Our ideal winter glove is comfortable in a range of winter temperatures without being excessively bulky. It’s sturdy enough to hold up to chores but flexible and sensitive enough for riding and putting on tack. It’s a true all-around winter glove.
A good fit is critical to getting a good barn glove. You may get away with the adequate fit generally found in a one-size-fits-all glove for chores like stalls and moving bales, but you’ll notice the difference when you open latches, undo snaps, tack up, and even try to use a hoof pick.
A close-form fit becomes even more essential when it comes to a good feel when riding or driving. You want to be able to feel the movement of the horse as easily in your winter riding glove as you do in your summer gloves. In addition, if you don’t have the luxury of an indoor arena and are sometimes forced to ride in the rain or snow, you want to ensure a good grip on the reins, so they don’t slip.
Security is a safety factor that plays into fit, too. Loose gloves can come off or slip if a horse shies or rears when you’re leading him. You don’t want to have a glove slip when you’re lifting a bale of hay or tossing straw. In addition to a snug fit through the palm and fingers, look for a snug wrist that gives you more security against losing it. Elasticized wrists and those that are adjustable through the use of a hook-and-loop or snap closure help your glove stay in place.
The easiest way to find a glove that fits is to try it on. However, if you need to know your actual size to catalog-order a pair, measure the circumference around your hand at the base of your fingers with your fingers spread. This is the widest part of your hand. The measurement in inches equals your glove size.
Finger length is also important, as it can make an otherwise good fit too big or too small and take away comfort and dexterity. Measure the length of your middle finger from the web between the fingers to the tip of your finger or nail, if you keep your nails long. Ask the retailer about that measurement when you place an order, remembering that thin, unlined gloves should come closer to that actual measurement than winter gloves.
With lined gloves, add about an extra ?? inch to the outside finger measurement of the glove and more if it’s really bulky. It’s better to go slightly shorter with measurement rather than longer, because most gloves have at least some stretch, and if you get the fingers too long you’ll lose a lot of flexibility for picking up small items or adjusting tack.
Material is big. It’s got to be warm (obviously), but we also insist on durability. It needs to resist moisture, so your skin stays dry and warm. In some circumstances, a wet glove could freeze onto a cold metal surface.
Wool/knit gloves will keep you warm if you aren’t going to get your hands wet, but that’s hard to do. Synthetics, like nylon or neoprene, provide excellent moisture resistance, but many of them have poor flexibility and lack feel.
We’re partial to leather. Unless you have to submerge your hands in water for long periods — in which case we’d suggest neoprene — leather will repel water fairly well, offers good feel and flexibility and, with the right lining, will keep you warm. When buying leather, especially deerskin, start with a snug fit. It stretches with use.
Deerskin is soft, supple, high in natural oils and breathable. It won’t stiffen after getting wet. In fact, deerskin is washable with gentle soaps but take care to keep it away from heat while drying.
Deerskin has more natural stretch than cowhide and will conform extremely well. Because of its resiliency, deerskin items will last longer than cow leather with much less care.
While breathability is a big issue with a summer glove, winter calls for a lining designed to insulate against cold while not causing you to sweat. Polar fleece, Thinsulate and regular fleece all do good jobs insulating. We found no strong differences among these materials when it came to protection from the cold.
We used the gloves in our accompanying chart (see sidebar) while riding and doing a variety of chores, from grooming, tacking and cleaning stalls, to shoveling and clearing ice from water buckets. There’s simply no way that any glove can perform equally well for everything from adjusting small buckles and riding to protecting your hands during heavy chores and being waterproof.
We found two standouts as all-purpose gloves, those with enough sensitivity and close fit for riding but tough enough for chores. Only a few dollars difference between the SSG Winter Trainer and Watson Gloves’ Stagline makes it a tough choice.
However, the deerskin in the Stagline offered us more with its supple, soft feel and easy care, and we liked that it dried to a soft finish. For those who prefer fine-grained leather, you’re still going to be pleased with the SSG Winter Training Glove.
If sensitivity for riding and driving is your main concern, the hands-down pick is the SSG Pro Show Winter glove, which is also remarkably warm for a relatively lightweight glove. This is one glove you don’t want to get wet, though, as its Spandex inserts will soak through.
For chores, we don’t think you can beat the Ovation Ladies Winter Sport Pigskin. While it doesn’t have quite the same sensitivity of feel, it’s durable and flexible enough that you won’t feel like you’re fumbling along, and the pigskin will not stiffen if it gets wet.
If you want washable gloves, which many of us prefer, you’ll find it tough to beat the $9.95 Ovation Micro-Fibre glove and the $12.95 Ovation Extremer from English Riding Supply. We were so impressed with the warmth and design of the Ovation Extremer — we love the fit at the wrist — that it was an easy Best Buy.