrees Fahrenheit, cross-country ski gloves, often
a blend of warm fabrics and leather, provide grip and warmth.
Don't be negligent in your choice of headgear you can lose a great deal
of precious body heat through your head. And always ride with a protective
helmet the winter ground is especially hard! When the weather is below
freezing, and especially if there is wind, choose an insulated hat/helmet with
a tight outer cover to deter heat loss from convection by the wind. A hat
with ear and forehead flaps will save you if the weather changes for the worse
During storms, a western hat's
brim protects you from freezing rain or snow, but leaves your ears unprotected.
Improvise with a hood/neck gaiter, a ski balaclava, or specialized western hat
Protect yourself from Ultra-Violet
rays. If you dont you may be get an increased dose from the glare
off the snow. Brimmed hats provide some protection for your face but you
still need to use sunscreen during the winter. Also, take care of your eyes
by wearing sun glasses that provide at least 98 % protection from UV rays.
Tinted lenses without UV protection may be worse than no sunglasses at all because
the dark lenses encourage the pupils to dilate, thus letting in more harmful glare.
Clothing around your neck should be adjustable or removable so you can vent body
heat and perspiration. Choose jackets with zip collars, zip turtlenecks,
neck gaiters and silk scarves.
For very cold weather, choose insulated pants specially designed for riding.
If you wear jeans or breeches, have a roomy pair for winter and use lightweight
silk or polyester drawers under them. To keep the bottoms of your pants
dry and your boot from filling up with snow (especially if you will be leading
your horse) use gaiters over your pants and boots.
Body. Since your trunk rarely gets cold (due to heat of circulation, respiration,
digestion), be sure you layer your upper body. Try a silk underlayer, a
down middle layer, and a nylon waterproof breathable shell. Some jackets
perform the functions of the middle and outer layers. During temperatures
in the thirties and forties, when a jacket is not be necessary, a good combination
is a silk turtleneck, wool sweater, and tightly woven riding vest.
outer garments that unzip or unsnap from both the top and the bottom and have
rear gussets which unsnap to cover the cantle. Be sure your riding jacket
allows freedom of movement in the shoulder and arm area.
geared up for winter riding