If you’ve ventured outdoors for some riding fun during the past week or so, you’ve probably noticed that our moderate fall weather has quickly become quite chilly with the onset of winter! As long as you have an area where you can ride out on safe footing (asking any equine to negotiate icy terrain can be unreasonably dangerous for both you and the horse) there’s no reason why Utah’s plummeting temperatures should keep you out of the saddle. Some horses actually prefer to be out and about in colder weather. Beware that they may even be a bit more frisky than usual!
Keep feet from freezing.
While your footwear should be stirrup-friendly, you also want to make sure your feet aren’t frozen. Wearing boots that have a thicker sole and cushy foot bed can be helpful. Consider buying boots that are a size larger than usual, allowing you to add extra thick wool socks for winter wear. Choose a boot that’s roomy in the toe, giving wiggle room and providing space to add one of those little warming pads (available in bulk at Costco, or at Army &Navy, or just about any Salt Lake area sporting goods store).
Make sure your boots have at least a small heel (so they won’t slip right through the stirrup) and that they are waterproof. Dry feet are happy feet! While that roomy, rounded toe is important, make sure the foot of the boot is not so bulky that it will get wedged unsafely into your stirrup.
Protect your hands.
Mittens may allow your hands to stay warmer, but they lack the dexterity of gloves when you’re handling reins. Consider putting a pair of riding gloves underneath a toasty wool mitten that features the fold-back flap over the fingers (the best of both worlds).
Depending on personal preferences, you may want to try on some riding-specific winter gloves at Horse Crazy (down in Draper) or look at the selection of insulated equestrian gloves offered at Callister’s on Redwood Road.
Moisturize hands well before putting on your gloves; this will keep skin more supple and prevent painful dryness and chapping due to the frigid temperatures and wind. Cocoa butter or your favorite lotion mixed with a little pure coconut oil works great!
Put on the layers.
Put on a base layer of silk or insulating synthetic blend. Long johns or capris cut down the chill to your legs and a t shirt or tank top (tucked into the tights) helps retain body heat.
The next layer needs to allow for plenty of movement while adding additional warmth. Soft, stretchy riding breeches made of Polar Tec fabric are wonderful; cozy and comfortable, they should be all you need over long johns to protect your legs for most winter rides. If it’s extra windy and snowy, consider a waterproof shell pant. A long sleeve turtle neck is a terrific second layer on top. Add a fleece zip jacket over that and a windproof, waterproof outer jacket.
Layering gives you the option of removing an inner layer if you get a little too warm; you never want to sweat and then get a chill – that’s a great way to become entirely frozen very quickly!
A balaclava can be pulled up over the lower portion of your face for added protection, or pull it up under your helmet. Check out REI (located both on the east bench, 3300 S near Olympus Hills or down south near Sandy) for active winter apparel that will work for riding as well as your other outdoor winter activities.
Back on Track accessories and pads, for both humans and horses, offer great options for keeping active bodies warm and muscles comfortable during winter workouts. Check out the selection of practical items on the SmartPak website.
Don’t let a little snow and winter weather thwart your fun this season; put on that cozy gear, then get outside and play!