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We want fit, grip and feel in our gloves, but the fit needs to leave room for fingernails.

We want fit, grip and feel in our gloves, but the fit needs to leave room for fingernails.

Most women accept the idea that long fingernails and horses just don't mix. When riding with gloves, fingernails will poke out the ends of the fingers in gloves that are too short or where the materials and construction aren?t tough enough. Work gloves are often too loose and too thick, so they get pulled off for any task that requires delicacy, such as adjusting a buckle, leaving fingernails vulnerable. Long fingernails never survive on bare hands, either when riding or working in the barn.

When selecting riding gloves, most people look first for fit, grip and feel, followed by whether the gloves are breathable, washable and durable, and finally whether the price is right. If you add this very specific concern over fingernails, your choice narrows even further. But this isn?t just a question for someone with a nice manicure. Many women ? and some men ? have very long fingers and thus despair over finding gloves that will seat properly into the grooves between their fingers, even without the added length of very long fingernails.

We consulted experts at SSG Gloves, English Riding Supply and Heritage Gloves for their insights. If you want to find gloves that will help you keep a manicure fresh and nails long, take these steps:

Consider how much the length of your own fingers can vary.

Look at your hands, first palms down and then palms up, gauging especially the ring and index fingers because these will be the ones likely to poke through your gloves (the middle finger in a glove is usually long enough). Most gloves will have the index/ring fingers the same length, but hands aren?t consistent, not just person-to-person but right/left on the same person and when rotated, held flat or with fingers holding reins.

Try on gloves at the tack store (catalog shopping won?t work here). Seat the fingers of your glove choices well into the grooves. Then turn your hands over, palms up and down and finally into a fist. Make sure there is no pulling across the tips of the fingers, accounting for whether you might grow your nails even longer if you find the perfect pair of gloves to protect them.

Consider materials.

Knit fabrics won?t survive for long with pointed fingernails, cotton even less so than synthetics. Real leather is usually too abrasive on the inside and often too thick. Once a leather glove forms on your hand, the finger shape will return to the same spot every time you pull them on, and you may not be able to keep the leather from dragging across the tips, even if they started out long enough.

Most synthetic ?leather? choices will last longer than knits and also be more kind to your cuticles and polish than real leather. Synthetics are thinner and more consistent in their shape and feel than real leather and also smoother on the underside, the part that goes against your skin.

Consider construction.

Avoid gloves either with bulky seams or with stretchy fabrics inserted over the tips. Look for gloves that have suppleness built in through pinholes across the knuckles or through a stretchy panel sewn across the back of the hand. This allows you to get a close fit while at the same time relieving pressure against the nail tips when the fist closes. You also don't want the glove fingers to be too long because this will leave bulk that will double back when your fist is closed and push against the nails.

Consider hand shape and glove size.

Look for gloves that resemble dress gloves, so that the palms will start out narrow and the fingers will be long.

Consider work needs.

Can you use your riding gloves when you work around the barn and for longeing' Do you need a separate set of work gloves' Most heavy-duty work gloves marketed for chores around livestock have thick materials and seams that will rub against your cuticles and polish and they?re often too wide in the palms and too short in the fingers if based on a model of men?s hands rather than women?s. The answer may be better found in a garden shop rather than a tack shop or feed store.

Gloves made from a stretch fabric but that have a polymer coating on the palms or fingers are becoming popular as work gloves because they?re both form-fitting and tough.

Bottom Line.

For riding, choose synthetic leather-like gloves with stretch material sewn in the backs. Look for a glove that stays deeply seated in the grooves of your hand when you turn it in all directions, including making a fist, and that clears the tips of your fingers but without too much extra fabric there or with bulky seams. For work, search for stretch gloves with a poly coating on the fingers.

Article by Margaret Freeman, our Associate Editor.