A cheap plastic poncho stashed in a pocket can be better than nothing when you’re caught riding in the rain, but it provides limited protection and is next to useless in the wind. You need something more substantial and a lot more comfortable.
We looked at — and rode in — different types of rainwear made specifically for equestrians. Besides expecting to be kept dry, we wanted to be cool and comfortable. We also want convenient, secure pockets for stashing money, truck keys, cell phones, etc. And, because we’re so picky, we want the garment to look good.
Jackets. Shoulder room in a jacket is important. If the jacket wasn’t designed so you could move your arms forward freely to give the horse some rein, the jacket didn’t cut it. Some jackets were so soft we wondered how they could keep rain out, but they did. Two of the softest were the Newbourne jacket from Barbour and the Arena jacket by Mountain Horse.
A Longer Tale. It’s hard to imagine riding in a full-length coat. But we tried two that were serious storm coats and comfortable to boot.
The Coach’s Coat from Kerrits was a good-looking, well-tailored coat. It had a straight silhouette but could be unsnapped down the back and split to cover each leg when astride. Hook-and-loop straps inside the hem kept the panels in place. A neat little flap swung out from the under the waist area to snap across the pommel of the saddle. A hood popped out of the collar when needed. It’s also classy enough to wear into town.
The sweeping raincoat from Muddy Creek kept rider, saddle, saddle pad and even half of the horse dry. This Australian-style coat was cool-looking and cool to wear. It had the look of a traditional oiled Outback coat, but it was lightweight and breathable. It’s perfect for trails or at shows, protecting your attire and tack while you wait at ringside.
Closures. Most of these garments had zippers, but zippers aren’t generally waterproof, so we wanted to see how the rain was kept out. Both coats and most of the jackets had a flap that closed over the zipper. The Mountain Horse Arena Jacket had a sleek self-sealing zipper that kept out rain but was harder to work when mounted.
We found we preferred the flaps used without zippers, especially when the flap was secured with patches of hook-and-loop-fastener, like Velcro. While riding, it was easy to just pat the top panel over the other side to close it and likewise to ”rip” the jacket open if the rain stopped and it got warm. Several items — the Dover Sport Riding jacket, Equine Couture Amazon Rain Shell, the TuffRider jacket, and the Muddy Creek Long Raincoat — had that set-up. Snaps allowed us to do the same thing, but not quite as easily. Note: We feel it’s important that a zipper can be operated from both the top down and the bottom up. We’ve seen the hem of a zipped jacket get caught while the rider was dismounting. Being able to free yourself by opening the zipper from the bottom might prevent a wreck.
Cuffs. Whether testers preferred elastic cuffs or adjustable closings, everyone agreed they need to close tightly and keep the rain out when our arms are forward. Elastic cuffs are low maintenance, but those that adjust with snaps or hook-and-loop fasteners tended to be more comfortable, as you could peel them open to let air in if the sun came out.
Pockets. Our testers agreed they needed secure pockets to carry keys, phones and the like.
We like having slash pockets on the outside of a coat or jacket so you can stick your cold hands in for a quick warm-up. The Kerrits Coach’s Coat and the Mountain Horse jacket both had flannel-type lining in the pockets, which was extra nice.
A special pocket for a cell phone is good so you can find your phone quickly. While there are cell phone cases that attach to your saddle, you want your cell phone to stay with you, and not with your horse, if you part company. The TuffRider Ladies Stowaway Rain Jacket had a cell phone pocket on the outside of the left sleeve. The Kerrits Coach’s Coat had small, secure cell-phone-size pockets both inside and outside the breast of the coat.
In addition to a cell-phone pocket on the sleeve, the Mountain Horse jacket had a pocket for an iPod inside with a watertight slot in the collar to thread the earbud wires through (great for riding to music).
Drawstrings. Many of the rainwear gear had drawstrings, but where they were located and how they worked was important. Loose, dangling strings can get caught on things when mounting or dismounting. Most cuffs were elastic, though, so this wasn’t a big concern. The Mountain Horse Arena jacket’s drawstring tabs were in the pockets, which was convenient.
Hoods. Most of our test products had hoods concealed in the collar. Some of our testers liked having a hood, others didn’t, as they felt a hood over top of their helmet further compromised their peripheral vision. For those who don’t ride in helmets, some hoods tended to be a nuisance unless they had drawstrings that allowed them to be pulled snugly around the face.
Pants And Chaps. While we all think jacket for rain gear, sometimes it’ll be wet enough that you’ll want to keep your legs dry, too.
The Ariat Apex Pants kept us dry in a lot of rain. Paired with the matching jacket, they make a good-looking rain suit. The pants unzipped completely so you can put them on while in the saddle. We found that to be, umm, a little challenging. The pants were a bit baggy, but the detachable stirrup straps and good-size knee patches kept them in place.
The long chaps from Muddy Creek were also waterproof, but easier to put on while mounted, as the legs were separate pieces. Tabs went over your belt kept them in place. We wore both of these pants for hours without getting too warm in them.
The Cover-All pants from Kerrits were thin enough and soft enough to roll up and stuff in a pocket until you needed them, which is a great idea. Although they weren’t as waterproof as the other two, they were lightweight, cool and comfortable, which might make it a fair tradeoff for some riders. They were especially useful at keeping breeches clean between classes.
The Muddy Creek waterproof half-chaps are a great idea. They kept our leather boots dry in the rain and were easy to put on and take off while mounted and small enough to pack along on a ride.
Bottom Line. For full comfortable coverage from rain on trail rides, go with the long coat from Muddy Creek. It’s awesome. The Kerrits coat is best if you need one that will go from barn to town.
In rain suits, the Ariat Apex jacket and pants make up a rainsuit that is tough-skinned and tough to beat . . . waterproof and yet comfortably breathable and easy to use.
The Best Buy decision was a tough choice, but the nod goes to the Equine Couture Amazon Rain Shell.
It would be difficult to imagine anyone not liking the elegant Barbour jacket, but it’s expensive. For a nicely priced all-around rain jacket for riding, we like the Arena Jacket from Mountain Horse best. Its innovative features and the so-soft comfort make it our No. 1 choice.
Article by Contributing Editor Nancy Butler.