I use to really hate winter riding before when I thought that long underware under jeans would suffice in -30 (celsius) weather. The place where I board my horse did have an indoor arena, but that didn't work out well...Ha, I would come home freezing everyday during the winter months ,so thats when my mom said that we would go out searching for the best winter riding clothes to keep me warm with my horse. I truly must thank Greenhawk for the amazing winter riding wear. I bought this two peice winter riding suit. Ha, it looks like a snow suit but it has a full seat on the pants...it keeps the wind out and insulates me quite well (the brand was elation) I would highly recommend this suit for riders who live in cold climates but want to still keep riding I also have a pair of Kerrit sit tight n' warm pants that go underneath. I swear I could live outside with the suit and the pants. I also have the arctic tall ariat boots and SSG winter riding mitten's. Lastly, I would tell everyone to get this helmet/face/neck cover that is fleece lined. It goes over your helmet and covers your ears down to your neck and wraps around. (It's like a bellaclava but it goes over top of the helmet). I believe the brand was Shedrow (found at greenhawk). So, yeah that's what I wear everyday during the winter months. I might look a little werid with all of that stuff on, but believe me, it has saved me from ever being frozen during riding again.
I totally agree with the ride bareback. No better way to keep warm in the winter. I personally love riding bareback any time of the year, and my pony (14.2hh) is just the right size and quite comfy. When it's too cold you can't worry about doing all the straps on a saddle, at least I don't. I usually don't ride if it's below 20 F. Above that, I'm usually fine in just a fleece or sweatshirt, and a mid-weight coat, I have several that work fine. If I ride in a saddle, I wear just a pair of polartech breeches, and on my feet Smartwool socks, and insulated hiking boots (which are what I ride in all summer too.) Um... unless it's really windy I don't worry about my neck, and I only ever use a ear band that will fit under my helmet. And... oh, yeah, I'm not that picky about gloves, anything middleweight works. Afterall, when you're used to it being as cold as it is in WI over the winter, 20-30's feel kinda nice. And if it's over the 30's, why heck, that isn't cold at all.
I'll preface this by saying that I am in central California, so my version of cold is probably far warmer than most of you... and so I may sound like a wimp :~)
I ride in the EARLY mornings, I'm loading in the trailer before the sunrise and usually hitting the trail or arena between 7-7:30. This time of year everything is frozen, including every metal surface (gates, trailer, etc) the mud and lots of ice along the trail. It's normally around 28 degrees (F) when I am getting ready to go out. I don't know the temp as the sun starts to come up.
I have one HUGE tip for cold weather riding- Snow board shop!!! (I agree with finding gear that is made for cold weather elements, which usually disqualifies riding clothes- at least in my budget.)
I wear snow boarding socks every time it's cold and my feet never feel chilled. They are much more comfy than my wool socks... stretchy and they come up to cover my calves.
While I love my "lazy cowgirl style", I have learned to detest riding in jeans for more than an hour, so I pretty much never ride in them anymore. Before I figured out how to sew my own pants, I was wearing snow boarding pants. Other than the bulk, they were perfect- lots of pockets, completely warm, I didn't feel hot and sweaty and they have the extra layer that can tuck into your sock and the outer goes over your boot, so it keeps the water out, too. The bulk and "swish" sound when I walked drove me nuts, so I eventually figured out how to make my own gear.
Now what I wear is a thermal under shirt (my favorite is 48% polyester and 52% cotton) with a polyester polar fleece vest. Before I ride I usually also wear a polar fleece jacket, but I leave it at the trailer when I ride because I'll get too warm with my arms covered and I hate to have it around my waist or tied onto my saddle.
I wear polar fleece riding pants... so cute, I made them myself- they have a full seat, a D ring for my keys and are boot cut, so they keep the rain out of my boots too.
Then my snow boarding socks and some great boots that I found at target of all places. They are rubber bottom that wraps up the top a ways, so even when I am walking along the trail or through water crossings, my feet stay warm and dry.
I also made some ear warmers that slip over the straps in my helmet because I can't stand to ride with cold ears, a nice loose neck warmer that I can pull up over my mouth/nose and fleece sleeves. The fleece sleeves go down over my hands up to my knuckles, but not over my fingers (I hate riding with gloves if I can't really feel the reins as well.) I tried making my own gloves, but they never came out just right... these have a hole that my thumb goes through, so they stay in place and my hand stays warm. I can pull my fingers into the hand area with the reins in my hand without it being cumbersome. And the sleeves can pull up to my shoulders or push down to just stack up around my wrist. I hope to get some use out of these in the spring when the mornings are cold and just wear them with a short sleeved shirt... so I can take them off when it warms up.
