I had a new student come for her first time on the coldest day of the year. The wind chill here was around 20. Depending on where you are from that may not sound too bad, but here it is bitterly cold. Very few of my girls have ever had to be outside for any length of time at those temperatures. This sweet girl was no different.
I tell all of my girls to dress warm, but many of them have no idea how to survive below freezing. I keep extra layers for those times when the weather overwhelms their winter wear so my little student didn’t freeze, but when that happens I like to make a few suggestions of what to do next time.
First I suggest a wind resistant outer shell with insulation, just make sure you can move around in it. Don’t forget to take advantage of what is already in your closet. Cotton isn’t good if you sweat, but an extra t-shirt under all your other layers can really make a difference. Layer a tank top, T-shirt, long-sleeve T-shirt, sweater, and/or light jacket before you put on your coat. Synthetic fleece is great for staying warm and dry, but you want to wear something wind resistant over it.
Vests keep your core warm while leaving your arms less restricted. I have noticed most people either love or hate vests, but anyone will add a vest to the rest of their insulation if it gets cold enough.
Despite not feeling cold as sharply as other parts, keeping your legs warm can be critical. A lot of blood flows through your legs. If you keep your legs warm the warm blood can be used to heat other areas. Thermal long underwear, or in a pinch, nightclothes can be worn under jeans or overalls and ski pants can be worn over to add an extra layer against the cold. Personally I prefer ski pants because they block the wind, but either solution helps.
Because we are working around horses I require my girls to tie their hair back so they can see everything going on around them, but that leaves exposed ears and necks. I recommend ear warmers or a hat. Hoods make it too hard to see and most people have a hard time keeping them in place. Scarves or even an extra ear warmer band worn around the neck can keep the cold wind out. Just make sure to tuck any ends into your coat to keep them from catching on things.
Socks and shoes do the obvious and keep your feet warm. They also seem to be the hardest to find the perfect solution. Wool and/or synthetic are much better than cotton socks at keeping you warm and dry. Insulated boots are nice, but seem to be the thing that no one has, so on days when it is so cold you can feel it coming through the soles of your shoes I wear ToastiToes. I don’t like the way they feel in my shoes, but it beats freezing feet.
Last, but certainly not least are gloves. Playing with horses we have to be able to feel what is going on, both through the gloves and by staying warm enough to feel our fingers. The perfect pair of gloves is elusive, but I wear the Hyperlite All Weather Glove by Seirus. They are a bit thin on the coldest days, but they are thin enough to feel through, insulate better than leather, and are wind and water proof. For those days that humans shouldn’t be out, I use HotSnapZ reusable hand warmers in my pockets. They can make a real difference between being a little cold and being miserable.
Armed with layers, a good coat, maybe a vest, ski pants, hats, scarves, thick socks, hand and foot warmers, and gloves most of us can survive a couple of hours in the cold for the sake of horses.
How do you stay warm in the winter?