As you recall from yesterday's post, I'm doing a series on my favorite products for staying warm and comfortable while riding during the winter. Of course, you could just skip reading these posts and head down to Florida for the winter. Julie, for example, doesn't have these problems at the moment. Just wait til next winter... she won't know what hit her.
Before we begin... some housekeeping. I edited the HTML code of the blog so that the links open in a new window because I thought going back and forth was a little cumbersome in the last post. I don't know of a way to differentiate between internal and external links though, so that means that if you click on an older post, or the comments, or Tucker & Julie's pages, that will also open in a new window. So please let me know your impressions and whether you like this format better or not. Changing it back is easy! (Also happy to provide instructions on how to do it, if you like.)
For even colder days (30s to low 40s), I'll use the same base layers as above, with a few changes:
1. Instead of my regular TS schooling breeches, I'll use a winter weight breech, like these from Smartpak, or for a less expensive but just as warm (though slightly less fashionable) alternative, I also have winter breeches from On Course at State Line Tack. I don't think they make them anymore though, because I couldn't find a link for them. They are quite similar to these from Ovation. Come to think of it, I actually need more winter breeches. Has anyone ever tried out the Kerrits Winter Breeches or the JPC Baker Softshell Breeches?
2. Depending on how cold it is, I will usually where one fleece long sleeve and one fleece vest, or sometimes two fleeces. I try to buy fleece that isn't too bulky so that it layers well. In this type of weather, I also love wearing a jacket that I got at EMS last year as a mid-layer. It's a special type of jacket that keeps warmth in but allows the moisture to leave (unlike a shell that will trap moisture), and it blocks the wind, so it's warmer than a fleece while riding. Plus, the outside is smooth while the inside is fleecy, so hay and shavings don't stick. Definitely one of my favorite pieces, but it looks like they don't make it anymore! UPDATE: I found it, and it does not appear to be available for sale anywhere online. If you're curious, a photo and description is available here. All soft shells are supposedly breathable, but this one really works the best at doing the combined job of blocking wind and releasing moisture.
3. If it's a little colder, I'll add a down layer, though I don't usually keep a down jacket on while riding. I am a huge fan of these Land's End down jackets. They are light weight but so warm (seeing a pattern?) and not too bulky which means I can put my non-lined softshell over it for wind or rain protection. I have a couple of down vests too, which are great for riding because you have a lot of warmth without restricting your arms. Again, I'll usually start peeling layers off every few minutes or so while riding to make sure that I don't get too hot. My goal is usually to try to keep my bottom layers dry.
4. Accessories. It's important that you keep all your extremities warm, cause nothing makes you feel colder than freezing cold fingers and toes. I personally can't stand my ears to be cold, so I wear a fleece ear band when not riding (you can find these just about anywhere for pretty cheap), and while riding I use one of those cotton hair bands pulled over my ears just below my hairnet to keep my ears covered. They are thin enough that they don't change the fit of your helmet and you can still hear everything around you. I also always wear a wool blend scarf to warm up (again, Marshall's is a great place to pick up a few of these on the cheap), but make sure that the ends are tucked in well to your layers, because it could be a safety hazard. If you're concerned about safety, you can always use one of these, though they can't be removed easily while mounted, so I only use mine when it's bitter cold. Lastly, I use my Roeckl gloves to ride (best riding gloves ever, worth every penny), but in the barn I love my SSG Windstopper gloves. They will keep your hands warm and even keep them pretty dry if you touch something wet (though not completely dry if you accidentally splash your hand with the hose. For that, you need these, or the poor man's alternative: pull latex gloves on over your winter gloves.)
5. Winter boots. It probably goes without saying that you need a good pair of winter boots that will keep your feet warm and dry. I wear mine even before it's really that cold out, because I can't stand to have cold feet. The pair that I have, which are my favorite part about winter, are these by the North Face. I found them on sale after the holidays last winter, and I could not be happier with them. I have worn these all day at a freezing cold winter horse show (with my smartwools underneath, of course), at the end of the day my feet were still cozy and comfortable. They are also waterproof, which is a must in the winter. Nothing like stepping in a puddle and getting your socks wet to really ruin your day.
6. For Tucker, when it's in the 30s while I'm riding him, I use a fleece quarter sheet to warm up underneath his fleece cooler. I pull the cooler off after we've walked, and either pull the quarter sheet after we've warmed up or sometimes just leave it on for the whole ride if it's a light ride or it's particularly chilly. Some horses don't like being ridden with a quarter sheet though -- so be careful! Tucker of course doesn't mind one bit. He's not a fan of the cold. The colder it is, the lazier he becomes ("No mommy, too cold... soooo sleepy... can't... go... faster... must... turn... back..."). In the barn, he wears his hug stable blanket, which I love because it keeps his shoulders from getting rubbed, and his mid-weight high neck turnout blanket. I also make sure that his soaked alfalfa is warm, and heat up the water before I add it to the alfalfa with a water bucket heater. Spoiled pony.
Tomorrow, we venture into the dangerously cold portion of the season... the teens and 20s!