With a mild December now behind us, it is almost inevitable a bitter snap will hit the UK over the coming months at some point and, while we will be doing everything possible to keep our horses cosy with exercise blankets, we can’t forget to wrap up properly ourselves.
1. It’s all about the layers
You may have invested in a thick winter riding coat, but it won’t be as effective if you only have one layer underneath — so layer up! Thermal tops designed for skiers are always a good choice as a base layer. As a general rule of thumb, the base layer should absorb any sweat, the middle layer should provide insulation (a thick fleece) and the job of the outer layer (a windproof, waterproof coat) should protect you from the elements. If you are looking to buy a new winter coat, opt for a waterproof, insulated one with a high neck, vents and elastic fasteners at the wrists.
2. Treat your ears too
Earmuffs for your riding hat — personally, one of the best inventions for keeping warm in the saddle! It is common knowledge that we lose most heat via our heads, and while our riding hats can keep our head toasty, there is nothing worse than having freezing cold ears. So add a pair of earmuffs to your winter riding gear and you will certainly feel the difference. Lined with either sheepskin or fleece, they easily attach to your riding hat straps and are popular with riders in the racing industry to cope with the bitter early morning starts.
3. You can’t beat a good pair of tights
While a pair of thermal leggings to go under your breeches is a great idea to keep chilblains at bay, a cheaper option is to purchase a thick pair of tights from the supermarket. They will add that all-important additional layer under your breeches and will save you some money too.
4. Keeping your fingers cosy
Frozen hands when you’re trying to grip the reins, is a NIGHTMARE. So invest in some thick winter riding gloves, which also have a good grip on them. A brilliant hack is to then wear a pair of woolly, fingerless gloves over the top of your riding gloves — say goodbye to cold hands for evermore.
5. Sip away…
…Okay, not while you’re riding (obviously), but taking a hot drink (I opt for a black coffee because it also wakes me up!) in the car in a travel thermos mug will provide you with a welcome warm-up after riding.
6. Toasty toes
For some reason, it is usually always the toes that get the coldest while riding, presumably because they don’t move as much as the rest of the body while you’re in the saddle… If you have a pair of tights on, add a pair of woolly socks and then a pair of insulated long riding socks over the top. As long as you can still fit your foot into your riding boots, this should help keep toes toasty.
7. Sassy snoods
Not only because it’s one of the coolest-sounding words out there, but investing in a neck snood will pay off when it comes to keeping you warm. Even if your coat has a high neck, being able to cover your face with a fleecy snood is the cosiest thing you will ever experience — bar lying on the sofa under a duvet!
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Heaving wet rugs across the yard and attempting to dry them in freezing conditions can prompt a flurry of expletives.
8. Heat it up
You can find packets of hand warmers in most supermarkets — they warm up quickly and some can even remain warm for up to 10 hours. Keeping these in your coat pockets is a great idea for post-riding when those gloves have to come off. While in the saddle, some people even opt to slip them inside their riding boots…
9. Don’t forget…
Always keep some lip balm on you, even when riding. We’ve all experienced chapped lips and it is worsened when your face is exposed to the cold elements. Your lips will thank you for it.
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