When I worked in the riding school it always amazed me how parents would send their children out for their weekly riding lesson in no more than a t-shirt, jumper and anorak. Then wondered why they snivelled and shivered and were less than keen to come the next week.
Winter is tough for all of us; dark evenings, cold and wet weather, and worst of all mud.
With kids in tow, it must be even harder. I think you almost have to accept as a parent that your young child won’t ride that frequently over winter, and the best approach is to utilise fine weekends and the holidays to ride. It’s also worth taking the pressure off learning, and doing fun things: hacks, gymkhana games, fancy dress, handy pony. That sort of thing. As well as keeping yard visits short and sweet so that children don’t get cold or bored. I know parents (well, Mums) who do all the chores and bring the pony in before the school run, and have them groomed so that their child can just hop on and ride before the dark and cold, and afterwards it won’t take long to finish up afterwards so that the child has no chance to get cold. Yes, it’s more work for the parent, but if it keeps your child interested then I think it’s a worthwhile endeavour.
Clothing is important to get right in winter: whether you’re an adult or child! Here are my clothing tactics which is tried and tested. I work on the basis of keeping my torso as warm as possible and double layer my limbs which help keep my extremities warmer. Having so many layers may seem like a faff, but you can adjust them depending on the day or what you’re doing: take off some layers to muck out and then replace them to teach.
- Long sleeved tshirt. This doesn’t have to be thermal, it’s only in the depths of winter I find I need the thermal element. This gives your arms an extra layer of insulation.
- Short sleeved tshirt. This helps keep my body warm without making it too tricky to move.
- A hoodie. In really cold weather I opt for a thin one underneath a normal hoodie.
- A gilet. Again, this keeps my torso snug.
- A coat. Again, there’s the possibility of a second coat on top when I’m teaching in very cold weather. Well, usually there is but as I’m already wearing my large sized coats and just about doing them up, I’ll have to rely on my little hot water bottle to keep me warm.
- Gloves. I use normal thin gloves. Have you seen the under gloves that motorcyclists wear? These are thin enough that you can do up bridles without removing them. I also sometimes have fingerless gloves which I’ll put on top when teaching. I can still adjust girths and jumps, but the extra layer keeps the ends of my fingers warm without being too bulky. You can also buy handwarmers, which are effective at warming your palms, which I don’t tend to use, but some people love them.
- A snood and headband to keep my neck and ears warm. I’m not a fan of wearing hats, but it’s where you lose the most heat, so I compromise with the headband.
- Thermal under breeches. A few years ago I used to get bad chilblains on my thighs in winter, but wearing these breeches has stopped these.
- Jodhpurs. I don’t have winter jodhs, as I find my usual pairs sufficient.
- In wet or windy weather I also have waterproof trousers. The only problem is that three layers on your legs makes you a bit cumbersome, so I usually sacrifice the under breeches in favour of staying dry on wet days.
- This year, I’ve struggled to wear more than one pair of trousers, so I dug out a woollen Newmarket rug which I’ve been wrapping round myself when I’ve taught into the evenings.
- A common misconception people make is to wear three pairs of socks and then forcing their feet into boots which are now too tight, thus cutting off the circulation. The secret is to keep the legs warm so that blood has a shorter distance to travel closer to the cold air so reducing heat loss. I swear by a pair of normal socks and ski socks over the top. My feet are never cold.
I think you have to take the same layering approach with kids. If they’re hot they can always take something off. A friend of mine’s little girl can be regularly seen in a colourful ski suit, so I’ll be following suit and kitting my little person out with one.
Does anyone have any clothing items that they swear by for keeping the cold at bay?