Winter has started here and we have started our winter riding campaign. The trip up Waterton Canyon was after our first winter snow and included temps starting in the low 40's to the upper 20's. Our ride on Saturday started in the 20's and ended in the upper teens. For anyone else who might be crazy enough or daring enough to ride in true winter weather, here are some tips from me, interspersed with photos from our Saturday ride.
On our trip up Waterton Canyon I wore my new pair of Kerrits I scored for $40 at a clearance sale at Murdocks last June. I think they were last year's pair of the Sit Tight N Warm Windpro KP. They are nice and thick and I love how they feel. They are much more durable than the Irideons I was wearing last year and the fit is much better. On our ride up Waterton Canyon I wore them by themselves and was very comfortable. On Saturday, I added a wind/water proof shell from REI over the top to add protection. Plus, I layered a pair of insulating long underwear under the breeches. I was really comfortable even after riding for two hours in temps in the low 20s (I don't think it got above 22 degrees on Saturday). I was thankful for the waterproof layer after we walked under an overhanging branch that dumped snow all over us. And then the second time it happened and I was standing in my stirrups leaning forward. It kept my butt from getting wet when I sat down on the pile of snow covering the fleece on my saddle. That was fun.
Forest Service person who took a pic of us crossing the river, which Ashke did not want to do.
Eddy led. I pony club kicked him until he finally gave it up and crossed.
For my top I wore long underwear, a thermal shirt and my Carhartt Rancher Coat. I can not say enough good about Carhartt. It is kick ass at keeping one warm. The Rancher is quilt-lined with water and wind proof outer layer. It has a double zipper so I can raise the bottom zipper just a bit, plus side splits with snaps, so the coat fits well without bunching when I am in the saddle. I was comfortably warm and we didn't ride hard enough to break a sweat. The footing just wasn't that great.
We only had about five minutes of sun. This was it. Otherwise, it was grey.
I wore a Burton ski cap under my helmet. It is made without seams, so it fits under the helmet pretty well. It helped keep my ears and head very comfortable. However, my face was really cold (especially my chin) and if we had gone much longer or if there had been any wind I would have worried about frostbite. I have a balaclava I wore last year, that I will pull out next time. It is fairly thin so it should fit under my helmet and has a drawstring so I can close up the opening around my face. I also have a neoprene face mask that I can wear that will protect my chin, my cheeks and my lips from wind or frost burn.
The boys seemed really happy to be out, although it was a spook fest through the trees.
For gloves I wore a pair of work gloves we got at Murdocks. They are insulated and super warm. I was well enough insulated that I didn't actually wear them until after lunch, because my core was warm and that warmth translated to my hands. K wore a pair of wool liners and leather gloves over the top. She added hot hand handwarmers in between the layers, and her hands were really cold. She's going to try something different next time we ride, since she was pretty uncomfortable by the time we got back to the trailer.
Do you see the grey?
For my boots I wore the boots I got last winter that worked really well last winter. They didn't work on Saturday. I thought I was going to lose a toe my feet were so cold by the time we got back to the trailer. On top of that, the boots didn't agree with the stirrups I am using. They were super slick and I lost my stirrups four times before lunch because Ashke would not stand still. I obviously am not working him hard enough. Time to start dressaging in the indoor. I think I will try my North Face fleece lined winter boots (they have a heel) and see if the slickness is eliminated. I will also add toe warmers to my boots like all of my compadres. (I blame J, since she didn't tell me we had them.)
Heading south. J had a great ride and seemed really happy we were out.
The clouds were banked to our south. It got colder the further south we rode.
We stopped for lunch at the gazebo. Eddy was sure he was supposed to be fed.
K wore her Carhartt overalls. She was very warm, but her flexibility was hindered by the Carhartts. Watching her try to bend her knee to get her foot in the saddle made me happy I was just wearing breaches. I have Carhartt bibs I plan to wear this winter, but just not yet.
Not going to take no for an answer.
Ashke was a bit more subtle.
Lover's eyes. Really working his charm.
After lunch, I was much colder than before. The temps had dropped but I also think adding fuel to our bodies, standing around in the cold and not moving dropped our core temps a lot. That was when my feet started to get cold. The boots I have really aren't designed to stay warm if you are in the snow.
This was one of the overhanging branches covered with snow that caused me to look like the abominable snowwoman.
South Platte River.
We saw Tundra Swans (about 20), Cooper's hawk and some unidentified Eagle.
This is the part of the river trail we usually canter.
We were luck enough to travel at a fast walk.
We blended into the landscape.
Following us through the snow.
There were parts of the riverbank that Ashke was really cautious about.
He was fairly brave right up to the point where a six point buck came out of the underbrush.
Then every bush was viewed with distrust.
It was very pretty.
We did five miles in about two hours (half an hour stop for lunch). Not super long or fast, but still fun.