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How Not to Freeze to Your Horse
 By Winniefield Park   •   25th Oct 2013   •   2,189 views   •   0 comments
How Not to Freeze to Your Horse

Those of us in North America are heading into the coldest months of the year. And of course, we can't stop riding just because it's cold! But, as the temperature dips, how do you prevent yourself from freezing to your horse?

Headgear
Just wearing a helmet in the winter leaves your ears vulnerable to becoming ice chips. There are a few different styles of ear warmers available for riding. Thin knit caps can fit underneath your helmet, but these might not be warm enough for anything but indoor schooling. Hoods can be bought that go right over your helmet, but I find these interfere with my peripheral vision. Some ear muffs go around the back of your head, and do a nice job of keeping the wind from whistling through. You may have to try a few different things before finding something that works well and doesn't shift or bind.

Riding Jackets
An old ski jacket can be worn riding of course. But often regular winter jackets aren't cut wide enough through the shoulder and hip area to allow for movement. Jackets for riding are made so they don't bind across the shoulder and are flared at the hip. Often, gores can be opened and closed with domes or hook and loop fastener, so they're more snug when you're just working around the barn. Fasteners at the wrists make it easy to snug the cuffs around the tops of your riding gloves.

Related: How Horses Stay Warm in Winter
Related: To Blanket or Not to Blanket

Gloves or Mitts
The fact that I have a bit of arthritis in my fingers now might have something to do with the number of times I finished riding with my fingers frozen around the reins. A good pair of riding gloves or mitts for winter is one thing I don't mind spending a bit of extra money on. Leather is the best for breaking a cold wind, but if they happen to get wet, get stiff as they dry out. Chaff, hair and shavings stick to fleece, but picking up shavings bags is easier with the ones with dots of rubber on the palms. Synthetic outer gloves lined with fleece may be the best bet, combining wind resistance and warmth.

Boots
Leather or rubber? Depends on whether or not you'll be riding and mucking out in the same boots. Leather takes maintenance, but also breathes. Your feet get cold quickly in rubber boots that don't release moisture. But, if you think that you'll be slopping through slush and mud more than wind and cold, rubber may be the way to go. Just make sure they have at least a one inch (2.5cm) heel, and a tread that won't catch on the stirrups.

Riding Pants
There are many different types of riding pants available. Polar fleece is warm, but don't go near a bale of hay or bag of shavings, because they are magnets for chaff and dust. Ski pants can be too slippery to ride in. Ones made for riding may give better grip. Tights that are fleecy on the inside, but with a tight knit on the outside will stay cleaner and be a bit warmer too. For real wind-proofing, you can't beat a pair of leather schooling chaps.

Winter Undies
There's nothing worse than schooling a horse or doing some barn work that makes you break a sweat under a layer of warm winter clothes, and then after, finding yourself damp and cooling down rapidly. This is when you'll appreciate a warm, but moisture-wicking layer under your clothes. Look for garments that say things like rapid-dry or moisture-wicking. These under-layers are thin, but do a great job of keeping you comfortable while you ride or do barn work.

Your Saddle
Hard, cold leather can be uncomfortable. Warm sheepskin pads are great for keeping your backside comfy and warm. Many people like these in the summer months as well, for comfort and air flow.

How do you keep from freezing into the saddle?

Image Credit: © Iakov Filimonov | Dreamstime.com
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