The Equestrian's Guide To Outerwear

Horse in a fall pasture

Let’s face it… riding in the colder months is not that enjoyable at times. Between the wet and the cold, and the snow, and the wind… need I go on? But after years of braving Midwest winters, I’ve found the secret to surviving these somewhat dreaded months! It all comes down to proper clothing.

I put together an equestrian’s guide to outerwear to pass as much knowledge as I could along to you!

The Three Layer Principle

The first step to any great fall riding outfit is to understand “The Layering Theory”. I have a lot of friends who are serious backpackers and they turned me onto this theory, and now I follow it full-heartedly. The Three Layer Principle consists of layering three garments with different purposes that you can add or remove depending on the weather and your needs.

Backpacking in the mountains

Layer 1: Base Layer

The first layer to concern yourself with is a good base layer! The premise behind them is to wick moisture away from the skin, which in turn enables your skin to stay dry and help retain warmth. Base layers come in a multitude of materials and styles to best suit your needs. The most common materials are either thermal polyester or merino wool- both have excellent wicking capabilities.

The style of the shirt is totally up to you. V-neck or crew neck t-shirts and ¼ zips tops are the most popular. The important aspect to consider is the proper fit. Base Layers should be fairly snug to wick the moisture away properly. I tend to gravitate towards ¼ zips because they help cut the chill on my neck… and gives it that extra “classy” element of still having a collar.

Some of our year in and year out favorite base layers tops include the Goode Rider Long Sleeve Show Shirt, Kerrits Foundation Base Layer and the Ariat Laguna Long Sleeve Top.

Ariat Laguna and Goode Rider Ideal Show Shirt

Winter breeches and tights are also considered base layers! These pants are a tad thicker than classic riding pants and are often fleece lined and sometimes offer wind protection. I find the wind resistance to be key! Not having the wind tear right through your lower half makes a big difference. Check out the Kerrits Thermo Tech Full Leg Tight!

Layer 2: Mid-layer (Vests, Fleeces, Sweaters)

The second layer is called the mid-layer and is designed to insulate, move moisture further from the body, and regulate temperature. This middle layer is where you’re going to get most of your “warmth” from. Mid-layers can range from fleeces and sweatshirts to softshell jackets… and my personal favorite, vests!

I’ll admit it. I may have a slight obsession with vests! But they are ideal for Western North Carolina Fall/Winters… the day can start cloudy and cold, and by midday, the sun has made an appearance and it almost feels like spring again! Vests are fantastic at keeping your midsection toasty while still allowing good airflow through the arms! I like the Goode Rider Power Luxe Vest because it has a down filling, so it is super warm, and for the adjustable hood in case it’s extra cold.


If vests aren’t your thing, then I recommend throwing a sweater or sweatshirt on as your next layer. This is where something fleece is an excellent choice; it’s fast-drying and great at retaining body heat. This year we love the Barbour Lavenham for its warm fleece lining and the stylish zipper!

For most fall climates, you can stop at this layer! But when you enter into the more wintery months, a third layer is normally needed.

Layer 3: Outer Layer (Jackets)

The final layer or “outer layer” adds a bit of extra warmth but is mainly designed to protect you from the elements… such as wind and water. This layer encompasses all jackets and their many purposes on its intended purpose. But the main principle behind them is to either block the wind or repel water, so your insulating layers stay dry. What jacket you choose depends on the weather!


If it’s not too cold but still wet, then you’re looking at a normal raincoat! Most traditional rain jackets are just a hard outer shell with no extra insulation. The sole purpose is to repel water! Make sure to pay attention to whether the coat is “waterproof” or “water-resistant”. Water-resistant refers to fabrics that repel a certain level of water but may absorb some of the moisture after a certain saturation. A water-resistant jacket should handle most light rainfalls, but not a heavy downpour. Waterproof, on the other hand, is the highest “water repellent” level and should withstand most major storms. Always a store favorite is the Ariat Packable H2O Jacket!

Light Jackets

A lighter weight jacket is great for those chillier days but it’s not so cold that you can’t feel your toes! Most of these jackets feature either a down or synthetic filling as well as being water-resistant in case of showers or snow. The Kerrits H2O Halt Waterproof Jacket is a top pick for the soft lining and water and wind-resistant outer shell. Plus, the “split tail” design to allow greater comfort in and out of the saddle.

Heavy Jackets / Parkas

When you grow up in the Midwest, a good barn parka is a must-have investment! While I may not need it too often now in North Carolina, I have not forgotten the -40° days where I was the spitting image of Randy in “A Christmas Story”. 




Parkas are all about heavy-duty insulation and protection from the elements. Commonly featuring hoods, longer lengths, warm linings, and tough outer shells. We are most excited this season for the Ariat Menlo Down Jacket. Perfect for keeping you extra toasty while still being extra cute!


Don’t forget the accessories! A good hat, scarf, and pair of gloves are MUST-HAVES to finish out any fall or winter riding outfit. I like a good fleece headband compared to an actual hat because it allows a little extra airflow, and my head doesn’t get too sweaty. A heavier pair of gloves is also important; keeping your hands warm does make a big difference… plus no one wants frostbite! And my absolute favorite final piece is a good cozy scarf! Not only do they keep you warm, but they can turn any barn outfit from “YIKES” to “Okay maybe we look slightly put together.”

Winter equestrian accessories

It may still be warm and sunny right now… but Fall is on its way! I, for one, absolutely LOVE Autumn, so am counting down the days to chilly mornings and crunchy leaves. Now that you know my secret on how to enjoy the colder months get ready to start looking forward to the leaves changing!

Horseback riding in fall and winter

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