gear · Uncategorized · winter

New Barn Winter Coat

Some time ago, I asked for advice on purchasing a new barn winter coat. Thank you to everyone who responded! I had a lot to think about, did a ton of research, and purchased a coat.

I went with L.L. Bean’s Winter Warmer Jacket.

Winter Warmer Jacket

It had a lot of the things I wanted, but was missing some others. The only thing I really wish it had was a two-way zipper. I often zip up the bottom a bit when I’m in the saddle so it doesn’t bump the pommel. Not possible with this jacket. The zipper is well-protected, though, so it’s not scraping.

Ultimately, I’m really happy with it. I paid $74.99 on a 25% off sale around Black Friday. I’ve ridden in it maybe two dozen times since then, and worn it out and about to other places as well.

It’s a terrific winter exercise jacket: by which I mean once I get moving a little bit, it’s perfectly warm down to single digits. It breathes pretty darn well, so even when I’m sweating a bit it doesn’t feel gross, especially if I’ve layered appropriately underneath. It’s roomy enough that I can comfortably wear a base layer and a vest underneath and not feel too snug – but also just wear the jacket and not feel too floppy.

It’s not a good hanging around in winter jacket. It’s only good down to mid-20s for that. It would not be a good ski jacket, which is a lot of waiting punctuated by short exercise. It’s not a good jacket to wear when you’re just hanging out outside. It just doesn’t have any insulation for that, and once you get cold from standing around, you’re going to stay cold.

It’s nicely waterproof and looks sharp. It’s also quite windproof, which was a good benefit.

Here’s a blurry picture of me wearing it on New Year’s Day, which was a VERY cold and windy day. I was comfortable under the coat, it was just my face and hands that were not.

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gear · Uncategorized · winter

What to do: winter coat?

Last year, my winter riding coat finally kicked the bucket. The zipper irrevocably broke – not just broke, flat out informed me that it had been zipped about eight million times too many, and would split as soon as it was zipped up. The tines were worn down too thin.

Considering it was a gift from my parents when I was 18 and started skiing, it more than performed adequate service over the years and I do not begrudge it retirement to a farm upstate.

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However, that leaves me without a good barn winter coat option, so I am seeking advice.

Keep in mind that by winter I mean WINTER. We’ll have at least one week, if not two or three, of well-below-zero temperatures. I ride down to single digits. (And have been known to sit on him for a walk around in single digits out of desperation.) I need something that breathes and keeps me warm when the weather is actively trying to kill me. The ideal jacket will be so warm I have to unzip it once it gets back up to the 20s.

I’ve been thinking about one of the down jackets – like LL Bean’s Ultralight Down Jacket – but I’m a bit worried about the surface. Will it hold up to the barn? Those always struck me as finer/lighter/more delicate fabric.

Ultralight 850 Down Jacket

I’ve looked a little bit at horse-specific winter jackets but I think the equestrian fashion world’s version of winter (when it comes to jackets, anyway) is “lolol idk sometimes it gets cold after dark at Wellington?” This Mountain Horse jacket has a review from a Vermonter at Smartpak who says it’s good “to 10 or 20” over a base layer which is…not the kind of warm I’m looking for.

 

Looking at Patagonia ski jackets quickly skyrockets out of my price range. But I don’t know enough about ski fashion to pick out a good off-brand.

So: any fellow winter sufferers out there have a recommendation? What do you do for really cold weather outerwear? I’ve got the breeches, boots, gloves, and helmet cover figured out, but it is proving more complicated than I thought to decide on jacket.

gear · Uncategorized · winter

2018 Winter Gear Roundup

I’ve done some fairly exhaustive winter gear reviews in the past, so that’s not what this one will be. Instead, it’ll be a short list of things that I continue to absolutely love and a few new things that are part of my routine.

just how cold has it been?

We’ve had a viciously cold year so far this year, and all of my winter riding gear has gotten a thorough re-test. Many days, it’s been too cold to ride (I’m looking at you, two straight weeks below zero). But on the good days, I have been pretty darn happy with what I’m wearing.

