Essential winter riding gear for your lower body: skirts +moosehide boots+ and the best bareback pad, ever.


I bet you never thought you'd read moose-hide boots and riding skirts are essential winter riding gear, but, ladies, you are about to be converted. 

Ever notice how winter riding clothing guides tend to focus on outfitting the top half of your body? Tons of jacket options, gloves, helmet covers, and neck covers. Yes, we do need to keep our core warm, but, our legs, toes, and behinds seem to, well, get left out in the cold. 

We've all struggled to find cold-weather riding options to keep our lower halves warm. Although there are some good winter riding breeches and insulated riding pants out there, they never gave me the protection I needed from these Alaskan winters. 

In this winter riding guide, I've outlined what keeps me warm, working and riding my horses year-round in Alaska. See this picture below? Those are my real backyard riding trails. And, that, is a glacier in the distance. A GLACIER. You can see why we take good winter riding clothes so seriously up here. 

For foot, behind, and leg warmth in winter riding, the trifecta that works best for me are Steger Mukluk moose-hide boots, Little Joe Bareback pads, and our Arctic Insulated Riding Skirts. Just so you know, I'm not affiliated with Steger Boots or Little Joe pads in any way, I just LOVE their products!

Read on for details on how these work, and some pretty cool pictures. I even threw a sea otter in there. You'll see.

All product photos are Gutierrez Photography. 

Arctic Insulated Riding Skirts

Ladies, I am not a skirt girl, never have been. You read that right, the lady that founded the Arctic Horse riding skirt company isn't into skirts. I only ever used to wear skirts if I had to go to a wedding, or.... yup, pretty much just weddings. I always thought skirts were pretty, but I have these disproportionately muscular calves all of us horse girls get, and thought I looked weird in them. No, I'm not a linebacker, ma'am, I just ride horses... a lot. You know what I'm talking about! They just- weren't for me.

So, yeah, I know, I founded a riding skirt company, but it wasn't because I loved skirts. I created Arctic Horse All Weather Riding Skirts because I loved being with my horses, and being wet and cold were some of the few reasons that kept me away from them. These riding skirts kept me dryer and warmer than any other winter riding gear I'd tried, which let me spend more time with my horses. That's the kind of math I'm good at. 

So, how do the Arctic Insulated Riding Skirts work to keep you warm? Well, we'll have to talk about sea otters to get that answer. What do sea otters have to do with riding skirts, you ask? Well, sea otters stay warm in the extremely cold sea environment by super dense hair that creates lots of air pockets that trap their body heat. Riding Skirts work the same way a sea otter's fur works- they use air pockets to trap escaping heat. Bet you didn't think you'd be getting to look at cute sea otters in a winter riding gear guide :) Hey, I'm a marine biologist, I like to tie in marine mammals whenever I can!

Your body is constantly letting off heat, the air pockets that make up the insulation in the riding skirts trap your body heat creating a cocoon of warmth all around you. Add in your horses body heat and you've got yourself a little oven. Might as well capture some of that body heat coming off of your horse, that hay was expensive ;) 

Have you ever noticed how mittens are warmer than gloves? In mittens, you've got all of your fingers together throwing off collectively more heat than one finger by itself, AND, a mitten is essentially a big pocket that's filled with air, trapping all of that heat.

I know what you're thinking, "what about insulated pants and winter riding breeches, don't they trap heat?" Remember those analogy questions on the SAT tests? Skirts are to mittens, what pants are to gloves. Insulated pants are great, but you've got your two little heaters (your legs), isolated into two small air pockets (your pant legs), AND, you aren't catching much of your horse's heat at all. They do work, and they are a good layering option to have in your wardrobe, but a riding skirt is going to keep you warmer (and you could layer both to boost the warmth of each). 

With riding skirts, you have all of that heat coming off your lower half, and your horse's body heat, trapped under one big air pocket by the skirt. Now if all this "trapping heat" talk has you worried about creating a wet swamp under your skirt, let me assure you that the riding skirt's shell has a breathable membrane. Swamp avoided. Below is a picture of the Full Arctic Insulated riding skirt, see what I mean about being able to trap all of that heat?

