Monday, July 21, 2014

A Tale of Three Breeches

About 3 months ago, I realized that my supply of warm-weather riding breeches/tights was shockingly low.  I had an almost ancient pair of Kerrits tights that were a color that is not currently manufactured and probably never should be again (sort of a pucey/eggplant) that were still in good shape, but obviously not fashionable.  Then there was the pair of Riding Sport Jean Breeches that seemed like a good idea when I bought them 2 or 3 years ago when I was just doing mostly dressage work, but now seemed too thick and caused chafing on the inside of my knees when I did longer rides.  Finally, I had a pair of Riding Sport Competitor II breeches that I bought last year.  These breeches looked and felt good in the saddle, but they had a tendency to wander down my legs to the point of indecency if I walked in them very much - possibly due to the compression factor in the fabric, or maybe they were just a size too big.  Nonetheless, it was clear to me that I needed to augment my riding wardrobe for endurance training.

So I headed over to Dover Saddlery in Chantilly, VA, where I knew I'd find more than enough choices to supplement my dwindling wardrobe.  In the past, I've definitely favored breeches over tights because I like the extra thickness of fabric that breeches have and they somehow seemed more "dressagey" because of the civilized snap and zipper.  But, now that I'm putting on a lot more miles and doing it in all kinds of heat and rain, I realized that tights were going to be a better choice.  I had found that the pair of Kerrits tights I had worked the best for me, so I had my eye out for similar products.

I ended up choosing three pairs of tights.  I loved the idea of the Kerrits IceFil Tech Tight.  These tights had neither a full-seat (which I have grown to dislike because it not only feels like I'm wearing a diaper, but because I feel like the extra money for the full-seat doesn't really get me much in terms of security in the saddle) nor knee-patches, which had been causing some chafing issues.  I was worried that the bunching of the knee-patch would always cause chafing on my inner knee with enough riding, and I figured tights without any extra fabric on the knee would be great.  Plus, the tights had this funky silicone carrot pattern where the full-seat and knee-patch would normally be and these tiny silicone carrots were supposed to provide some extra grip in the saddle, without being bulky.  And, as if all that weren't enough, the fabric was actually supposed to keep your skin several degrees cooler than normal, which sounded fantastic for riding in hot, humid weather.

The second tight I choose was the Kerrits Flow-Rise Performance Riding Tight.  I've always loved Kerrits breeches, and I figured this model was similar to the one I already had, but in much cooler colors.  And the knee-patch material seemed pretty thin, so I hoped that would mean no chafing.  I picked up a pair in Peri 2- Tone and imagined that I would look really endurance-like with my colored tights.  Especially if I paired the tights with something of a different, yet bright color:)

Finally, I picked out a pair of Soybu Riding Tights.  I wanted to try a brand other than Kerrits and these tights seemed reasonably priced and very good quality.  Plus, the knee-patches were quite thin and you can never go wrong with basic black tights:)

Over the next couple of months, I tested out the tights in a variety of conditions and ended up finding one that really hit all of my requirements.  In no particular order, I was looking for a tight that:

  • is easy to move in, regardless of whether I am riding or walking;
  • can handle getting completely drenched and still be easy to move in, regardless of whether I am riding or walking;
  • looks reasonably decent when worn by me, who is not a supermodel, or anything close to a supermodel;
  • washes well and doesn't require anything special in terms of soap or drying (in other words, no real leather); and
  • provides a small amount of friction in the saddle, so as to keep me from sliding off in a heap every time my horse spooks a little (I just have a smooth-seat saddle and there's not a lot of grippiness), but not so much friction as to cause anything unpleasant after 20 plus miles.
The first tights I tested were the Kerrits IceFil tights.  What I discovered after I wore them for about 3 seconds is that they have a strange extra thigh seam that runs across the front of the thigh in such a way as to make one's thighs appear to have an extra, bizzare lump.  My husband kept insisting they looked fine, but I suspect that is because he knows better than to say anything else.  I also discovered that the little silicone carrots did not really do anything with regard to grip in the saddle (unless the tights would have normally acted like they were greased with Crisco, in which case, the carrots did help).  And while the temperatures were not crazy-hot like they can get in the middle of summer, at no point when I was riding did I want to exclaim, "Oh, my legs DO feel cooler!"  I think the tights were probably pretty comfortable in the saddle and out, but I was too distracted by the extra lumps on my thighs to notice much.  And, as luck would have it, a seam along the outside of the left knee started to unravel after about 3 rides.  Because Dover has such an amazing return policy (you can return pretty much anything ever, without a receipt, for no reason), I decided to return these tights because they were not living up to my expectations and the defective seam was not something that I thought I could quickly fix.  I did throw them in the wash before returning them, so as not to subject the kind Dover staff to my riding ooginess, and they survived quite well; even the seam that had started to unravel didn't unravel any further.  Based on my experience with Kerrits products, I expect that the seam issue was just a random event and not an indication of the general quality of these tights.

