Winter Riding Survival Tips
Winter riding gear that will keep you warm
By Christine Churchill, Five Star Ranch Staff Writer
I hate being cold, but I love riding. Winter riding separates the hard core from the fair weather rider. Over the years I've learned a few things to help make winter riding more tolerable.
1. Get a pair of insulated riding boots. My friends joke that I must work for the company that makes them - I don't, but I will endorse them. Insulated riding boots have been one of the biggest reasons I've been able to continue riding in horrible cold conditions. My husband bought me a pair of Mountain Horse insulated boots a few years ago as a Christmas present. Before I discovered them I had tried everything to try to keep my toes warm from battery powered heated socks to three layers of socks in boots that were two sizes too big. Nothing works as well as insulated riding boots.
2. Wear chaps over warm pants. Chaps stop the wind and much of the cold is really the wind chill factor. I bought a pair of chaps that were on the big side so I could wear thermal underwear and warm pants under the chaps.
3. Put a fleece pad in your saddle seat. This adds some cushioning, but more than that, it helps keep your tush warm. I've probably gone overboard on these saddle seat pads because I've bought them for all my saddles. (I have an assortment of saddle depending on what I'm doing with my horses).
4. Splurge and treat yourself to some thinsulate insulation gloves. These work better than cloth riding gloves. I have several pairs, including one pair that is a variation of a mitten where the little finger is separated to hold the rein. My hands stay reasonable warm now.
5. Carry hand warmers. I love these little hand warmers in the winter and buy them by the case. Seriously. I slide them inside my gloves to keep my hands warm when I'm out in the cold. My daughter carries them to soccer games so the girls can have a source of heat while they are waiting to play. I leave several in the glove compartment of my car...just in case. They are lightweight and come in a variety of sizes. I haven't tried the foot version yet, but the hand warmers are one of my winter time indulgences.
6. Get a hat that fits under your helmet. Just because you're bundling up for the cold, doesn't mean you have to give up safety. Now they have specialty hats that fit under your helmet so you can ride and be safe. I have also seen a version that fits over the helmet and comes down and covers your ears and neck with polartec. I think that will be one of my next purchases.
7. Wear layers. I learned this from my skiing days. As you ride you warm up and can actually get too hot. To stay comfortable and not sweaty, you may want to shed some of your outer gear like a heavy coat. If you dress in layers, you can easily take off some of the outer layers and tie them on to your saddle. Then if the wind picks up or the temperature drops, you can have them handy to put back on.
8. Ride in an indoor arena. Okay, this isn't an option for everyone, but having access to an indoor facility in the winter can be really nice. The wind lowers the effective temperature, so if you can ride in a protected area like an indoor arena, you can tolerate the cold weather riding easier.
Just do it. Winter riding has its own special joys. Often the trails are less crowded and there are more opportunities to see wildlife. Also there is something incredibly bonding about overcoming cold hardships that help meld horse and rider closer together.
The best time to buy winter riding gear is toward the end of the season. Companies often have great sales on winter gear starting in mid January. Buying the gear after the new year allows you to save money and get use out of the gear while it is still cold.
Winter Riding Gear Ideas
I added the following links to insulated boots and other winter riding gear I've used after several reader wrote in asking for this information. I ride in the Mountain Horse tall boots - I've had them for over ten years and they have held up well. The company also makes a shorter version that you can wear under jeans. I haven't seen a western style insulated boot yet, but I'd opt for warmth over style anyday.