In which the rain begins for real but I have a bunch of coping skills

A blogfriend who lives in California recently had a close encounter with a Swamplands-style rainstorm.

BootsandSaddles4Mel was hoping to hunker down in a warm, dry, and comfortable spot to wait out the rain, but she was concerned (rightly) about her California-girl horse, who was running around in the rain and mud, making herself (and Mel) wet, dirty, and cranky. Mel managed to get her horse warm and dry and comfortable, but commented that she lacked the proper raingear for her horse and herself.

Here in the Swamp, we are experts at rain. So, for those of you in Dry Places, I'd like to offer a
Brief Tutorial In Wet Weather Coping Skills. Part One :
Keeping the Rider Dry

I want to note here that the stuff I've specified below are choices for a wet and rainy day, when the air is 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Gear for colder temperatures is similar, but includes extra stuff that I will write about in a later post. Still, it is important to know that even when the temps are above freezing, it is possible to chill the body the point of danger. And that, my friends, is no fun.

Most important : Cotton Kills
It's a common saying in the backcountry hiking community that "cotton kills." Cotton fabric does not wick moisture away from the body. Instead, cotton fabrics retain moisture--and in a damp and windy environment, wet equals cold.

In a cold, wet environment like the Swampland, clothing made from cotton should be avoided at all costs except at the height of summer. If you get wet while wearing cotton, you will get cold and stay cold. Stay cold long enough around here, even at sea level, and you risk hypothermia--which can, in extreme circumstances, be deadly.

Cotton fabric also chafes like crazy. I can't imagine anything more painful than legs being rubbed raw by wet bluejeans. Leave the cotton at home unless you're going to the beach on a hot sunny day!

Here are my choices for a wet day of trail riding:
Synthetic tights and shirt and sport bra. If you routinely wear knickers under your tights, make sure they are synthetic as well!

Wool or synthetic socks, waterproof and insulated boots, waterproof/breathable jacket with a hood.
Synthetic helmet-liner and gloves. There's a "beak" attached to my helmet by velcro, and the beak keeps cold rain off my face.

Synthetic half-chaps keep the rain off and also repel blackberry thorns!

For really cold wet days: neoprene gloves from a kayaker supply shop. Neoprene doesn't keep hands dry, but it does insulate body warmth and so even wet hands will stay warm.
If the water is falling from the sky, the Goretex jacket will suffice.

However, if you intend to ride through very wet foliage, you might as well wade through shoulder-high water!

Cold, wet branches brushing your legs will get them wet and cold, too.

Therefore, if it's been raining for several days (or, as happens in the Swamplands, several weeks or months) you will want something to keep the rain off them:

Yup, it's the Marlborough Man jacket, a.k.a. an oilskin duster.

While these coats are not usually insulated, they will keep the body DRY. They even keep the saddle dry and allow some of the horse's body heat to warm the rider. A duster is an outstanding choice for a long, slow ride in very wet conditions, (or any conditions where you will be asked to sell cigarettes).

A duster is, however, very stiff and unwieldy--not my first choice for a ride where I'll need to mount/dismount frequently, run alongside the horse, or do anything else that requires a lot of flexibility.

Once you've geared up with synthetics, go out and ride the trails on horseback.
The world is a beautiful and peaceful place in the rain.
Life is good!


  1. I have just come here from SSTACK, where I bought two new breathable rain sheets for the Tonka. We are inundated as well now, and he always sweats faster than his sheets can breath so I have to change daily when it's pouring. Last winter I rotated between four, but this year I will leave Tess with six. He never gets anything more than a sheet...I can't imagine what he would look like in something insulated.

    Me? Time to re-oil my oil skin.

  2. I'd like to find out from equestrians if Rain Legs actually work. Those half chaps for thighs. Bikers love them, but I need to hear from horsey people!

    Brand endorsement: My polarfleece tights from Carousel keep my legs warm even when wet, and my Irideon All Weather tights do the same. OK after hours and hours of rain I start to get cold legs, but mostly I'm comfortable even when they're wet. Polarfleece must be magic cuz when I use my rumprug in the rain, even a soaking rain, Baasha's butt stays completely dry. (When I remember to tuck it under the crupper to stablize it!)

    I had an oilskin coat but I couldn't move in that thing.

    I'll do a cold weather riding post soon; I have some goofy pics of me in my wool and polarfleece getup.

    We are wearing our slip on neck warmers already!


  3. I admit in front of God and everybody that I am a total wuss. I'll ride in the cold, but I have no desire AT ALL to be slogging around in the kind of weather you're dressing for. For me, that's an indoor blogging day. Here in Texas, we don't get too much of that, says she, after 2 solid weeks of rain.

    You crack me up: where you might be called on to sell cigarettes :-D

  4. LYTHA: there's an unfavorable bike-rider review from Portland Oregon (dated April 2008) here:

    And I second the endorsement for Carousel tights. I wear those and Kerrits exclusively in warm and cold seasons, and generally get 3 years of pretty hard riding out of a set. Then, they become pajamas....

    It is VERY wet here right now, I actually put blankets on the horses, which I usually won't do unless it's cold and windy. The rain is so heavy that I just couldn't stand it, even though it isn't COLD out there, just WET.

    Clearly, I need to do a "getting/keeping your horse comfy in wet weather" post...soon!

  5. I came from the south still solidly in love with cotton. (It's kind of patriotic for us, after all!) Then my husband bought me some synthetic riding/gym tank tops, and I broke down and bought a pair of wool socks to combat my neverending blisters. A month later and I'm refusing to wear anything BUT wool socks, even on hot days, and I'm begging for more synthetic layers!

    That's just for dry days, too. It's only rained once here so far! They say it's wetter in the fall/winter, so I'm trying to get excited about riding in the rain. If I decide not to ride, I want it to be because I'm busy or my hubby needs attention - NOT because it's raining and I'm a wuss!


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