The next tights I tested were the Kerrits Flow-Rise Performance tights.  I had really high hopes for these because I was in love with the thought of being able to wear more color.  These tights fit great and were comfortable in the saddle and out.  In fact, these were the tights I wore on my epic ride a few weeks ago.  They got soaked and stayed that way for probably a couple of hours and at no point did I feel anything different than I did when they were dry and there was no chafing.  The only thing that bothered me about them was that the waist band was too compressive.  So I felt a bit squeezed when I first put them on, although after riding for awhile, I didn't notice the compression as much.  I also found that having my thigh be a giant block of color was not as flattering as I thought it would be.  I almost hesitate to say that because I really think that endurance riding has to be function over form and no matter how ugly something is, if it works, that's what matters.  But, with so many choices for breeches and riding tights, it seems like a person ought to be able to get both form and function.

And that is where the Soybu tight comes in.  This tight is so comfortable, I've been known to keep it on after I get home from the barn and even sleep in it.  The very first time I rode in it, I got caught in a downpour while I was walking on foot with my horse cooling him out and we were a half-mile away from the barn.  I was drenched in a matter of seconds, but the tight never sagged or felt uncomfortable during my walk back to the barn.  And it has performed the same way under saddle when wet.  Plus, it has no weird thigh seams or color blocks, and no compression waist band to make me feel restricted or self-conscious.  It washes up well and it has a little bit of texture to the fabric which provides a small amount of friction, but nothing that has caused any unladylike chafing thus far.

I will say that while the Soybu tight was the winner in my little impromptu competition, the Kerrits Flow-Rise tight was a close second.  And I think if the Kerrits IceFil tight could get rid of the weird thigh seam and make the silicone carrots a bit more grippy, it would be a great choice too.

Note: I paid full price (with my own money) for all three tights that I tested. I don't have any affiliation with Dover Saddlery, Kerrits, Soybu, or any other company. The views I expressed in this post are solely my opinion.


  1. I've always liked Kerrits stuff...have a pair of their super basic performance tights that are I-don't-even-know-how-old, and worn to the point of unfit for public consumption, so I just took advantage of Dover closeouts to snag a couple more pairs.

    I've also got a pair of the IceFil tights I'm trying to like. I *love* the IceFil shirts (especially the tank tops) but I'm not overwhelmed by the tights. Not a fan of so many seams, and while they're super-comfortable to wear, I haven't tested them in a competition setting yet to see how they'll do. Also not sure how they'll hold up to my sharp, prickly, pointy desert.

  2. Great review! I'd been wondering about the IceFill tights and now I'm glad I didn't invest in a pair. I love my Flow Rise Kerrits. I have a pair of black ones that I picked up secondhand at the AERC convention swap shop and loved them so so much that I bought a second pair when this season's colors went on sale at Riding Warehouse. They are in the aqua houndstooth and I do have to agree: the color blocks are not as flattering as expected. The next pair will definitely be solid colored! Haven't had the problem with the waistband that you had with the Flow Rise tights specifically, but I experienced this uncomfortable waist compression issue with the Microcord pants.

    I'm intrigued by the Soybu pants now though. They are definitely next on the list of "tights to buy" now!

  3. Oh, how my new jodpurs would fail, FAIL! your top two bullet points. I can't even imagine having to pee in the woods in the rain in these. Maybe you saw my post about my new stylin but pathetically uncomfortable breeches?

    1. I read your post and I can see that you are right - those breeches of yours would get pretty waterlogged:) But they looked comfy in the pictures of you grooming and sort of like something I'd wear around the house. Ahhhh, the things we do for horses:)