On-Trail Test ~ Ear Warmers
Description: The HatCozy is the invention of an Oregon equestrian who wanted a simple, effective way to keep her ears warm while riding, without giving up her cowboy hat. The result is bit like a cross between a slim pair of earmuffs and a headband. The HatCozy is made from Polartec fleece with a windproof layer of faux-suede fabric. A thin, adjustable, Ultrasuede strap with a small plastic buckle goes across the top of your head to keep the HatCozy in place under nearly any type of hat. It's available in black or brown, in two sizes: small-medium (suitable for most women and children) and large (suitable for most men).
The tester: Equine journalist and year-round rider Sushil Dulai Wenholz.
Test results: While I typically ride in a helmet, not a cowboy hat, my problem is the same: How do I keep my ears warm without the fuss of a clumsy fleece helmet cover and without putting something on under my helmet that might affect the fit? I was curious to see if the HatCozy would be the answer.
As promised, adjusting the HatCozy for fit was a cinch. Just put it on with the curved portion facing downward on the back of your head (to accommodate a ponytail, if you wear one) and with the thin strap running from ear to ear across the top of your head. Pull the loose end of the strap to adjust the fit so your ears feel snugly covered. (You can find a video of fitting tips on the product website, but it really is as simple as it sounds.)
I tested out the HatCozy during a variety of activities (such as grooming, riding, barn chores, and hiking) and with different headwear (such as a Western hat, riding helmet, and ball cap).
My finding: The HatCozy lived up to the manufacturer?s promises. It's comfortable, it doesn't affect hat/helmet fit, and keeps one?s ears warm from biting cold.
While the product felt a little looser around my ears than a knit cap, traditional earmuffs, or a headband-style warmer, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it kept out the wind. And I loved that I could leave the HatCozy in place when I swapped my cap for my helmet and vice versa.
Cleanup was a snap, too. For the basics (horsehair, dust), I just brushed it off with my hand. It's also machine-washable.
Another handy feature: Since the HatCozy is small, lightweight, and foldable, you can store it in a coat pocket when you're not wearing it.
If there's a downside to the HatCozy, it's this: If you're riding with it on and you get too warm, you do have to remove your headwear to take it off. But that's a minor drawback, and I'll be keeping my HatCozy at the ready this winter. Cost: $29.95. Contact: Gambado Garment Co.;www.hatcozy.com.
Winter Riding Boots
Keep your feet?and legs?dry and warm even in soggy winter conditions: The Mountain Horse Rimrock High Rider Winter Boots feature a solid, waterproof foot with removable faux-fur insole and water-repellent leg shaft made of soft, flexible nylon and a warm, faux-fur lining. The adjustable hook-and-loop closure at the back of the leg shaft helps you customize your fit; reflective inserts on the back of the foot aid nighttime visibility. Dirt-repellent tread zones on the boots? soles help prevent slippage in the stirrup. Available in youth and ladies? sizes. Cost: $88.75 (youth); $99.95 (ladies). Contact: English Riding Supply; www.mountainhorseusa.com.
Fun Riding Socks
Combining fun and function, Over-the-Calf Peddies riding socks feature eye-catching colors and prints, along with a design intended to maximize comfort. Extra cushioning on the bottom of the foot and around the ankle provides comfort (and protection from typical boot pinch-points), while a lightweight panel on the top of the foot minimizes bulk and increases breathability. The stretchy, ultra-thin fabric over the calf allows for an easy fit under riding pants ? or over breeches, if you're so inclined. Available in women?s and girls? sizes. Cost: $14.99. Contact: Noble Equine; www.nobleequine.com.
Insulated Riding Gloves
Made from sheepskin leather and lined with stretch fleece, these Insulated Pro Grip gloves keep fingers toasty when the mercury drops. A water-resistant finish helps you stay protected in dry or damp conditions, while a ribbed cuff adds to comfort while retaining heat. Cost: From $44.95. Contact: Ariat International, Inc.; www.ariat.com.
Winter Helmet Liner
Keep your ears toasty on winter rides without sacrificing safety: Troxel?s Winter Helmet Liner fits inside your helmet to combine the functions of winter hat and riding helmet. Cozy fleece-and-Lycra flaps reach down far enough to cover your ears. The liner fits all Troxel helmets; simply switch out the regular liner. Cost: $20.95. Contact: Troxel, LLC; www.troxelhelmets.com.