2018 has so far been the year of Back on Track.

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For Tristan, a saddle pad and hock boots.

For me, glove liners (which I’ve had for a little while, but only this year have I successfully integrated them into my glove rotation, underneath these knit gloves) and leggings (which I really just wear 24/7 sometimes. no shame).

I’m happiest with the saddle pad, by far. It has made an (anecdotally) huge difference in his warmup. He stretches down faster, loosens his back faster, and is overall more pleasant. I’ll do  more detailed review in the future, but I think adding it in during winter especially has helped a lot.

2018 has also been the year of vests.

Two from the rotation; I have two more now.

I know it’s not exactly original to be an equestrian who is obsessed with wearing vests, but it never really hit me until this year. Now it’s like some kind of Biblical revelation. They’re kind of fashionable? They keep my core warm? I can embroider them with the barn logo? YES PLEASE.

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Last but not least, the newest gloves to the lineup. I have a gloves thing. For years, I just did not love any gloves on the market. Now, as you can see, I have a Noble Outfitters Perfect Fit glove thing. From left to right up there are summer/mesh gloves, regular gloves, and the newest additions on the far right, the 3 Season Gloves.

These really are 3 seasons: they’re not good below 25F or so. BUT, they fill an essential ecological niche in that 25-40 range, and damn if they don’t fit me just as well as the regular ones! I can sometimes get them down to 20F, too, if I keep my hands really warm before putting them on, and I’m riding inside. (The trick to gloves in the winter is not to expect them to warm your hands up. Your hands have to be at least not-numb before going into the gloves; there are no gloves in the world that can help you once your hands are icey and numb.)

Finally, two standbys that I’m using obsessively. First, my custom quarter sheet.

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I use it every day. Still love it. Yes, it gets staticky sometimes, but I am blessed with a horse who could not care less. He makes a grumpy face at me, sighs, and gets over it.

Finally, the true MVPs of the winter gear lineup.

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Ariat Bromonts, the old style. Riding in the winter would not be physically possible without these wonderful things, which are going 9 years strong. The suede has rubbed down to leather on the inside, the velcro needs to be stitched back down, but they are still waterproof, windproof, and when paired with some decent insulating socks, I can wear them in any weather. I have comfortably hacked out in single digits in these. When (if?) they finally go, I’m going to give them a Viking funeral and probably cry. Okay, definitely cry. A lot.

Do you have any new gear this winter that’s really working for you?

Uncategorized · winter

Back in the Saddle

Our hideous cold snap finally broke, going from low single digits on Sunday to mid-20s on Monday. It was glorious. It felt like spring. I barely even wanted to put a coat on.

I pulled Tristan’s blankets off and…yeesh. Someone put his several weeks of eating hay to stay warm to good use. He’s 23 this year, and apparently he’s not going to be the type of senior horse that weight melts off. Which is good, I guess! Keep in mind that he gets basically no grain – 1/4 quart, or about a cup and a half – and is fed almost entirely on hay. In the last few weeks, it’s been essentially free choice.

img_1557no really he went up a girth hole. in three weeks.

Since Tris has effectively had three weeks off now, I started Monday and last night with just 30 minutes of work, mostly at the walk. Loads and loads of suppling exercises: asking him to step out smartly and then bend, soften, step into the bridle, take up the bit.

On Monday we did a bazillion leg yields at the walk and then 5 minutes at the trot. Last night, we worked hard on spiraling in and out at the walk, focused on really getting access to his hind end.

img_1559his face says otherwise, but he was actually happy to see me & to get back to work.

The first night back, it was still pretty chilly and people were shoveling snow of the roof, so for Tristan, he was pretty up. He volunteered a few steps of trot and did not want to go into the far corner where the shoveling was happening. He was quite nicely forward in the walk, and relatively – though not catastrophically – tense through his whole body. But that’s it. That’s about as nutty as he gets, even after weeks off. I take that too much for granted sometimes.

img_1569my view when I arrive at the barn after dark. ready for longer days, please.

