The Tongass Riding Skirt: A Unique and Useful Gift for Winter Riding
By Theresa Rice
Do you enjoy giving unique gifts? Do you like to surprise your people with gifts they don’t know they want? I love finding truly special gifts and I think I’ve found something for you this holiday season. I recently discovered Arctic Horse, a small company based out of Alaska, and was intrigued by their riding skirts. The skirts are made to be worn over your jeans or breeches and help protect against the elements. I jumped at the chance to try out the Tongass rain skirt for myself.
Before I received the skirt I was skeptical and had a few questions. Why is the skirt a better option than wearing chinks or chaps? And how is the skirt different than a quarter sheet? I answered both questions with a clear preference towards the Tongass rain skirt.
The skirt is a durable, waterproof material on the outside and lined with fleece on the inside. If you’ve ever gone to the barn on a cold winter night and wished you could ride in a blanket, I think this is as close as you can get. The skirt is made with belt loops, an adjustable front zipper, and leg straps that attach with snaps to keep the skirt in place during windy or fast rides.
The skirt does have a higher price point than a quarter sheet, but most quarter sheets are made with the horse in mind, not the rider. A few are made to cover only part of the rider’s legs. The Tongass rain skirt covered my legs down to just above my ankles and draped over my horse’s rump. I felt warm, cozy, and pretty—an unexpected side benefit. Riding in a skirt strangely made me sit up just a little straighter.
I don’t think the skirt would offer as much durability as chinks or chaps, particularly if being scraped and dragged by branches and thorny bushes. However, the skirt was more comfortable than any of my chinks and chaps, and much warmer than stiff leather in the rain.
I was unsure how my hot horse would handle the fabric of the rain skirt draped over his hind end and the flapping of the skirt while riding. I’ve seen one too many bride-on-horseback-gone-awry videos and know horses don’t always take kindly to the draping of a long skirt.
I first lunged my horse with the skirt attached to the saddle and draped over him. He was unfazed. The skirts are also designed to be able to button the front corners out of the way while mounting. With uncharted territory with this new piece of equipment, I got on and then pulled the skirt off of a round-pen rail and pulled it around my waist — then snapped it into place. The only time my gelding seemed unsure about the skirt is when I was lifting one side of the skirt up to the level of his neck. Even when the skirt billowed a bit at a lope, he didn’t have an issue. If you have a horse with a particularly alert personality, I would take the introduction to the skirt slow. It is something new and can get ruffled in the wind.
This skirt is one of a kind – I couldn’t find a similar item during a quick Google search. There are other companies that sell riding skirts, but they are made to look like period riding clothes rather than something that you would use regularly, nor are they designed to withstand the elements. I love finding products that are both functional and make me feel good, and the riding skirt is definitely both. Each order is hand sewn in Alaska to your specifications, so you can be sure what you get is something that will fit.
I can imagine so many uses for this skirt even off the trail. How many times have you stood around on your horse, freezing and waiting for a class to start or sitting in a clinic listening (and freezing!) while the instructor goes through key points of the exercise? I think the skirt would work well to stave off the chills in both situations. Put this skirt on your wish list and keep warm!
Check out the Tongass riding skirt at www.arctichorsegear.com.