Winter is here, which you have likely noticed, along with the increase in mud. If you are feeling miserable already and dreading your time at the barn, you may be in need of a new winter coat.
The perfect winter coat keeps you warm and cozy and totally prepared for the elements. After all, there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. But a coat can be a big investment – how do you make sure you get the right one?
It will ultimately come down to your riding lifestyle. You need a coat that matches what you do at the barn. You might want the most beautiful, knee length, wool coat with fur trim, but it won’t do you much good if you don’t actually wear it to the barn! (but chances are you’ll wear it at every other opportunity, since it’s beautiful).
So how do you know it its right? Let’s discuss.
Before we talk about specific features different riders might want, let’s talk about features that all riders are going to want to look for.
It Needs to be Durable
Horses are rough. They destroy their own coats, they can also destroy yours. One of the reasons regular coats don’t always work out for the barn is that they aren’t intended to be grabbed at, trampled, run into things, and then they just end up falling apart or ripping. Check for tough material, no loose flappy fabric, and tight stitching.
It Should be Waterproof
I’m willing to accept that some people ride in a biodome that keeps them completely out of the elements, but for the majority of us, horses are an outdoor sport. They live outside, we ride outside, and ever since they took away my in-barn parking privileges (who says it blocks the aisle?!), I’ve had to walk from the parking lot to the barn outside. Horses also drink water. Chances are, raindrops or moisture will fall onto you at some point. Stay ahead of all of this by getting a coat that is waterproof or water resistant. Otherwise, you might have been warm for a bit, but the second your coat is wet, you’re going to be pretty cold again.
It Needs to be Easy to Clean
Horses love being dirty. Barns are well known for having a layer of mud around them in the winter. Choose a jacket that will be easy to clean. Ideally choose something that’s make out of a material that repels dirt. Some of these coats I’ve seen, I swear you people are trying to attract as much dirt as possible. Hay also sticks to everything it can. If you so much as touch some hay, you’re going to be living in it for the life of the coat. Avoid fleece and textured fabrics, unless you just love pulling bits of hay off of it.
It Needs to have a Cell Phone Pocket
You would think that now, in 2024, this would be a universal thing in every coat, but just check and make sure. I just recently bought a coat that had fake pockets. Granted, it wasn’t a riding coat, but it wasn’t a cheap coat either. Just make sure it has them, and make sure the pocket is actually big enough to fit your phone!
The Different Coats
Now, let’s get into the specifics of why you might want different styles of coats. Which lifestyle sounds like you?
The Easy Going Rider
This rider is likely a trail rider, and just likes taking long, slow walks out. Maybe occasional trotting, but she’s mainly about the journey, not the destination.
Since you’re moving slower, you’re more likely to get cold. Look for coats that have length to cover your thighs while you ride.
The Ring Rider
You’re taking a lesson, schooling, or doing something in the ring. You’re likely going to be doing a lot of work at something other than a walk. You’re probably going to heat up pretty fast.
The good news is that you can take your jacket off pretty easily and set it down while you ride, you just need it to warm up. Look for a lighter weight jacket, without a lot of bulk. You need to prioritize movement, and if you take it off, the smaller it is, the easier it is to handle.
The Outdoor Speed Demon
You’re either out on the trail, cantering and galloping a long, or you’re riding cross country. There’s a high level of activity, and you’re going to warm up fast – except for when you slow down and get hit with that winter wind. Brrrrr.
You need a coat that can hold your life while you ride, since you might end up a few miles from the barn. You aren’t able to easily leave your coat anywhere, so ideally you should be able to ride with it unzipped when you get hot, without flapping so much you scare all nearby horses.
The Barn Worker
You’re there to muck stalls, feed, and then you’ll get some riding time in. You have a full morning of chores, and you’re moving around a lot, kicking up a lot of dirt, and getting a workout.
You may jump on a horse or two, but mainly, you need a coat that can take a regular beating.
Sometimes it’s the trainer, or sometimes it’s mom, watching a lesson. She’s at the barn, but she’s watching way more than she’s riding…. but she might get on a horse at some point.
Long coats are going to be your best friend. You need maximum coverage, without feeling like you’re wearing a coat made of bricks.
Hopefully now you’ll be prepared for those cold days. Bundle up, wear layers, and dream of the days when it’s so hot you also don’t want to be outside. Don’t worry, it’ll be here soon enough!