Riding in Winter

This weekend, when the cold north wind blew and the clear skies sent temperatures plummeting,  really sorted the wheat from the chaff in terms of riders.

Luckily for me, all my riders wrapped up warmly, meaning that I had to do the same! So with the thermals fresh from their summer hiding place, an extra jumper and coat on, I braved the cold.

A couple of weeks ago I had a showjumping lesson myself, and was given an ear piece so that I could hear my coach over the gusty breeze. After yesterday, I`m considering purchasing one for myself. It`s a very strange feeling, hearing someone`s voice right in your ear as you canter towards a jump. I guess that we subconsciously get used to having our own bubble when we ride, which is occasionally pierced by shouted instructions, so having the feeling that your instructor is sat on your shoulder takes some getting used to. I think the one I used in my lesson was one way, which meant that I still had to shout in response to any questions. Well, I hope it was one way, otherwise I`ve deafened my poor coach!

Something for Santa to bring me anyway.

With the first cold snap of the year, it reminded me of the numerous occasions in the riding school when a small child would turn up for their lesson in a t-shirt and waterproof jacket, shivering with cold. I never knew what parents were thinking, not making them to wear a jumper, gloves, and thick coat. I think my Mum was pretty switched on about going outside in winter, as I remember being chilly, but never frozen. I did have a huge puffy gilet that was mustard yellow. Fairly hideous I`m sure, but it did the job of keeping me snug. It`s much easier to take off a layer halfway through a lesson because you`re too warm then to warm yourself up before you ride.

I can also remember children being told to put an extra pair of socks on for their lessons, and the next week they would still complain of cold feet … upon questioning them we would find out that they had eight pairs of socks on and somehow managed to cram their foot inside their riding boot, thus cutting off the circulation because they were so tight!

Personally, I find a thin pair of socks and then a thick thermal pair, from the ski shop, are sufficient, and means most boots still go on. I am a big fan of my neoprene wellies which also help keep my feet dry.

During my first winter as an apprentice I discovered a series of circular bruises on the outside of my thighs, which after a couple of days became painful and raised bumps. After googling them, we discovered that they are chilblains. Not very attractive, believe me! The wind is the main culprit, so I try to always wear full length chaps over my jodhs, and fingers crossed, I`ve been chilblain free for the last couple of years.

What else do I have in my winter wardrobe? A good selection of coats in varying sizes so that in the depths of winter I can get away with one thermal layer, one tshirt, a thin hoody, a normal hoody, a gilet, and two coats! I`ve had some funny looks when I`ve tried on a size fourteen jacket, when I`m clearly closer to a ten!

Gloves. That is another important part of the wardrobe. I like to warm mine as I drive between yards on the car dashboard, but it can be difficult to find gloves that leave your fingers warm, yet dextrous. When teaching I use thick, thermal gloves; but when on the yard I have my own invention. Thermal motorbike undergloves, are really tough (I always put holes in the tips of my gloves) yet are fairly thin, so I can still change rugs and tack up whilst wearing them. But to give me a bit more heat I wear fingerless gloves over the top of these thin thermal gloves. I find my hands stay dry, and snug, and I`m not forever taking them off to fasten a buckle, dropping them in a puddle in the meantime.

Instead of a hat, I usually wear a fleecy headband, which keeps my temples warm and is really useful in windy environments as it stops any headaches. I also wear a snood thing around my neck (it`s basically a fleecy tube) in place of a scarf – much less likely to get caught on anything, and does the job of keeping my neck and chin warm!

Hopefully you`ll find these few tips for getting dressed for going to the yard in winter useful, but don`t be surprised if your car ends up looking like a wardrobe with spare gloves, jumpers and coats scattered around – and don`t forget the spare outfit in case you get caught in a monsoon like I did on Tuesday!

The best thing about dressing up for winter is that come spring, when you venture out in just a tshirt and jumper, everyone exclaims about how much weight you`ve lost!

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