Tonight, more work at the trot, and then Thursday & Friday it will be into the 40s (!!!) before dropping back for the weekend. I still haven’t clipped, because just when I was getting ready to we had our deep freeze and it was everything we could do to keep them warm. I might clip on Friday, depending on how warm he get for my ride on Thursday.

img_1574despite being fat, he’s still starving. it’s hard to be Tristan.

Somewhat boring, but wow, it felt good to sit in a saddle again on Monday. It always feels like some missing piece of my brain clicks back in place, and I am instantly 20% calmer and happier after a ride when I’ve had a long time off.

winter

Casualties of the Cold Snap

I’m sure you’ve seen in the news that we’re all under some kind of historically awful cold snap, and I’m sure you’ve seen your friends posting about 10F, GASP. Maybe even single digits?!

Yeah, fuck you all.

I say that as lovingly as possible, but God damn I would probably sell my soul to the devil to be complaining about 10 degrees above zero.

It is so fucking cold.

Of course, my car was in the shop last week and the assholes at the rental company dragged their feet on telling me there were no cars available, so I have been walking to work, about 1.5 miles. A perfectly fine and lovely walk above zero. A miserable, dangerous slog below zero.

Arya would like you to know it will probably never be warm again and also it is hard to pee when your feet hurt just from standing in the snow.

 

Tristan is warm and fat and happy, even if he does have permanent whisker icicles. He is wearing two blankets with a total of 440g of fill, and I dropped off brownies and hot chocolate for the barn staff and I hope to do the same again today, because, fuck. Please refer to the forecast above and look more closely at this coming Saturday, if you have not already.

My bank account is not. Please note, these are two separate thermostats. So add them together to get the true number of hours we’ve had to heat the house. Please also note that we keep the house around 60 degrees when we home and awake, and closer to 55 when we are away or asleep. Yeah.

So, an official list of casualties so far, noting that we are not nearly out of the woods:

  1. Two blanket straps. Brand new blanket straps. When metal gets cold, it just shatters, so all Tris had to do was bump against his stall wall. Maybe more to come.
  2. My eating plan. ALL THE CARBS, RIGHT FUCKING NOW.
  3. My bank account. We got an oil delivery last week. Our propane tank lid was fucking frozen solid to the top of the tank and I had to go out and (CAREFULLY) chip away at the 2″ of ice on it to check and see that yes, we need another propane delivery.
  4. My sanity. My last ride was on Christmas day. Enough said.
  5. My peace and quiet. We had people visiting through New Year’s to ski. It is too cold to ski. So I’ve gone into hosting overdrive.

Please make this stop, universe.

blanketing · cushings · winter

What to Wear: The Winter Horse Version

For those new, when Tristan was diagnosed with Cushings, one of his most obvious outward symptoms was that he went from a horse could live outside, naked, 24/7 in Vermont to a horse who needed a full set of blankets starting at 40 degrees. Most Cushings horses have trouble in summer and get overheated. Tristan wanted to buck the trend.

That first winter, I put out the call and between the barn and friends, I was blown away by generosity. I got a stable blanket from a friend’s beloved horse who had recently passed. A medium weight from another friend whose daughter’s horse had recently retired south, delivered to me via meetup at a highway rest stop on a trip to Montreal. The barn did an extraordinary job of monitoring him closely and working out the nitty-gritty of when he needed what blankets. Eventually, I came around to the idea of owning a horse who needed blanketing.

It’s been three years since that diagnosis and that first winter of blanketing, and I’ve learned a lot about what he actually needs and what fits him. This year, he got some new-to-him blankets. Luckily, one of the things I discovered in those two years is that Tris is actually pretty easy on blankets! He rolls hard in them, but he doesn’t play much in pasture (anymore).

Through trial and error, I discovered that Smartpak’s regular line of blankets fit him pretty darn well at a 72. I took advantage of two different sales to buy him an unlined turnout sheet and a medium weight stable blanket.

