Can't Live Without My Mountain Horse Polar Riding Breeches!!!

For those of you who live in New England you will understand how AWFUL this winter has been! I feel like I live in the North Pole, right now the temperature outside is ZERO degrees but the 20 mph winds make it feel like -15! I have had to de-ice my horse's water buckets three-four times a day and on top of that the water faucet froze and I am carrying water further than my arms want to carry! Anyway.....enough complaining! While I am in the winter spirit I just thought I would share a product that I have used for many years to survive the harsh Maine winters. May I present..ta-da!... the:

Mountain Horse Polar Riding Breeches

I probably wear these pants at least 3 times a day, every time I head over to the barn and also when I go cross-country skiing, sliding, or head out on my snowshoes.

Pros:

  • Super warm!!!
  • Easy to ride in with a grippy seat.
  • Fairly easy to get your boots on with a button & zipper that starts at the bottom of the pants.
  • They look better than regular snowpants!
  • Easy to clean, just throw them in the washing machine.

Cons:

  • The seat seam is very fragile, I have re-sewn mine REPEATEDLY because they are not reinforced enough to withstand a lot of riding. I really wish Mountain Horse would address this.
  • To compensate for the weak seam in the seat I buy my pants one size larger than I think I will need. The extra room puts less pressure on the seam, is easier to put over breeches & boots, and there is no restriction while riding. The first year I bought these pants I picked the size that looked the best, was fairly fitted and would have been perfect for regular wear. But the second I got on my horse I knew they were too small because I could feel the restriction and then the seam kept coming apart. So I recommend trying a larger size and that should help them last a LOT longer.
  • Because I buy them a little large I have to wear a belt, a pain but it works.
  • I cut off the fabric & elastic that goes around your ankles, underneath the outer layer. I found it very irritating to keep adjusting and pulling it over my boots. But once I cut it off everything works great!

You can buy these snowpants anywhere that carries Mountain Horse products. They are online at Dover Saddlery, Smartpak, pretty much everywhere! If you want to take a look at the entire Mountain Horse collection you can visit their website: http://mountainhorseusa.com/

Wearing my Mountain Horse Polar Riding Breeches while teaching a clinic in Connecticut. Rider Melanie Stone on her sweet gelding Chester. Photo taken by Karen Lendvay.

Wearing my Mountain Horse Polar Riding Breeches while teaching a clinic in Connecticut. Rider Melanie Stone on her sweet gelding Chester. Photo taken by Karen Lendvay.

Bareback Dressage, Safety Tips To Get Started and My Top Bareback Pad Choices

I have many people ask me how they can start to incorporate bareback riding into their dressage work. I wanted to share some of my advice for getting started, including safety tips and also bareback pads to try.

Before You Begin:

How Is Your Balance?
Before you try riding bareback you should be able to comfortably, and confidently, ride in a saddle without reins or stirrups at the walk, trot and canter! Do you have independent balance from the reins? [To learn more, CLICK HERE]. If you ever catch your balance with the reins, it is not a good idea to try riding bareback. [To learn how to improve your riding position, CLICK HERE].

Does your horse have a good "WHOA"?
If you have a horse that is hard to stop, rushes, or is resistant or disobedient, I do not recommend riding bareback. Make sure to refresh your horse's response to your "whoa", on the lunge line or on the ground, before you ride bareback.

Has your horse been ridden bareback before?
Some horses have sensitive backs and may react the first time they are ridden bareback. Do not assume that your horse will behave the same as he does with a saddle. Have an experienced rider test out your horse if this is your first time. You may also want a person on the ground to hold your horse when you mount and to lead him.

Things You Might Need:

  • Full Seat Breeches: I recommend wearing full seat breeches to help you "stick". Horsehair can be slippery so you may feel more secure wearing full seat breeches. I love wearing deerskin breeches because the material breathes with the horse and provides stick without being too tacky. Check out Aanstadt-Das Breeches for an awesome selection of full seat deerskin breeches.
  • Mounting block: Unless you are super flexible and have the ability to leap onto the horse from the ground, then you will need a mounting block. Try a three-step for extra height. You need to have good balance and confidence to mount a horse bareback.
  • A helper. Make sure you have someone with you to hold the horse when you first get on. They could even lead you around at the walk to see how it feels and to help keep the horse relaxed and slow.
  • Enclosed riding area. PLEASE do not attempt riding bareback for the first time in an open field or arena with no walls. The best place to start is in a small indoor arena or a round pen, with all the gates closed.
  • A bareback pad. A good bareback pad helps with padding and "stick". The horse's withers can be uncomfortable unless the horse has a very round barrel. Having a bareback pad can help with horses that have pronounced withers. Usually the material on the underside has some stick to it, like a synthetic rubber. Be careful with the all fleece pads because they may slide around on a well-groomed horse. Do not use a bareback pad that has stirrups! The tree of a saddle distributes the stirrup pressure and without it you will be placing all of your weight into one spot on the horse's back.

Here are some great bareback pads:

ThinLine Bareback Pad:

I currently use the ThinLine bareback pad. It offers padding and has a rubbery material on the underside of the pad and the girth to keep it from sliding. It is simple and elegant. I have been using this pad for my Art on Horseback with Rovandio and in recent performances. There are a few places online that you can purchase this bareback pad. In my opinion, it is a great pad for people to get started with at a decent price. 

 

 

Sheepskin Bareback Pads:
You will find top-of-the-line sheepskin bareback pads online at HorseDream.co.uk. They have a variety of colors and sizes, including this beautiful Iberian style pad. They are in a much higher price range and I have not ridden in one yet but I would love to try one in the future. If anyone else tries them I would love to get your feedback. Just leave a comment below or send me an email at beginthedance@gmail.com.
 

Now What?

Now, get out there and ride! Once you have a good bareback pad and all the other suggested items, it's time to give it a try! Riding bareback will help improve your balance and reveal weaknesses in your riding that can be hidden by the saddle. I love to feel the horse's back muscles and check that I am sitting evenly on my seat bones. The horse's spine will help you feel whether you sit centered or not. Be sure to stay aware of whether your horse is enjoying the bareback experience, or not. You will feel the incredible sensitivity of the horse and the amazing connection you can have without the saddle. Even if you just practice at the walk, try lateral work and transitions. Feel how you can transition your horse from your seat and have the horse follow your weight in turns and circles. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or email me at beginthedance@gmail.com. Be safe and have fun!

Hide your helmet hair, protect yourself from the sun, AND make a statement all at the same time! Let everyone know that you love horses and believe that riding is a dance.