We consider riding gloves to be important equipment, not just an item of apparel, and we’re always a bit perplexed that some people might want to ride without them. We suspect those who insist on riding without gloves just haven’t found the right ones to match their riding style and choice of reins or actually haven’t fairly compared riding in a good pair of gloves vs. riding without them.
Bare skin on reins can never have the same consistency of grip that the right gloves will give. The reins create too much friction against the skin, and the fingers thus have to loosen just that little bit. When the weather is too cold, or hot, or wet — or the horse is sweaty — bare hands can’t hold the reins as firmly as hands encased in gloves. If your discipline requires a short and consistent connection, such as dressage or jumping, then gloves are essential.
There are many variables beyond personal preference and showing style that go into selecting gloves. The most important is the second half of the hand-to-mouth equation, the reins. The gloves you pick may be different whether you ride with plain leather, laced or braided leather, rubber or web reins, or any of the many variations.
We test rode a variety of show-type gloves in sun and cold, sweat and rain, and with every type of rein. We searched for the gloves that were the most comfortable in a variety of conditions and also the least likely to slip. We also added in the variable of white gloves, which are de rigueur for some types of showing such as dressage, figuring that would be the acid test for keeping gloves clean and pliable. We hauled a bag full of gloves to shows and kept digging through the bag for the ones that held up to pouring rain when we still had to perform at our best.
We also consulted professionals who ride a variety of horses in varied conditions. Some put a premium on fit, some on looks, some on grip. There were riders who didn’t care about anything except that the gloves were leather and felt good. Others had firm opinions — nothing thin or no rubber dots because of too much grip.
The trend over the past five years is
away from all-leather gloves and heavier
synthetics to a thin glove that mimics
leather but performs more consistently,
is easier to clean and dries more quickly.
There are enough choices in gloves, with more always coming on the market, that you should be able to satisfy your own preferences. The trend over the past five years is away from all-leather gloves and heavier synthetics to a thin glove that mimics leather but performs more consistently, is easier to clean and dries more quickly.
Often, these gloves have nylon inserts so the fit can be skin-tight. All the thin gloves we saw, whether leather or synthetic, had reinforcements at key wear points. Many of these gloves come from Europe with a price to match the exotic labels, but we think their performance also usually matches the price.
Synthetics generally dry more
quickly than leather or fabric.
The combos may place the leather
on the back for looks or on the
palm for grip.
Materials and Care
Show gloves, which may also double for training gloves depending on the color, generally fall into four material categories: all-leather, synthetic, leather/synthetic combos, and fabric. The all-leather gloves can be thick or fine, smooth or sueded.
Synthetics usually mimic fine leather but may also have materials and textures that will improve wear. Synthetics generally dry more quickly than leather or fabric. The combos may place the leather on the back for looks or on the palm for grip.
Fabric gloves can be an all-cotton knit, a poly cotton knit or a stretchy nylon. Often they’re imbedded with PVC dots. Fabric gloves are the easiest to swap around different-sized hands because they stretch the most.
We love the PVC dots for grip — the only problem is that they provide too much friction on rubber reins when you want to open your fingers and slip the reins over a drop or spread jump.
Care, of course, depends on materials. The easiest way to care for leather gloves is to keep them on your hands when you clean and condition your bridle. If you get leather gloves too wet, they take a long time to dry (outside of the sun, of course!) and need to be re-stretched over your hand.
If you do wash them in a machine, use cool water and use a leather-wash product. Most synthetic and fabric gloves can be machine washed with regular detergent and then left out to dry overnight.
We’ve done several product trials on gloves with a variety of testers over the past decade, and SSG has come out on top every time. The reasons remain the same: Excellent grip, excellent workmanship and durability, moderate price. Our testers have found that these gloves are more likely to get lost before they ever wear out.
The easiest way to care for leather
gloves is to keep them on your hands
when you clean and condition your
bridle. If you get leather gloves too
wet, they take a long time to dry
(outside of the sun, of course!) and
need to be re-stretched over your hand.
None of that changed with this trial of show gloves, despite impressive — and expensive — competition. The SSG synthetic Grand Prix and part-leather Close Contact Pro Show models in this trial, with their Aquasuede or Aquatack grips, fit well and keep our reins at exactly the length we want. We’ll give the nod to the Close Contact model, at $29.99.
Whatever gloves you pick, we think you should always keep a pair of Schneider’s Saddlery Magic Gloves stashed in your kit for really rainy days. At a cost of $2.50, they cost next to nothing — a dramatically clear Best Buy — and will look just fine showing in most disciplines when the rains come down.
PUT IT TO USE
• Watch for finger length and avoid nylon inserts in the
top of fingers if you have long fingernails.
• Pick fast-drying gloves when choosing gloves for
showing, especially white gloves.• Machine washing beats hand washing for convenience.• Nylon inserts aid fit but discolor and wear out more quickly.• PVC dots can have too much friction on rubber reins.