True confession time: he probably could have gotten through ok with most of what he had – he definitively needed a new turnout sheet, but the others could have continued hodgepodge – but I got some extra money from a side job, and I wanted him to match. Yeah. I’m not really proud to admit it, but that was part of my motivation. He clashes with most colors, so our colors have always been black and silver. Those Smartpak blankets come in black with gray trim. And they fit him great. And I wanted them. Adulthood mostly sucks, but if it means I get to buy new things for my horse just because I wanted them, then I will. SO THERE.

new turnout sheet

new turnout sheet in action

new stable blanket fitting session, just out of the box (to right)

The final new-ish piece is that he also wears a quarter sheet to warm up and cool down. Not all the time – but when it 30 or below, it really does make a difference. I spent a long time borrowing the barn ones, and then I made my own and I love it. I’m trying to work out a system to make these for the shop, but they’re awfully labor-intensive and my time is short around the holidays.

so handsome ❤ ❤ ❤

This combination of stable blanket + turnout sheet has been working quite well so far this winter, and it’s been well below zero a couple of times. The best barn staff checked on him and he was cozy and comfortable even when it got super cold. So I’m pleased with the system as it is.

He still has another medium-weight that’s a bit big on him that will serve admirably as another layer in the event that it gets even colder (always a possibility, thanks Vermont!). But I think we’ve got a good winter plan in place.

gear · winter

Winter Gear Review

I’ve done some roundups of gear that gets me through the winter in the past (here’s 2013 part 1 & part 2), and since this week we’ve officially hit spring (after snow flurries last Saturday, hahahaha, fuck you, weather), I thought I’d do a quick roundup of what worked really well for me this winter.

Breeches

First and best addition to the wardrobe: new winter breeches. I’ve been looking for a good pair of winter breeches for a long time; my old breeches were threadbare and wearing out fast.

That niche was admirably filled by the Noble Outfitters Softshell Riding Pants. These did absolutely everything I wanted them to: they held up to 5 days a week of riding, they were lined and warm, they cleaned up nicely, they came through the laundry just fine.

Gloves

In 2016, I spent a lot of time trying out gloves, both winter and summer. I had some abysmal failures, and some tentative success. This year, I’m happy to declare that the gloves I was happiest with in 2016 remained my favorites through 2017.

My absolute favorites were the SSG Fleece Knit Winter Riding Fleece-Lined gloves. They were warm enough and flexible enough to get me through. The caveat? They are not the sturdiest things. The second caveat? They’re no longer made; I can’t find the on the internet anywhere. Damn it all.

My runner up gloves, which were warm but not depths-of-winter warm, were the Equistar Ladies Fleece Winter Riding Gloves. Let’s be honest: these are total junk. They have zero fancy upgrades, are not particularly stylish, and I honestly might be able to sew them myself given some thinking time. HOWEVER, with all of that? They’re the best combination of warm, comfortable, and flexible that I found after the knit gloves, and at $5 a pair, I don’t particularly care that they might not last more than two or three seasons. (For the record: my two pairs are still in totally fine condition after two seasons.)

Boots

My best-beloved and discontinued Ariat winter boots remain perfect. These will last forever, God willing, and even if they do finally go to the great tack closet in the sky someday, I am happy enough with their similarities to the new Ariat winter boot lines to buy those immediately and strongly suspect I’ll be happy.

Layering

Alllllll about the layers. This winter, I could most typically be found in long-sleeved technical shirts of two kinds, depending on the weather. For warmer (20 degrees or more) days, I have a few that can double as sunshirts, made out of lighter technical fabric. For colder days, I have a few that are fleece lined and more in the style of compression shirts, most of the made by Nike. That was base layer.

I also had a nice rotation of sweatshirts or other thicker layers over that base layer, and topped it off with a Patagonia down jacket that was light and flexible but also quite warm.

Miscellaneous

One of my very favorite additions to my winter wardrobe remains my fleece helmet cover. It makes a HUGE difference in comfort, both as a insulating layer to keep my head from bleeding warmth and as a windbreaker to block the vents in my helmet. I freaking love it.