Dressing Your Lesson Child for Cold Weather, Presented by Breeches.com

“Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the equestrians from their barns.” 

Okay, maybe that’s the U.S. Postal Service… or Herodotus. Either way, equestrians know that riding horses — and taking care of them — is not just a fair weather pursuit. It’s something we do no matter the temperatures.

This can be a bit of an adjustment for new riders — especially children. As the manager of a barn where we host lessons a couple times a week, every year I find myself reminding parents that lessons don’t stop when the temperatures drop. The drop in temperature often is accompanied by tears as kids learn that fingers and toes hurt when they’re cold, and that dressing warm enough for extended time in the barn looks a little different than dressing warm enough to walk from the car to the house. Usually, by the end of those first cold weather lessons, the students look something like this:

However, this is something that can be avoided. The key to staying comfortable not freezing at the barn during the winter months is layers. Lots and lots of layers. And the right types of clothing. We know there can be quite the learning curve when it comes to figuring out what to wear. So we want to help make that curve a bit less steep with this list of must-haves for surviving the barn during the winter:

Hand/Foot/Body Warmers

We can not emphasize this enough. Fingers and toes get COLD in the winter. This is true for all riders, but it is especially true for young riders who often don’t realize how cold their extremities are until they hurt. You can head this off by purchasing hand and foot warmers. Whether you get them from an online retailer or at your local bulk store, having these on hand is key. And while most people know that hand warmers are available, those small square packets don’t tend to do much for toes and won’t fit in shows. However, the companies also make toe warmers that are flat, stick to the bottoms of feet, and will fit inside shoes. They also make body wamers that will peel and stick to your core. For small kiddos with not a lot of fat reserves, these can be a life-saver.

Base Layers

We really can’t stress enough the importance of layers when it comes to winter riding. They’re, like, really important. Proper laying starts with the right base. This is true of any cold weather endeavor. Whether you’re skiing, snowshoeing, bitterly shoveling your driveway, or whatever, starting with the right base layers is key. Something like the Lemieux Fleur Base Layer is a great start. How thick and what style you choose is totally rider preference, but the key is to choose one that limits bulk and offers a warm base so that adding layers makes sense. In really cold weather, I will also wear a bottom base layer under my breeches or jeans to keep my legs warm. After all, when we ride our legs are the most exposed thing after our extremities.


Did we mention the importance of layers? We think we might have… Vests play a key role here. Part of the reason I like vests so much is that they do a great job of keeping your core warm. Plus, I find that they allow me to move my arms freely. I can’t stand feeling like I’m encumbered around my shoulders — especially when I am putting a saddle on a horse or trying to ride. It’s a whole thing. Vests are a great way to add a layer with out adding too much bulk in the places I need it least. Softshells and fleece vests are great, but for truly cold weather, I prefer a down or poly-filled vest for added warmth.

Winter Riding Tights/Breeches

Having cold legs when you ride is rough. After all, what’s the answer to nearly every question your trainer asks? “More leg.” And if you can’t use your legs because they’re, well, frozen, how on earth are you supposed to add more? Fortunately, most riding apparel companies recognize this issue, so there are a host of winter riding pants on the market. For the small fries, we love fleece-lined breeches like the TuffRider Children’s Macy Winter BreechesEquine Couture Children’s Riding Club Pull On Winter Breeches, or the Horze Active Kids Silicone Full Seat Winter Tights. Any of these fleece-lined breeches are a great start. I will often pair them with an additional layer of windproof/waterproof pants for added protection and warmth.

The Right Jacket

Choosing the right jacket for winter riding can be tough, but here’s the key: find something that’s warm, lets you move, is large enough to go over all those layers we’ve been promoting, and is easy to clean (because even though equestrians love the smell of the barn, not everyone is as happy about it when we’re out in public). I really like the three-in-one options a lot of companies have on the market because they offer a ton of versatility as well as protection from the elements.


So, the hard thing about riding is that bulky — albeit warm — winter gloves won’t work when you actually have to get things done with horses (like, you know, tacking them up and maneuvering while riding). So we actually think that two sets of gloves are the way to go. The first layer is one that’s good for more dexterity. Something like the Lettia Children’s Warlock Thinsulate Glove works great here. It’s got thinsulate to keep small hands warm, but it’s still thin enough to allow for getting things done and holding reins. Honestly, in the coldest of temperatures, that alone won’t do the trick. We recommend adding a bulkier glove (and hand warmers!) during the times that you’re engaging in tasks that require less dexterity (like carrying saddles, brushing, etc.). A good mitten or other waterproof glove is a good choice here.

A Good Pair of Boots

Admittedly, it’s hard to choose the right boots for kids when you’re shopping for one season and you know your kiddo likely will have outgrown the boots by the next year. That said, frozen toes = miserable rider. So I think it’s incredibly worthwhile to invest in a good pair of all-weather boots — and it’s doubly important to make sure they’re waterproof (wet toes = toes freezing even faster = VERY miserable child). Boots like these TuffRider Children’s Lexington Waterproof Tall Country Boots work well because they help keep feet warm, but they still have the correct sole and heel to make them safe to wear while riding.

As you prep your kiddo for the colder months in the barn, don’t forget the other key accessories such as warm socks and a good hat to wear before they put on their helmets. It’s also incredibly important to make sure your child is well hydrated and fed before their lesson. This actually makes a huge difference in comfort. One other trick I learned while I was a ski instructor is that a moisturizing sunblock (yes, sunblock) will help protect their faces from the harsh conditions as well.

Try to stay warm out there, Horse Nation. And go riding!