I love layering, but have found that it is easier for me to stow away my layers as it warms up if they are small pieces... but I'm sure that may be a luxury of California weather.
If you are at all do-it-yourself-ish, I'd encourage you to try some fleece projects. It's pretty easy to work with. DO find a good brand and true non-pill though (I've found that cheaper fleeces at local shops are often marked non-pill, but they aren't nearly as plush/nice or non-pill after hours of riding and many washes). Make sure that the seller can provide you with fabric weights so you know if one layer of fleece will be enough to keep you warm.
My only "beef" with fleece is that shavings and hay (and stickers when I'm walking) are attracted like magnets. I'm experimenting with another outer layer of a different fabric that will help cut wind and not have the same "stick" factor with shavings.
We have a covered outdoor, so while it is dry it is still quite chilly! Santa brought me an ear band that is made to go over the bill of a ball cap; but works as well over the visor of my helmet (I use a Tipperary for schooling). I don't like things underneath my helmet, it gives me headaches, but this thinnish fleecy thing is windproof, lightweight and warm! I live in St. Louis, and today the high was 25 F, so I am familiar with the cold! I also fell in love with SmartWool ski socks last year; they are tall, warm and on the thinner side, so you can layer with them.
I'm not going to write off cotton as a base layer entirely. Reading all the hype, I tried out the silk base layer undershirt (from Lands End) that supposedly wicks away moisture. After warming up, I was wet during the ride until 2 hours later when I got home and took the silk layer off. The material was damp and cold. It simply wasn't effective once I started sweating. Til I got home, I wanted some kind of portable gadet to dry me out!
The next ride, (about the same temperatures, length, intensity, same mid and outer layers, etc.) my base layer was a long sleeved organic cotton T shirt. I cooled out well and was dry by the time I got home.
Maybe it depends on the cotton comb/knit. But I'm going to put that on again before the silk!
I also like polypropylene/wool combo socks & clothing as cheaper than silk options. And I find riding in full leg chaps keeps the wind out and the warmth in. Basically I look like the Michelin Man when I ride in the cold - IF I ride in the cold!
Snow skiing shops have great stuff too just pricier. Hit the spring sales.
If I'm just trail riding or moseying around the arena because I don't want to work my horse too hard in the cold, I'll wear my insulated bib overalls. And I always layer my outer clothes with wind resistent polarfleece.
If I have to actually sit up and ride I use winter breeches from Smoothstride. I have yet to find a boot I stay warm in though. Hands, torso, legs are all good, but my feet are cold! (and I do use ski socks)
The trick to keeping feet warm is to get 1/2 - 1 size larger than normal and wear wool socks.
If you have wide feet, get your size in men's boots - men's shoes and boots usually have a wider toe box.
Ah yes... but, as the sergeant told me when I was being fitted for my Army boots ... "Ma'am, we don't make them as wide as they is long" ... heh heh heh...
Short & wide feet. I can't find the men's boots in small enough sizes. But I DO agree with oversize winter boots. and oversize winter pants to fit all the other stuff underneath; AND ... loose fitting gloves.
You guys are crazy. I go out, I feed, count the frozen whiskers on my mare and her donkey pal (who's ears look like upside down icycles) The number of frozen whiskers is usually equal to the number of minus degrees on the thermometer. Combine that with the 3+ feet of snow, drifts of 7 or 8 feet, and ice underneath everything, and not even my carharts will get me on to ride.
this morning it was -4 at sunrise. Never got above 25. I'm not blanketing, because they both have an extraordinary winter coat and a nice layer of fat, and a stall to go into when they want (funny, the donkey is usually the one in the stall)
My bummer story of the winter though is that my neighbor, while nicely trying to help plow us out, accidentally backed into my new horse trailer. AAARGH! I couldn't even really be angry with him, he was just trying to help....and his daughter takes care of my pasture pals when we go out for business. (it's their donkey, too, they let me keep her so my mare has a pal.)
Enjoy your winter riding, I wish I could, and next winter we'll be somewhere warm...my mare, my husband and me!! If I could figure out how to post a pic, I'd show the snow!
I used to be paid to ride out, foxhunters, steeplechasers to be; the secret is to equip yourself with suitable "work clothing n" I wore two pair of underwear with wool sweater / polarflece neck warmer , , turtleneck, polarfleece riding pants or "on course " pants, like ski pants with knee patches;I consigned mine to Midleburg Tack Exchange, the jacket was either er from On course or Mountain horse /State line. With that on I was very warm;My boots were the "thermal lined " paddock boots, from Ariat, two sizes too big with three pair socks, the last polarfleece ( love it!or heavy wool ; Yes, it got very cold but, we got the horses out very day;