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Top 7 Essential Winter Riding Kit

December 7, 2011

I’ve just come back from a truly teeth-gritting ride. It started out with a drizzle, and I thought, ‘Hey, I’m all ready now and it’s not raining too hard. I’ll go anyway.” A mile out of the yard, the heavens really opened. Drizzle turned to hail, which started to melt and run down the back of my neck. Poor Blue hunched her quarters to the wind and glared at me from the corner of one eye, before trotting home as fast as possible in a pointed manner.

Riding in poor weather can be really miserable. But I made it hard on myself. Just back from France, this is the first really wintery ride I’ve had, and I was still wearing my summer boots and gloves, which were instantly soaked. Definitely time to break out the winter kit. Here are my top seven essential items of kit.

1. Waterproof chaps.

Every step of the way this morning, I was wishing I’d put mine on. They are brilliant, and stop the front of your thigh turning numb with cold. Most of the big manufacturers make a version – mine are from Derby House, and cost around £30. Some also have reflective stripes or flashings for added visibility on the roads. Make sure you try them on before buying, and that you can bend your knee comfortably whilst wearing your normal jodhpurs and boots. I like these from Harry Hall.

2. Warm boots.

There’s nothing worse than cold toes. If the misery doesn’t spoil your ride, you’ll notice when you jump off at the end and can’t feel your feet. I still like the original Rimfrost Rider boots from Mountain Horse – they seem to keep even the harshest weather out. Friends have said they aren’t as robust as other brands, and I don’t find them comfortable to walk in, but I keep my pair just for riding and five years later they’re still in top condition. Competitively priced as well.

3. A decent jacket.

I don’t like too much bulk when I’m riding, so tend to go for a thin jacket that I can layer up with fleeces. My current jacket is from Luna Rider, a thin fluorescent waterproof jacket that I can wear over a gilet. Very good value at around £25, my only niggle is that it could be a bit longer to give more coverage – and Luna Rider do now make a longer version.

4. Gloves

I struggle with winter riding gloves. I don’t like bulky gloves, and the thinner ones tend to offer little protection against the weather. Pigskin gloves are the most weatherproof I’ve found, but are expensive. These Mark Todd gloves are excellent for keeping your hands warm, but I found they reduced ‘feel’ on the reins. If anyone has managed to solve the warmth vs. bulk problem, I’d love to hear about it!

5. Neckwarmer/fleece scarf

Although not really specialist riding kit, these are great for providing warmth without bulk and stopping that icy draught down your neck. Available from lots of places, try online retailers, outdoor and skiwear shops.

6. Horse exercise sheet

Whilst I’m wrapping myself up like the Michelin Man, I mustn’t forget my poor pony. She’s a fairly hardy type, but is currently trace clipped and needs a little help when it’s really cold. I have several exercise sheets, but mostly use a fluorescent one similar to this one from Shires. As I have a dark-coloured horse, I prefer not to use a dark-coloured rug in winter. I also like the fact that mine is cut away at the sides, so that it doesn’t ride back when I use my legs.

7. Seat saver

OK, so this is more of a luxury than a necessity – and it’s not great for use in the rain. But it’s lovely not to get onto a cold saddle in the winter, and it keeps you much warmer. The ultimate seat savers are these natural sheepskin ones from Nuumed – you’ll never want to get off again.

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