Arctic Horse Full Insulated Riding Skirt

The Full Arctic Insulated Riding Skirt is our warmest winter skirt. It's waterproof, breathable, has 6 ounces of super light-weight synthetic fill (also used by the US Military), and is machine washable. Wear them over your riding breeches (I like Irideon Wind Pros) or jeans, and they act as a quarter-sheet on your horse's back. Think a sleeping bag you can ride in (and still look good walking around in)! Ta-daaaaaaaaaa!

We also have a Narrow Arctic Insulated Riding Skirt. Our Narrow skirts have a zipper up the back, these skirts are narrower in profile than the Full Arctic and only cover the rider (they don't act as a quarter sheet). The Narrow Arctic has the same specifications as the Full Arctic (waterproof, breathable, 6 ounces of fill etc), but it won't be as warm as the Full Arctic when you're riding, because you have to unzip the rear of the skirt to ride in and you don't have as much of an air pocket without the quarter-sheet aspect. Off of the horse with the rear zipped, I find the Narrow comparable in warmth to the Full Arctic. 

Arctic Horse Narrow Insulated Riding Skirt

Below you can see the difference between the Full and Narrow Arctic skirts- Narrow on the left, Full on the right. 

Arctic Horse riding skirt

To read more on Arctic Horse All Weather Skirts, this Guide to Choosing You Riding Skirt covers the different options we offer. 

Steger Mukluk Moosehide Boots

Steger Mukluks are hands-down the warmest (and lightest!) winter boots I have EVER worn; many of the riders in the Arctic Horse photos are wearing them. Of course, they're pretty cool looking, too, but ladies, this is Alaska, where the cold rubber meets the cold road so to speak, and gear that is just pretty isn't going to cut it. These boots are the real deal and keep you SO warm.

I've worn them in -60 in northern Alaska and stayed toasty. They have a moose-hide outer and felted wool liner (the ones shown have a canvas top and moose-hide lower). They have a soft sole (like a moccasin, but super durable), which allows your foot to flex naturally the way it would if you were walking barefoot.

This natural flexion keeps the blood flowing in your feet, not to mention, you're actually walking the way you were designed to walk. Most winter boots have those heavy, stiff, soles, that keep your feet rigid. Once you experience the difference, you'll know what I'm talking about.

You're supposed to order them about 1-1.5 sizes bigger than your normal foot size. That extra air in the boot traps the heat from your feet  (remember our cute sea otter friend?).

There are some considerations to take into account if you're using them for riding. They don't have a heel, and they are very wide.

  • You can do what I do and not ride in stirrups (but I'm almost always riding in a bareback pad, more on that below). 
  • You can get wide stirrups and some sort of a tapadero on the front to make sure your foot won't go all the way through.

Also, they aren't made for super wet, rainy, conditions. You can add water-proofing spray (and I'd recommend it), but they're just not a rain boot- they're made for snow. Once that mucky wet spring weather hits, I switch to my insulated Bog Rain Boots. My Alaska friends are going to call treason that I didn't list Xtratuffs as my rain boot of choice, but since they started being manufactured overseas, the quality went WAY down. Holes in less than 2 years of use :(

Below is Max in her Steger Mukluks (and she's in our fawn Outlander Wool skirt).

steger mukluks Arctic Horse

Photo credit: Kitson Jazynka

The Little Joe Bareback Pad

Is there anything more cozy than riding bareback in the winter? Riding bareback lets you use your horse like a heater (hey, that heat was going to escape anyway, you're just..borrowing it).

If you want some stability, and for your horse to have padding, my absolute favorite bareback pad is the Little Joe Bareback pad. I LOOOOOOVVVVVEEEEE this pad. Seriously, it's about the only thing I ride in year-round. The pad won't keep you as warm as riding straight bareback, but the soft stuffed pad lets heat flow through, and is tons warmer than a hard saddle.

Below is a picture of my Appaloosa, Faly, carrying my Little Joe pad. I use a sheepskin hide as a saddle pad, it's incredibly comfortable and that natural fiber breathes well. Here I have my Tongass Rain Riding Skirt strapped to the front, as we weren't sure what those clouds were going to do that day!

Little Joe bareback pads are handmade, and built to address many of the issues you see with bareback pads. They have double billets which keeps the saddle really stable. We own four of them, and have had no issues with slipping. None.

It's really well padded. I've ridden straight bareback plenty, and have tried some of the thinner, leather bareback pads, but ladies, after a few miles, I've got to admit, it's not that comfortable. And, I don't think my horse is comfortable with my seat bones digging into his back. The Little Joe is a perfect compromise, you feel super close to the horse, but you both have padding for comfort. 

