When you don’t have a heated facility to ride in, it can be very tough to figure out how to dress appropriately for the cold weather! Here are some tips and products that we have found to be very useful over many years of riding in Minnesota’s frigid winters.
Dress in layers!
The best tip we can give is to dress in several layers. Dressing in layers provides better insulation so that you stay warmer, and on the off chance that you do end up feeling overdressed and too warm, it’s very easy to take off a layer so that you can stay comfortable! It is much easier to take off layers than it is to add them once you are already at the barn and riding.
A base layer of a long sleeve shirt and leggings made of fleece or a good wicking fabric is a great start. For example, Under Armour ColdGear Baselayer is a great line of products specifically designed to serve as a base layer in cold weather.
A second layer could be a sweatshirt and sweatpants, or anything made of fleece, wool, or cotton material.
A top layer would be a good waterproof/windproof jacket and snow pants or bib overalls. Yes — you can ride in snow pants!
Wear snow pants or bib overalls.
As mentioned above, you CAN comfortably ride in snow pants or bib overalls. It’s almost necessary for Minnesota’s most frigid temperatures!
When worn over some functional base layers, a good pair of bib overalls or snow pants make for an excellent top layer. If you end up being much warmer than expected, it’s easy to take them off, too!
Get a fleece polar helmet cover.
All of our lesson students (and any riders that are under the age of 18) at Enchanted Hollow Stables are required to wear ASTM/SEI certified equestrian riding helmet.
Generally, it is hard to wear a hat or headband underneath your helmet — unless it is very thin and low profile, which often means it is not very warm!
Polar fleece helmet covers are designed to fit over your riding helmet and are a great option to keep your head warm for winter riding. The velcro closure used in most designs gives a snug fit around the neck.
Bring two pairs of gloves and mittens to the barn – gloves for when you are riding and mittens for when you are not!
The first parts of your body that will get cold when you’re out in the barn are your hands and your feet. Combining the right gloves and mittens with hand and toe warmers (we will get to those in a moment) usually does the trick!
The issue is that when it is cold enough, even the best quality gloves are often not quite enough to keep your hands warm for long rides or chores around the barn. Mittens work best for keeping your hands the warmest but are difficult to wear when riding because you need to have individual dexterity with your fingers to perform precise rein cues and keep your horse under control.
The solution: gloves for riding and mittens for general wear around the barn!
There is a huge variety of gloves that are specifically designed for riding, and any quality winter mitten should do the trick when you’re not riding.
Use hand and toe warmers!
We encourage those that ride and work their horses all winter to always have extra hand and toe warmers on hand for the frigid days at the barn.
They can be ordered from Amazon, or found at most stores in the wintertime.
Get a good pair of winter boots and wool (or wool blend) socks!
It is so important to get a good pair of winter boots and combine them with a pair of wool (or wool blend) socks, too. Be sure to not get boots that are too tight — you need a little extra room in your winter boots for thicker socks and some air in between for your feet to stay as warm as possible!
There are great options available for warm winter boots that can also be worn while riding. To be suitable for riding, they must have a pronounced heel and be low profile enough to fit into a standard stirrup.
Our favorite winter boots for adults are the Noble Outfitters Perfect Fit Cold High Boots, but really any waterproof winter boot should work great when combined with a suitable wool sock.
Okay, so you have an idea of what you want to get to prepare for winter riding… But where should you go?
Another great option for anyone local to the Twin Cities western suburbs near Enchanted Hollow Stables in Buffalo, Minnesota is Windward Farm Equestrian Consignment Tack & Apparel Store. They are also located just a few minutes away from our facility in Buffalo and are a local family-owned tack and apparel store that keep many of the items mentioned in this article (as well as countless that aren’t) in stock.
Most importantly – be smart!
The most important thing to keep in mind when riding in the winter is to be smart, listen to your body, and keep your horse’s welfare in mind, too. Stop to warm up when you can’t feel your fingers and toes. Don’t push your horse into a strenuous and sweaty workout that they will struggle to recover from in the cold. And of course, remember to dress appropriately!