Published in the March 2012, issue of Western Mule MagazineClick Here for a PDF file (2MB) of the article
Greetings, I’m honored to have the opportunity to write and share some of my riding experience and passion for equestrian trails with you. Hopefully you’ve been able to get out and ride throughout the winter. If not then perhaps this first column from the TrailMeister will help to get you thinking about ways to be somewhat comfortable through the remainder of the spring.
Summer’s bluebird skies and bright sunshine are still a couple of months away and in the interim for many of us our riding opportunities include late winter and early springs lead gray skies, foul weather and rain, lots of it. Rather than park the mules until better weather arrives here are a few common sense tips to help keep you warm and dry as you navigate the trails. Effective foul weather gear will be your key to continued, and comfortable, riding through the unpredictable weather of winter and spring. Well prepared backcountry trail riders carry quality foul weather gear with them on every ride regardless of the current or forecasted weather. From the top down think breathable, waterproof, light, and layers, for this set of protective gear that may be donned then taken off and stored multiple times a day on a trail ride. Features to look for include quality construction, breathability, and pack ability.
Hat - The traditional cowboy hat is hard to beat for foul weather and sun protection. The wide brim does an excellent job of funneling water away. Though most good quality western hats are water resistant you should have a waterproof cover to help preserve the hat and prevent a wet head. Those of us that wear helmets will have a harder time, because without a wide brim encircling the helmet some wet stuff is bound to make its way down your neck. Plastic covers are available for your helmet and will do a good job of at least keeping the top of your head dry.
Coat - Forget about the traditional oilskin drover’s jacket. They may look great but heavy oilskin fabrics can quickly become much too restrictive and hot for use as a coat where freedom of movement is essential for comfort. Instead for your top layer go with a lightweight, breathable, material that will allow you to move, while also staying dry. There are a variety of options in this category from high tech Gore-Tex to lightweight coated fabrics such as those used in Wyoming Traders’ Fish Slicker that not only offer a traditional look but also keep you protected from the wind, rain, and snow.
Gloves - When you’re riding for hours on end you have enough to worry about without having cold and wet hands; therefore a good pair of waterproof gloves is a must. Lightweight gloves allow for good feel of the reins and offer dexterity for manual tasks. While leather is the material of choice when it’s dry, try to avoid leather on wet and rainy days and instead try a thin waterproof neoprene glove. You’ll find that your hands will stay more comfortable.
Chaps - Keep your legs dry with a hard wearing and waterproof set of chaps. Originally devised to protect working cowboys from the elements, chaps are a valuable additional to the trail riders gear kit. While many styles of chaps are available we’ve found that the “shotgun” or stove pipe types that wrap completely around the legs retain heat much better than the batwing styles. The closer fit is also an advantage in windy conditions. You’ll want a heavier material, such as leather or oil cloth, to stand up to trail hugging briars and brush that will quickly ruin lesser fabrics. Oil cloth chaps such as those by Filson are lightweight, easy to roll up and stow, and will hold up to the toughest of brambles and briars.
Tapaderos - Also known as Devonshire Boots to those who ride English are simply stirrups with a hood covering the front of the stirrup. Hooded stirrups serve several purposes that make them well suited for riding in foul weather. They provide protection from rain and snow, deflect wet brush and are a personal favorite for cold-weather riding to keep the boots warmer and dry. They also prevent the rider's foot from going through the stirrup, helping to avoid potentially serious accidents. Again, it’s a pleasure to be able to share my enthusiasm for trail riding with you. I hope that these tips have you planning a saddle filled 2012. For more trail riding information including the largest database of validated trail, trailhead, and camping information or to suggest ideas for future columns please visit www.TrailMeister.com.
Enjoy your wet weather rides!
Wow, You made it all the way through! Feel free to read more TrailMeister print articles and get inspired for the trail here.
Share TrailMeister with your friends