The Equestrian’s Guide to Surviving Cold Winters

Above: A bundled up rider canters through the snow on a cold winter day. Photo by Vyla Carter.

By TPH Intern Vyla Carter

With multiple layers of clothes and toe warmers stuffed in my boots, I head off to the barn on a frigid winter day. For nine winters and counting, I have followed this routine during the winter months. Still, with the first dramatic fall in temperature, I find it hard to adjust. Over the years, I have found ways or things to make enduring the winter a bit easier. Here are my riding essentials for surviving the winter season:

For the rider

  • Helmet cover or Buff original multifunctional headwear– These are a must in order to keep ears and other parts of the face protected from the cold and gusty wind. A helmet cover goes over the helmet and has flaps that attach at the chin. The multifunctional headwear from Buff is my favorite. It is a tube that goes over your head and can fully cover sides of your face and your nose and mouth.
A Buff easily fits under any helmet and covers the face as much as possible. Photo by Vyla Carter.
  • Fleece lined breeches– Any equestrian who has to ride through cold winters should have a pair or two of fleece lined or winter riding pants in his or her wardrobe. They are super cozy and provide the insulation regular breeches do not. These can be found at most tack stores in a variety of brands. My favorite are the Kerrits Fleece Performance Tights found at Dover.
  • Long underwear– Long underwear is perfect when you need another layer. Even though long underwear is usually thin, it does a great job at insulating and keeping in body heat.
  • Hand/toe warmers– These come in single-use packages, so you can easily use one for every ride. On extra cold days, these are perfect for giving your fingers and toes extra warmth. The only problem I have with them is trying to fit them into my gloves or boots.
  • Running Gloves– I have found the winter gloves sold at tack stores are too thick for my preference. It is hard for me to bend my fingers and properly grip the reins. Running gloves, found at most sporting stores, are the perfect solution. They are not as bulky as most winter riding gloves, but just as warm. An added bonus is that they are usually cheaper than riding gloves.
  • Wool socks– Unlike thin tall boot socks, wool socks are thick and keep feet and toes much warmer. If you don’t have wool socks another trick of mine is to layer tall boot socks over regular cotton ankle socks.

For the Horse

  • Quarter sheet– The most essential object in a horse’s winter wardrobe is the quarter sheet. A quarter sheet covers the back half of a horse to provide some extra warmth. These are almost necessary if you are riding a clipped horse in the cold weather.
A rider dresses her clipped horse with a quarter sheet in order to keep him warm during a ride. Photo by Vyla Carter.
  • Bit warmer– Metal bits get very cold when left in the tack room waiting to be used. Forcing a cold bit into a horse’s mouth can be uncomfortable and they are less willing to accept it. Placing a bit warmer around the bit when it is not in used will avoid this problem by keeping the metal at a normal temperature.
  • Fly bonnet– Fly bonnets are usually used in shows for decoration and to protect the horse’s ears from pesky flies. I have found they are also perfect for protecting a horse’s ears from the bitter wind and giving a bit of extra warmth to the horse’s head.

If all else fails cuddling with your horse is always an option. Or grab your horse’s cooler and use it as a blanket!