Monday, February 24, 2014

How I Survive Riding In the Winter

When I first started riding, as with anything new that I start, I was really hesitant about jumping on the "buy everything cute for riding" bandwagon.  When I don't know if I'm really going to enjoy an activity, I resist buying the essentials and try to make do with  whatever I have.

I hate the feeling that I've been had.

Ask me how many years I taught Spinning classes before I finally caved and bought spinning shoes!

So, for the first month or so, I wore old jeans, a turtleneck and a fleece.  It was February/March and I was foolish enough to think you just get on a horse and go, letting him do all the work.


Actually, the turtleneck and fleece were probably just for the first lesson and I realized how I really get sweaty, so I changed to a couple of long sleeve t-shirts.

The jeans were fine until the day I was really sweaty and ripped all the skin on the inside of my knee from all the friction.

So, I "caved" and bought myself a pair of britches/breeches/schooling tights.  Ooooh, another activity where I can wear spandex?????


They design these pants with the idea that you will use your inner legs a lot, so there are knee patches on the inside of the knees.

You can also get what are called "full seat" britches/pants/tights.  They have the suede patches on the butt too.  Some have them all the way up the inner thigh.  They cost almost twice as much, so I've never bought them.  They usually aren't the same color as the pants, so they really stand out.

Also, I often wear my riding pants to the grocery, Cultural Center, church or wherever I have to stop on the way home.  I feel ridiculous enough.  Wearing full seat pants looks so utterly ridiculous, I just can't do it.

The full seat is supposed to help you stay in the saddle, but I think it just creates friction.  Something I already have enough of an issue with when riding, so I refrain.

In the summer, I wear as little as possible.  When we were at the barn with the indoor ring, I chose to ride inside even on the hot days of summer so I didn't have to wear sunblock.   It's a tough choice:  wear sunblock which really just slides right off due to the sweating and when he rubs on me when I groom him (and get FILTHY because every particle of dust sticks) or wear a t-shirt with sleeves to try to protect my skin.  I take melanoma very seriously, so I spend most of the summer fretting over this.

However, I most often choose this kind of outfit because it's the coolest.

As fall rolls around and I have to ride after school, those cool afternoons take me from tank tops to t-shirts to long sleeve t-shirts.

But this year, I discovered something that is so great and it's working even through the winter!  I bought a couple of these super thin but surprisingly warm polyester tops.  I wear the sports bra and tank top underneath.

And my snazzy purple vest on top.  It's amazing how thin all of this is and it works to keep me very warm, especially when I start to warm up from working.

On especially cold days, I also add a long sleeve t-shirt over the whole thing and then add my snazzy purple vest.  I've really only had to add the t-shirt on the 20 degree days.

Yes, that's right, 20 degrees.  I've ridden many an afternoon in the 20s this year.  I've never done that before!  Usually, the barns we've been at have had their rings freeze and there's nowhere safe to ride.  R-ster has done a great job dragging the ring every night to try to break  up any ice and it's worked the majority of the time.  Good for getting out and riding.  Not so good for trying to stay warm on those frigid days.

I also finally broke down this winter and bought myself a pair of fleece lined britches.  I didn't think my legs were feeling particularly cold, but I thought it might help with my warmth overall.  Plus, they were on sale.

Totally worth it.

No matter the time of year, I wear half chaps.

Before you get excited, I said half chaps.  Those are not assless chaps.  In fact, let's think about this.  All chaps are assless.   A cowboy simply puts them over his jeans, but never do they actually cover the butt.  I don't know where that term even came from.  It's so redundant.

I also don't know how western riders don't rip their knees to shreds when riding in jeans, but they all do it.  I've never ridden in a western saddle, so maybe the leg position is different?

So, the purpose of a half chap is to give the illusion that you are wearing a full, tall boot.  This protects the inner lower leg from the stirrups.  It also helps to keep the leg from swinging around because there's a little texture to it.

For people like me who a) don't want to spend 100s of dollars on tall boots and b) can't stand the idea of being trapped in a boot up to my knee on an 80 degree August day, these are the right answer.  They are very inexpensive.  They are suede or polysuede so they aren't stiff or especially hot.  They can be machine washed and look brand new when they come out.    And best of all, I don't have to force my leg into a boot and strap in.

For all this time, I only ever wore gloves in the winter.  And they were always fleece like this.

And I would usually take them off mid ride.  Rarely would I have them on the entire time.

I don't know if it's the wind coming across the 100 acre wood at this barn or what, but I had to abandon my fleece for leather because I thought I actually had frostbite one day.  And even with the leather, on a 20 degree day, I have to pause a few times and put my hands in my shirt/pants to regain feeling because they get sooooooo cold and sore.

I tried hand warmers but the tip of my ring fingers just can't take it.

The bad news about that is that I've really gotten used to wearing gloves and I like how they protect my hands from the reins and the horse slobber and dirt.  I really don't want to be one of those prissy riders who simply can't ride without gloves, but I think I'm becoming one....

My helmet is the same, day in and day out.  You can literally spend $600 on a helmet.  I cannot spend $600 on a helmet, but some people can.  Instead, I bought one that isn't the bottom of the barrel, but not much higher up.

In the winter, the helmet works to keep my head warm.  But in the summer, it's just a way to keep the shampoo companies in business, I'm pretty sure.

So, basically, I wear polyester from head to toe.  Including the plastic in my helmet.

In the summer, I spend all my time trying to cool off and in the winter, I spend it all trying to warm up.   There are about 2 days in the spring and 3 days in the fall that are just the right temperature.

But for some reason, I continue this crazy activity!!

1 comment:

  1. friend asked me to go for a mile run with her yesterday and I just couldn't do it. The thought of 9 minutes out in the cold was more than I could handle.


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