The split calf-skin seat will keep your behind glued down. Other leather pads I've tried were like trying to stay on a slip and slide. I mean, come on, you've got enough going on with riding (and bareback, to boot), you don't need the saddle itself working to throw you off. 

Our horses move really well in them which I take as testament that they like them. We trail ride constantly, almost all of my personal riding pictures are in these bareback pads. For ultimate decadence, I put a sheepskin hide underneath as a my saddle blanket, and a sheepskin seat cover on top; ladies, welcome to heaven, you'll be riding on a fluffy cloud. Forget hard, cold, saddles.

Now, onto what they're not good for. I don't ride in them over very long distances, and I don't strap tons of weight to my pad. I keep my rides to about 10-12 miles. Over longer distances or carrying lots of weight, I feel my horses need the support and weight distribution that saddles provide.

I also don't ride in stirrups in them. You can, they have a D ring you can attach stirrup leathers too, but I always worried about 1) getting hung up with the stirrups and 2) not having a more solid support for the stirrup leathers to pull against. I didn't want to put pressure points over such a small spot on my horses.

Everything is so relative to what you're used to. I have a friend who grew up poor in Maine, and her family would eat lobster every night, because her dad was a fishermen. Well, now she doesn't like lobster and thinks it's sort of low-brow.  

Similarly, I introduced my husband and step-children to horses, and so, they've pretty much only ridden in these bareback pads. My husband wants to feel even closer to his horse, so he rides straight bareback all the time, and huffs if I tell him he should use the pad if we're going to be out for awhile, or if his mare is acting silly. And, forget saddles, I never hear the end of it if he has to ride in a "real" saddle :)

Below is my step-daughter, Max, with her Little Joe bareback pad (they come in lots of colors!), Outlander wool skirt, and Steger mukluks (this is our typical fall riding outfit).

Little Joe bareback pad, steger mukluks Arctic Horse Outlander Skirt

Photo credit: Kitson Jazynka

Hope this guide helps you ride more! Thanks for reading and happy (WARM) riding! 


7 comments


  • Gail

    I have worn Steiger mukluks for over 25 years now, and they ARE the warmest boots I have ever owned. They are beautifully crafted of the highest quality materials and they are wonderful in the snow and the cold. I have used them for snowshoeing, collecting maple sap, and for when I go to places where I have to stand around outside. I have had horses for 50 years and have tried everything to keep my feet warm in the winter, but have not ridden in my Mukluk’s. And I caution anyone who does. 4 years ago, my daughter and her horse went down together, and when he got up, her foot remained stuck in the stirrups. She broke every bone in all of her toes, and all of the bones across the top of her foot. It is called a Leisse Franc fracture, and is serious enough that we were told that she might have had to have her foot amputated. Fortunately, the surgeons managed to pin everything back together. She couldn’t ride for about a year, and her foot is deformed, but she is able to use it fairly normally now. The Steiger mukluk has a gummy, rubber sole that would definitely stick to the stirrup if the rider were to fall, or if both horse and rider were to fall. Again, they are a fabulous product, but they are NOT made for stirrups. Please be safe. Get one of those bareback pads and leave the stirrups at home. (PS…HotPockets work very well in my winter riding boots.)


  • Sourdough

    Rode many a mile in that country back in the ‘80s, and found Steger Mukluks later but they were always my favorite winter riding gear. They don’t make the original ladies tall in black anymore – and I would never be able to keep white ones clean. So if anyone else wants the black ones with moosehide laces again, please write them! I keep trying but even though they make them for men, won’t put the pieces on women’s size soles… presumably due to lack of demand. Can we try to change that?


  • Theresa

    Thanks for the great info, question where do you get your Sheep skin Pad And seat cover? Love my shirt can’t wait to see the new one. Thanks again for a great product.


  • Megan Henry

    Thanks for the info for the mukluks! I was curious about those boots, I love them!


  • Audrey

    I love this post! So much warmth in this post has me excited for the coming months when the snow starts flying. I am definetly looking into the bareback pads as I typically ride bareback in the winter months anyways :) It looks like you all have such a blast cruising around your big back yard!!


Leave a comment


Please note, comments must be approved before they are published