We ride in the rain because we have to, not because we want to. If we don’t have an indoor arena, or if we’ve paid entry fees six weeks in advance and don’t want to cancel, then we’re going to get wet when it rains. The training and work don’t stop just because rain clouds roll in.
We compared two-piece sets — Kerrits’ Windproof Jacket/Pant and Mountain Horse’s Rain Rider — to the traditional choices of PVC/cowboy slickers and waxed oilskin coats.
Slickers and oilskin coats tend to billow in windy weather and necessitate dedicating a little time to introducing the horse to the apparel. We’ve seen horses run away from a full-length coat, or, agitated by it tickling their loins, do some rodeo-quality bucking.
However, slickers and oilskin coats are generally large enough to also protect the saddle from the elements, as they drape over our legs — an advantage we appreciate. Caught in a sudden hailstorm during our testing, we were able to use our cowboy slicker to protect the horse’s rump as he put his tail into the wind.
Oilskin coats are traditional, beautiful and durable. They are also pricey, starting around $150, and tend to get heavier in rain. While not totally waterproof, they are incredibly water-resistant.
PVC slickers are generally inexpensive, starting around $25, and lightweight. They are waterproof, absorbing no rain. They are “noisier” than oilskin coats and will tear more easily. However, the price difference makes this shortened lifespan less of a concern.
In rain suits, the Mountain Horse jacket is waterproof. It has a long, full cut, reaching mid thigh. It has a front zipper, with a snap front over the zipper to prevent rain penetration at the zipper. It has a hood, zippered pockets, and the sleeves have hook-and-loop closures at the wrists.
We found the leggings a challenge to figure out the first time. The outside side seams have hook-and-loop closures, while the waistband snaps together at both sides. The crotch is the only solid connection. An elastic instep holds the pants down.
Dressing is a time-consuming process that cannot be done while mounted. The manufacturer says it can be removed on horseback, but riders who have horses not accustomed to the rip of hook-and-loop fasteners should use caution. The suit only comes in dark green and sells for $85.
The Kerrits suit, billed as water-resistant and windproof, has a fitted, bomber-style jacket, with a front zipper, no hood, zippered pockets, and elastic sleeve cuffs. The pants are styled on gym pants, with an elastic drawstring waistband and elastic at the cuffs, as well as an 11-inch zipper from cuff to mid-calf. It has Clarino patches at the calf, which help grip the saddle. The suit is available in tan houndstooth or leaf houndstooth. The jacket sells for $69.95. The pants are $59.95.
Testing Rain Suits
Our first test involved an eventing clinic on a rainy weekend. Since the Mountain Horse suit is a heavier weight than the Kerrits, we dressed lightly, expecting the material to trap body heat rather than breath. An insert of netting under a cape-style torso does indeed let it breathe, enough that we needed several layers to be warm enough in the raw windy conditions.
Later in the day, we donned the Kerrits, a lighter-weight, seemingly porous material, but the rain pressed the material down against our clothing and water got through. Actually, we got quite damp (in fairness, Kerrits does say their suit is only water-resistant).
We also tried both products to bring in horses from the field in rainy weather, using the jackets without the pants. The Mountain Horse comes mid-thigh and drained water onto our thighs as we walked. The wrist closures didn’t stay closed as we haltered and lead horses.
The Kerrits, with less bulky clothing under it, was nicely water repellent, except that the front zipper allowed some water to pass through. The elastic wrist cuffs on the jacket were nicely effective.
Although we had mixed results staying dry in the Kerrits suit, we liked many of the styling features, especially its ease of application. It was faster and easier to get into than the Mountain Horse as the zippers allow you to step into the pants with riding boots on.
Mountain Horse, depending on one’s own dedication to exactly aligning and closing the closures, could keep riders drier, but it would be awkward to get into quickly in a sudden squall. Neither rain suit can be put on from on top of a horse.
Cowboy slickers and oilskin coats can be put on without dismounting. Waxies absorb some water and get even heavier in a rain, while the slickers are light and shed water. We found they both protect you well when leading horses in from the pasture in the rain. The actual weight of the apparel might be your only personal decision.
If we could only choose one item for our riding rainwear, we’ll take a cowboy slicker.
Slickers are economical, offer great protection for rider and tack without getting heavier as they get wet and are easy to tie behind your saddle for emergencies.
However, since they’re usually bright yellow, they have not gained acceptance in many hunts, where the waxies are considered de rigueur.
Of the two suits, we give the nod to Mountain Horse over the Kerrits because it is more reliably waterproof and is cut larger to accommodate additional warm clothing.
That said, we were also impressed with the Kerrits, which stated up front it was only water-resistant. It is decidedly windproof, so if you’re only looking for something to help keep you drier in windy snow or occasional sprinkles, you may decide it offers what you need.
Contact Your Local Tack Store Or: Mountain Horse and Kerrits, Eisers/EPC 800/526-6987.