There once was a time that riding astride was considered taboo for women. Proper ladies rode sidesaddle in flowing skirts to maintain expectations of modesty and fashion. Times have certainly changed! Modern horsewomen are less concerned with societal ideals than they are with finding comfortable and functional riding attire. The thought of riding in a skirt seems cumbersome, complicated and unnecessary these days. But, much like modern women, modern riding skirts have evolved as well.

One chilly day last winter, I observed a fellow boarder riding in the snow-laden fields around our farm. Brave, I thought, to be out there in the unrelenting wind. I was cold just watching her from the shelter of the barn door. As she approached, I noticed something a little different. She was wearing a skirt.

Women have been wearing riding skirts since the 17th century; now you can get your medieval damsel/vintage cowgirl/viking warrior on while you combat the Canadian winter.  Etsy image

When I asked her why, she explained “I got it for warmth. My horse’s heat gets trapped underneath it, keeping me very cozy!” Sherry, an endurance rider, spends a lot of time in the saddle, keeping up her gelding Sonny’s fitness year round. She knows a thing or two about achieving comfort for herself and her partner. She continued “I really love that it keeps me warm and dry, but it also keeps Sonny’s hindquarters warm, similar to a rump rug or quarter sheet. And it keeps the saddle dry, too, if it’s raining or snowing.”

I started to look more closely at the garment then. I had to admit, Sherry looked pretty good up there in her skirt, and she’d managed to ride out while I stayed in the arena. But doesn’t it get in the way?

Depending on the design, there are leg straps to keep the skirt in place while riding and snaps to hold it up out of the way while getting on and off. Some have zippers that can be undone once you’re mounted, which allow the panels of the skirt to lay comfortably, and others have fuller skirts that drape over your horse’s back without constricting your movement or theirs.

Sherry also pointed out that due to the protection afforded by the skirt, she is able to wear regular winter riding breeches, allowing her to maintain close contact with her horse versus riding in bulky snow pants, which is especially nice for more precise arena work.

So at this point I’m thinking, where do I get one? There are a handful of companies making riding skirts, which can be purchased online, including on Amazon and Etsy. (If you are a talented seamstress, or happen to know one, you can also find sewing patterns online to make your own riding skirt.) You can ask about them at your favourite tack store as well.

There are winter riding skirts and lighter skirts for the rain. Each manufacturer will have its own sizing guides, but generally speaking, you should take the waist/hip measurement while wearing whatever pants you would normally ride in, at the location you would like the skirt to sit. Some people prefer it to sit at their natural waist, others further down on the hips. As for length, you don’t want it to fall any lower than the top of your ankle bone when standing.

As for getting your horse used to having the fabric draped over him or her, it is a good idea to introduce them to it unmounted, then the first couple of rides should be in an enclosed area or indoor arena with an assistant nearby for the initial mounting/dismounting.

So, what do you think? Will you become a trendsetter at your barn this winter, enjoying the cozy benefits of a riding skirt? We know you want one!


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