Like every woman, I hate being cold, but I love riding. Winter riding separates the hardcore 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 boyfriend 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. Wool is always the best option for cold weather.
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. Keep this in mind in case you have an assortment of saddle depending on what you are doing with your horses.
4. Celebrate 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 therein. My hands stay reasonably 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. 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 wintertime 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.
7. Wear layers. I learned this from my climbing experiences. 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 used out of the gear while it is still cold.