Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hey old man winter, get the heck off my lawn!

It's been an odd winter here in New Jersey. We've had tons of mud, ice, and cold, windy days but so far the 2014-2015 winter hasn't had that much snow.  Last year's polar vortex dumped quite a bit of snow on the east coast so I've learned that your winter riding kit needs to be ready to handle anything. This list is just a few of the items I like to bring to the barn with me to ensure I return home from my lessons without losing fingers and toes to frost bite.

#1. Good winter boots. Cold toes suck. They suck even more when you dismount and the shock from landing sends a wave of pain up your spine and into your teeth. A boot with heavy tread will give you better traction on winter ground and help keep you right side up. I'll be doing a post next week about my favorite brands and styles of winter boots. 

#2 Hand warmers! Oh these are such fantastic nuggets of wonderfulness. Open the pouch, shake them around and remember what it feels like to move your fingers. I keep new packs in my car, in my purse and usually one in my big poofy winter coat. I also like to put hand warmers in my gloves and roll the bit between my hands to take the chill off before bridling. Get them at any outdoor sporting goods store like REI or Academy, or stores like Walmart, Target, and Kmart.  

#3 Fleece lined tights. Some like silk thermals or leggings as a winter base layer but my personal favorite is fleece lined tights. These are so great for an extra layer under breeches. They don't add a lot of bulk and they don't have seams on the inside of the knee that can cause rubs. They're fuzzy, snugly, warm and best of all, they're so cheap. A pair of fleece lined tights can be picked up from Target, Kohl's, and Urban Outfitters for around $10.00. 

#4 Full chaps. Hey, so the 80's and 90's called, and they want their chaps back. Uh huh, then you can pry them from my cold dead hands. Full chaps are what I break out for the coldest of days, especially if it's windy outside. They're an excellent outer layer because air doesn't penetrate them easily. They keep your body heat in and the wind, rain or snow out. Full chaps also give you plenty of extra stick in the saddle which is beneficial when dealing with horses who get a bit amped up by blustery weather. You can order a pair of new full chaps from the online retailers but I recommend getting a used pair that is broken in and free of rips, wear holes or broken zippers. I see beautiful pairs of chaps in amazing colors with fringe and piping and trims that probably cost their original owner hundreds new selling for $60.00 shipped on the Facebook tack groups. If you want to give full chaps a try, post an ISO on Facebook and let them come to you. I should also warn you to not use full chaps regularly if you have a plushy calfskin saddle. Chap leather or suede is usually tougher than calf skin and can cause premature wear.

#5 Wide cloth head wraps. Even with an indoor arena my ears still get cold while riding in the winter.   There's all kinds of helmet covers, helmet ear muffs, and fleece headbands on the market to help combat frosty ears but my experience with those items hasn't been great. The wrap around helmet covers twist when you turn your head to look at the next fence, the ear muffs are too dense to hear my trainer's instructions, and the fleece headbands are too thick to fit under my helmet. Then one day I'm standing in the hairbrush aisle at CVS and I see these wide cloth head wraps and have a lightbulb moment. They're soft, stretchy, add a thin extra layer when pulled over your ears and they don't impact the fit of my helmet at all. The best part is when your ride is over you can just slide it back and helmet hair is tamed enough to run errands. If you do hunter hair to keep your ears warm layering a head wrap on top will keep everything in place and block the wind. These head wraps can be picked up at practically every drug store for around $5 a pack.

Of course a good coat and gloves are necessary to get you through the winter too but you already knew that. What items help keep you comfortable during the winter? Let me know through the comments, Facebook, or Twitter. I'll be sharing my winter boot picks next week.  

Fear not, winter will be over soon and there's no better way to acknowledge that than to look forward to all the spring collections coming out. AETA is happening next weekend so we'll start seeing the spring and summer lines, short sleeves and bright colors hitting catalogs soon.  I'll post those collections as they become available so check back, like my Facebook page or follow my twitter feed for those updates.  Until next week, happy riding!

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