Thing #1: Willpower. Thing #2: Under Armour.
1. Willpower: We’ve all been there, when it’s dark and freezing outside and you know that a warm, velvety nose will make it all better, but the thought of curling up at home with blankets and a warm drink sounds pretty good too. I find that the key to motivating myself to get over that initial “But I don’t wanna!” is designating certain days as barn days every single week. Rain or shine, it becomes a habit–and once I get to the barn, I know I’ve made the right choice!
2. Proper layering: The basic formula for layering is to put a wicking layer (wool or technical fabric like Under Armour) on first, then an insulating layer (usually fleece) in the middle, and a weatherproof layer on top to protect you from the elements. The great thing is that with a good insulating layer, for milder climates you can still have a form-fitting riding ensemble that’s perfect for all of the dressage lessons you’ll be taking if you’re lucky enough to have an indoor. For more info on layering, check out this guide from REI.
3. Don’t forget your fingers and toes! Back in the day when I was young, naive, and volunteering at the football concession stand to raise money for the University of MD Equestrian Club, I had no idea how to dress myself for the cold and remain a functional human being. A Good Samaritan saw how freezing I was and gave me some handwarmers, and I literally burst into tears. That is how powerful a good handwarmer is. Now I buy in bulk in October!
Remember that your gloves and boots need to be a little roomy so that there is oxygen for the hand- or footwarmers to work. Another excellent option is to buy socks or gloves that insulate or trap heat–whether it’s natural, like alpaca wool socks, or synthetic, like the Back on Track gloves that conduct your body heat.
4. Game plan: Know your horse and know the weather, including whether the footing may be hard or icy. Your horse will appreciate a good warmup/cooldown plan for your exercise sessions as well!
5. Know when enough is enough: Overworking your horse in cold weather can have an effect on his immunological responses for up to 48 hours after the fact, and may increase risk of airway obstruction.When in doubt, keep the work easy and just be happy you have a place to ride during the winter months!