Keeping warm this winter

  • Keeping horses warm is often easier than preventing those who ride and work with them from freezing up. But if you’re dreading outdoor winter teaching or hacking, pick up some tips from professionals who know how to win the cold war.

    Freelance teacher Beverley Manston spends her days in the inhospitable flatlands of East Anglia.

    “It isn’t just the cold that gets you — it’s the wind,” she says. “Two years ago, my sister gave me her old ski suit, which kept me warm better than anything I’d tried.

    “Now, from November onwards I make regular visits to charity shops, where you can often find ski clothes in really good condition very cheaply.

    “I wear salopettes with short riding boots if I think I might have to ride during the lesson, and keep a pair of half-chaps with me, or padded ‘moon boots’ if I know I’ll stay on the ground.”

    Rosie Ballantyre has to exercise her mare before work, and finds that the worst thing about winter mornings is freezing fingers.

    “Buy or beg for some of the thin plastic gloves you find at petrol stations to keep your hands clean when you’re filling up,” Becky advises. “Wear them under ordinary gloves and your hands stay dry as well as warm,” she advises. The gloves can be bought at most chemists, with multipacks of 100 pairs available for around £2.

    Heat loss is greatest through the extremities, so heads, hands and feet need protecting. Riding hats leave your ears vulnerable, but livery yard boss Karen Simms found the answer at a shop for motorcycle enthusiasts.

    “It’s a stretchy hood in a silky material,” she said. “It might not look very glamorous, but it keeps my ears warm, it’s thin enough to fit under a properly fitted hat and because it’s washable, hat linings stay cleaner.” The hoods are available from specialist motorcycle and cycling shops for a cost of around £10.

    “I did try some earmuffs over my hat but I found they blocked my hearing. With a hood, I can still hear traffic coming up behind me,” says Karen.

    She also swears by a combination of leather boots, woollen socks designed for fishermen and full-length suede chaps.

    “I have a pair of ‘winter boots’ that are half a size bigger than the ones I wear in the summer, to allow room for more layers,” she says.
    Silk undersocks are a time-honoured device for protecting feed in cold weather and bigger boots help accommodate them, says Karen. They are widely available and cost around £10-£18 depending on size.

    “Silk, wool and leather are all breathable; and the other very important thing for me is that there’s enough room in the boots for me to wiggle my toes.”

  • This tricks of the trade feature was first published in Horse & Hound (9 December, ’04)

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