When the thermometer starts to drop many people quickly lose their motivation for riding, but with the right gear, there is no need to stop because of snow flurries or a little wind! I am admittedly not a cold weather person myself, but have always continued to ride so here is what I have found to be the warmest gear for those chilly days!
We will start from the top. Although your head does not account for the majority of heat loss from your body, it does account for 20-30% of your body's total loss. This percentage increases as the temperature drops (Jolie Bookspan, MD). So keep your head covered in cold weather with a good knit hat, or your helmet! Try a riding helmet cover with fleece neck warmer attached, especially if you have a helmet with vents as these do not provide good insulation. The next area to keep warm is your neck. A scarf tucked into your jacket or a neck warmer can make a huge difference in how warm you feel.
Your torso houses your vital organs, so this is the most important area to keep covered and insulated. I have found that layering with turtlenecks, sweaters, and a thin jacket to break the wind keeps me warm while still allowing freedom of movement. A tight fitting under armour shirt makes a big difference too. I also love vests, and will often wear a vest under my jacket, again providing more insulation to my torso, but not adding another layer of bulk on my arms. My fingers are always the first to get cold, so I prefer simple leather deerskin gloves. In super cold weather you may need gloves with thinsulate, but I don't like how thick these are for everyday riding. The leather breaks the wind and is water resistant.
For my legs, I love fleece riding pants, kerrits and irideon being my favorite brands. If I am doing barn work and need something more durable I will wear silk or under armor “long johns” under my jeans. After my hands, my feet are the next part to get stiff and cold, so I have tried lots of different boots. The best ones so far are Ariat's Windermere boots. These come up to the knees and are not heavily insulated but still very warm. The leather is soft and comfortable so you don't have that awkward feeling in the stirrups that sometimes comes with larger thicker boots. They are also waterproof and do not have a zipper that can let snow in as it melts (found this out with an old pair of Mountain Horse boots!) Insulated paddock boots are also available in a lot of brands, but I have not tried those yet.
I hope this helps inspire you to dig through your closet or make an investment in some new gear to get ready for the winter days! Don't let old man winter keep you out of the saddle this season!
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