When it’s cold outside Jackie Bristol wears her Aussie-style duster raincoat, along with a fully insulated lap robe made by Martha Nicolas of Buckley. (Lynda Allen)

When it’s cold outside Jackie Bristol wears her Aussie-style duster raincoat, along with a fully insulated lap robe made by Martha Nicolas of Buckley. (Lynda Allen)

HORSEPLAY: The proper gear makes winter riding fun

DO YOU HAVE the rainy day doldrums?

Then it’s time to saddle up.

Not only will a tender nuzzle from your horse cheer you up, but a good trail ride could be uplifting to you and your horse.

A major determent to riding this time of year, for me at least, is the cold and rain.

I’ve long admired Back Country Horsemen’s Olympus Chapter founders Larry and Sherry Baysinger because they ride and work clearing trails on the West End rain or shine.

Sherry’s told me it’s all about laying and wearing the right gear.

Thankfully, there’s a variety of riding gear available to help us actually enjoy riding in the winter rain.

One tip from my friend Patty Grice that’s helped me immensely in keeping my core warm is to wear a thermal tank top.

In our neck of the woods I end up wearing one at least six months out of the year.

A few years ago I rode the upper Mount Mueller trail with a friend who wore a homemade lined and waterproof combination of lap robe and chaps.

The robe part snapped around her waist and completely covered her saddle.

The chaps, or leggings, zipped up the center and were long enough to cover her boots.

Ever since then I’ve wanted to make one, but I keep putting the project on the back burner.

Knowing I’d enjoy winter riding more if I had one I searched the internet.

There, I found two sites that offered the warmth and protection I was looking for.

Arctic Horse is based in Alaska. Their full-length insulated riding skirt was awarded the 2017 Most Innovative Product of the Year by the Western and English Sales Association. Find out more at Arctichorsegear.com.

The other is called Waterproof Winter Riding Gear by Martha.

Martha is a gal who rides and lives near Mount Rainier, which means she rides in trails just as wet and cold as ours.

She offers her Waterproof Lap Robes for just $130. They’re made out of 600 denier Cordura and are fleece lined.

“I don’t make much profit on them,” Martha Nicholas said.

A long-time member of Back Country Horsemen, she bought one years ago from a seller who is now retired.

In reponse to people asking where she got hers she started making them as a way to help others keep warm while riding in the winter rain and snow.

“Our horses cost us a hunk of change, so why not find a way to enjoy them more during winter?” Nicholas said.

“You are happier, as well as your horse who is being used. It’s a bonus for both.”

Horses like them, too, Nicholas said, because the lap robes protect their girth and heart muscles.

The length of the robe also covers your boots and stirrups to keep your toes warm and dry, much like tapaderos (which I use in the winter).

Email Nicholas at [email protected] or call 360-829-2141.

I decided to order one from Martha.

Until it arrives I’ll keep wearing my long underwear, insulated Carhartts and Aussie-style raincoat — and buying toe and hand warmers in bulk.

Be proactive

Sadly, this time of year we start seeing more neglected and starving animals.

It always baffles me how some people think horses can survive in a pasture full of dormant winter grass.

Simply put, dormant grass lacks the calories and nutrition needed to survive.

They can actually starve to death.

Remember, your livestock need fresh, quality hay — and more of it — during this time of year.

I’ve also been hearing more about horses getting shocked when using a stock-tank heater to keep the water from freezing.

Most of use never think about grounding the tank until it’s too late.

Yet, it’s fairly easy to ground the tank.

Simply pound a galvanized or copper ground rod into the ground next to the tank (not close to an electric fence).

Then wrap copper or galvanized wire (I think insulated ground wire is best but I’m told not necessary) around the top of the post.

The other end goes into the water tank.

Wrap it around a stone or brick or something that will sink to bottom, and and you’re done.

And remember to keep a white salt block next to the water to encourage drinking.

It’s always a good idea to test the water for shocks by sticking your bare hand in the water on a regular basis.

Hopefully you won’t get buzzed.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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