This post will conclude our series on my favorite products for surviving winter. Once again, I recommend an alternative such as moving to the tropics, if you have the means. If not, then please, read on....
For bitter cold days (in my opinion, that's the high teens and 20s. If it's colder than that, I think you need a space suit or something. I wouldn't know. When it's that cold, I spend about 20 minutes at the barn making sure the pony is warm enough, is free from injury and has all his shoes):
1. Instead of a mid-weight base layer, I like a heavy weight base layer, like those made for skiing. My favorite are Hot Chilly's. I only use them when it's really seriously cold though. If it's above the 20s, I'm going to be too hot, so I'd rather use a lighter base layer and add an extra fleece or jacket that I can remove as I ride. Believe it or not, these plus winter weight breeches will actually keep your legs warm in 20 degree weather. You'll look like you put on a few pounds though, so I wouldn't stop by the coffee shop to flirt with that cute guy behind the counter on your way home from the barn. (Ask me how I know this.) If you don't want to splurge on winter weight breeches, the Hot Chilly's will also keep you warm in weather in the 30s and 40s under regular breeches, though you may need to wear a pair that's big on you (we all have those in the back of the closet somewhere right?)
2. Instead of the 1/4 zips in Post #1, I wear the warmest shirt ever invented, from EMS. I don't know what this shirt is made of but I am very thankful that someone created it. It is the warmest thing I own, pound for pound (it's literally featherweight). It also has these little slits at the bottom of the sleeve to slide your thumbs in (so do the EMS base layers, now that I mention it) -- so no more cold wrists! If the weather is in the low 30s/high 20s, this shirt plus the Hot Chilly's top under it is a little too much warmth (in which case I'll opt for a midweight base layer instead), but in the low 20s or teens, the combination is just right. If I were to recommend one thing on my list more than any of the others, for really cold weather this one would be it. There's a deal on them right now, but EMS also has a big sale at some point during the season, so I'm holding out for that to pick up a few more. I haven't found any other shirts as warm as this one.
3. For the next layer, I'll usually layer 2 fleeces under my Land's End down jacket or my North Face softshell jacket, and sometimes throw my down vest on over all that for extra warmth. That's the beauty of buying things that are lightweight and warm: you can combine them quite comfortably. I also have a few wool ski sweaters that I like to have for when it's really super cold. I love my fleeces because they're so easy to clean, but when the weather turns really brutal, nothing beats a really good wool sweater. While riding, I'll lose the softshell and the down jacket. The nice thing about the base layers I've described and the fleeces or the wool is that they'll keep heat in but let moisture out, so you don't end up damp and cold after your ride. If you keep the softshell or the down jacket on and you start to sweat, it's going to trap the moisture and you'll end up with that bone chilling cold feeling. Yuck.
4. For accessories, I'll usually switch to a hat and an earband (have yet to find a hat I like that doesn't leave my ears cold), definitely will be hiding behind a scarf or neckwarmer, and instead of riding in my Roeckl gloves I use my SSG silk lined gloves. Same exterior as the Roeckl's, but that little silk lining does amazing things for keeping your hands warm while not adding any bulk. It has to be really cold for me to use these though, otherwise my hands get too warm. I also ride in my winter paddock boots and half chaps instead of my regular paddock boots, though I'm pining away for a pair of Ariat Bromonts. I've had my winter paddock boots forever and they are starting to fall apart. It might be time to let them go.
5. Foot and hand warmers. If you're not going to be moving around much, foot and hand warmers are your best friends. Slipped into the top of a pair of mittens (I like the ones where the top folds back) or stuck to the bottom of your sock, these will definitely keep the circulation going in your extremities. I love them, but find that they make my feet a little too warm when I'm riding. They are definitely really good for horse show days though!
6. In this kind of weather I put Tucker in his quarter sheet and his wool cooler to ride, or if it's really cold I'll hop on bareback with his blankets still on just to get him moving his parts a little bit. (Not recommended for horses who become wild in the winter. As you recall, Tucker hibernates.) In the barn, he's in his hug stable blanket with his Weatherbeeta high neck heavyweight turnout. A few times I've added a cotton sheet under these two layers for a little more warmth, though he generally stays pretty toasty in these two only. Lots of people like the fleece liners for their horses in the winter, but the one and only time Tucker wore one, he managed to pull it out from under his other blankets, shred it, and trample it. He was wearing the remains of it like a bib in the morning. Not sure if it was bothering him or if he just got bored, but I worry about horses getting hurt when they tear their blankets so I try to make sure everything he wears is relatively indestructable. He's pretty tough on blankets, though as he gets older he seems to try to kill them less and less (fingers crossed).
I didn't link to all the products in this post because I already mentioned them in the last two posts, so if you want to know where to by something online, check those out. This now concludes our three part winter survival guide. For those of you who are smarter than me and live in warmer climates, I will now stop talking about things that don't interest you in the least. For those of you who are currently suffering through winter, hopefully some of these items will be of use to you, and please let me know if there's any gear that gets you through winter as well. Always happy to hear new suggestions!
Hope everyone is staying warm out there!