Having horses in Wisconsin means you gotta be ready to tough it out through the long cold winter. I’m far from being a fair weather rider and the chores gotta get done even when its ten below. For me, the right winter riding gear means I don’t end up being freezing my bejingas off and still gives me the flexibility to move freely without massive amounts of bulky layers.
Over the years I’ve put lots of winter riding gear to the test. I tend to go right from chores to riding to instructing back to chores so I have pretty high expectations when it comes to my gear being multifunctional and holding up to harsh conditions.
I’ve found that with winter riding gear you really get what you pay for when it comes to performance. If staying warm and comfortable means I can ride all winter and enjoying my horse time year-round its worth the investment.
So if you’re like me living in an area of world that sees this kind of chilly weather and you want to keep yourself fired up to ride all winter maybe some of my favs can keep you going.
Just a heads up some of these items have affiliate links. This means I make a small commission if you purchase through those links. You won’t be charged any extra and your support makes it possible for me to keep bringing you more horsey goodness here at Insightful Equine.
This top is the perfect way to eliminate the "so bundled up I can barely saddle my horse effect". Because its wool it really keeps the heat in without adding a ton of bulk. When I upgraded to wool I was amazed at how many extra layers I didn't need to wear and impressed by how soft it was. The wool tops of today are not the scratchy, misshapen tops you might be familiar with. I highly recommend checking them out for your self.
If I could only recommend one item to help get you through the winter it would be Jack Wolfskin Thermic pants. I seriously wear these pants at least four days per week. I do chores in them, ride and hike in them and I don't baby them at all. They are made with an ultra light flexible soft-shell type material so they're wind and water resistant but they also have two way stretch to them making them amazingly easy to move in. I usually wear a wool base layer underneath and stay plenty warm. These have nearly put my Carhartt insulated bibs into retirement (I still get them out if its below zero but that's it).
I recently switched over to Minus 33 wool base layers and it's amazing how much softer wool products are these days. They have managed to keep all the benefits of wool and loose the itchiness. These still have a bit of stretch that you would expect from a base layer plus the wool wicks away moisture so you don't get too hot if you're riding or working hard.
Kerrits Windpro tights are perfect for riding hunt seat in the winter. They are cozy on the inside and still have plenty of stretch to move freely in the saddle. I also really like that they don't look so much like riding pants that people look at you funny when you swing by the grocery store on the way home from the barn.
If your feet stay comfortable you'll stay riding a whole lot longer. I used to have a few other brands of wool socks that I swore by but I had no idea what I was missing till I tried Darn Tough socks. They manage to keep their shape no matter how many times you take your boots off and on. They never get bunchy, have weird issues with seams, or feel too tight. They're super warm and they have a lifetime warranty which means I'll get my money's worth out of them.
I've tried three different brands of insulated mud boots and Noble Outfitters beat out the competition on both comfort and warmth. I haven't worn them for long enough to say they are going to last longer but as of right now they appear to be made well. I would only wear them for chores and ground work as they are too bulky for riding but for staying toasty in-between rides they're perfect.
Neck gaiters are super versatile. They can be worn comfortably around your neck to keep the wind from going down your shirt or if you're heading out to catch your horse in the pasture you can always slide it up to cover your face to avoid getting windburn. I used to use a fleece gaiter for years then my boyfriend got me a wool one that was much softer, stretchier and longer and because it's wool it stays dry even if your breathing on it.
Finding boots that are warm and still work well for riding is tricky. The well insulated boots usually have too much bulk making it hard to fit in the stirrups and tend to be very stiff. On the other hand those perfectly broken in, flexible boots usually aren't warm enough. The solution that I've found to work well in those extra chilly barns is to go with Ariat insulated boots and opt to get a size up so they are roomy enough to wear really good thick socks (The Ultimate Winter Socks are my go-to). You want to be sure that your boots are not tight or your feet will get cold even with thick socks as the circulation will be restricted.
After trying more pairs of riding gloves than I can count these are one of the only ones that I would buy again. The tek grip gives your hands enough feel that they aren't annoying to hold the reins with and they are not nearly as bulky as many others I've tried. One thing I will say is that they do not hold up to heavy chore use (I've had mine for over four years and repaired just about every finger on them because I'm a bit causal about not changing out of riding gloves to do chores). But that being said if you used them strictly for riding I think they would hold up really well and give the best balance of warmth and feel without being bulky.
Ice on the paddocks and walking paths is down right scary. Even if you're putting down barn lime and salt for traction you've still got to get out there safely to spread it. Ice cleats are a game changer when it comes to staying on your feet in dangerous conditions. I've tried three different types of ice cleats- chain, peg spike, and multi-direction cleats. The multi-direction cleats are the only ones I would buy again. The cleats are smaller so they feel the most normal to walk in when going from the concrete inside the barn to the icy areas outside. I've also used these to hike icy trails for long distances without issues.They also stretch better than others to fit every pair of boots I own.
So the tops in the Insightful Equine shop don't have a ton of technical features or fancy insulation but I did create each of these designs to inspire you to tap into good horsey vibes every time you wear them. These tops are super soft and cozy so they feel just like your favorite broken in shirt right from day one. Plus they're perfect to layer for winter riding.
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