Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cold Weather Gear Tips Here!

Wow.  That’s all I can say as I think about horse keeping over the past 30 days.  Cold winter weather makes all horse care activities exponentially harder, but this winter, so far, has bumped it up a notch.

Cold-weather selfie with DeCato. Nice sleeve.
I have been doing it for 10 years in New York’s Twin Tiers, and was an active helper when my family kept horses, in my youth, in the foothills of the Catskills.  So I have tried every just about every product made for winter horse keeping on the market.  Most of these revolve around watering horses and keeping water from freezing – heated buckets, heated hoses and the like.

But there is also one’s personal warmth to consider, and this year’s double-digit-below zero, so called “polar vortex” tested the best of us in this department.

If you’re in the Twin Tiers, you probably have your own system (which may include, wisely, full-care boarding at someone ELSE’S barn!), but, just in case you’re still searching for the best cold-weather gear for horse chores, here’s how I roll:

These, plus a matching long-sleeved top.
First layer: Just bought some of the new, skin-tight, moisture-wicking, techno thermal top and bottoms from Dick’s Sporting Goods.  Not only do they work really well, but they are black, so when I wear them without a top layer, I become a Ninja and turn invisible.  In terms of type and brand, I avoided anything with cotton in them.  As much as I love cotton, it tends to get damp.  My top is a different brand than my bottoms, because I could fit into a kid’s top and it was about half the price of the lady’s, but I couldn’t fit into the kid’s bottoms!  But they are the same materials, so a good match. I think they are Reebok and Addidas, but they are in the wash at the moment so I can’t check.

These.
Socks: Anything that is mostly wool, especially merino, 70 to 90 percent, with just a touch of stretchy material so they don’t sink or wad up.  I wear wool socks all year long now, because I love them so much.  And yes, even a pair of light wool hiking socks cost around $15, so you have to be a serious sock geek to dress yourself in these all the time.  To me, they are worth it because they help your feet feel dry and comfy under every type of boot, sneaker, shoe.  I grab them on sale and also ask for them for Christmas, birthday, Valentine's Day, anniversary...

Pants: I wear men’s Wrangler work jeans from Tractor Supply for barn work.  Why is it that the denim in men’s work jeans is so much thicker than women’s?  The trick is finding some that fit.  Men are not built the same as women, apparently, especially around the hips.  But I squish my hips in and these things last forever.

Shirt: A simple cotton turtle neck suits me on top of the techno underwear.  If necessary, a second, bigger one goes on (it’s purple and has a Vikings logo, being cast-off from my husband, so I only wear it if desperate.  Go Pack).

Usually these.
Next: Insulated overhauls (Schmidt, from Tractor Supply again). These are boring brown and have elastic suspender straps.  I have had them for years, when I was a size large, so they are very big on me and the crotch hangs at approximately my knees. But these are the best for going out in the real cold.

Coat: Winter work coat, also by Schmidt/Tractor Supply.  Ancient, stained, bleached, still going strong.
 
Gloves: For the super cold, below-zero, I switch from waterproof Schmidt gloves to the women’s Goretex Pinnacle Gloves from Cabella’s (They are on sale now: here.)  They are no good for work requiring fingers, but are good for mucking and carrying buckets.  They are the warmest I have found.
Always these.
Boots: Cold toes are a big problem for me.  I have searched and searched for THE boots that will keep my toes from turning white, and I know now that those boots don’t exist.  I use Wildcat boots from LL Bean. They are warm (for normal people with normal toes), light and waterproof, and I can happily hike in them as well as do barn chores.  Sometimes I switch to my pair of the huge, bulky, Sorel snowmobile boots, but they are not as necessary, thanks to the next essential items:

Toe Warmers: I pretty much don’t go out for any period of time when the weather is below 45 degrees without these little chemical pads adhered to my socks.  It solves the cold toes problem, and allows me to wear the lighter boots.  I put them on the sock on TOP of my toes, not the bottom.  They work better that way. I buy them by the case from Amazon.  These also double as…

Hand warmers: I started using them in my gloves this year, when we got to zero and below, and, again, they were a lifesaver.   They keep me from resorting to using my mares' butt cracks to warm up painfully cold fingers, so the mares probably like them too.

With Crabby.  Warm day at 33 F!
Hat: Just a simple winter cap, with the coat hood up on top of it as needed.

Headlamp: Fantastic invention. Don’t forget to turn it off when you want to snuggle your horse’s face, or you’ll blind them!

Scarf: I add it in the below-freezing weather to cover my face. I may look for a ski mask for this purpose though.

How about you?  Do you have any fantastic cold-winter gear tips that you want to share? 

Stay warm, peeps!

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