If your barn is remotely responsible, there’s at least some mask-wearing requirements going on right now. And unless you’re in one of the handful of places where it’s warm right now, you’re learning the joys of breathing through a mask plus cold air: a chapped face.

I wanted to share what I’ve learned about stable mask wearing, as well as what I’ve learned about doing so in crummy weather.

First off, what kind of mask to wear? I have KN95s for when I’m in indoor spaces, like going to the store, or the little bit of air travel I have to do for this job. They’re reasonably comfortable (though I did hang the expense of a $6 “ear saver” because the backs of my ears were NOT having it.

But in my largely outdoor job, I wanted more flexibility. Enter these, a gaiter-style face covering with ear loops. I like these because they live around my neck like a scarf, and I can pull them up over my face as needed with ear loops for security. For sure they are one layer and not snug to my nose, so they are nowhere near as safe as something that has a nose wire, or has multiple layers, but it’s just not that hard for me to socially distance when I’m in the barn and out of doors, and just want a baseline of protection.

Make sure, if you order something like this, that you do your reading. I ordered one batch that arrived only to see that they had small perforations in the mask. Um, duh, that’s not going to work – increasing ventilation in your face mask defeats the purpose.

So that’s what my staff and I are primarily wearing, plus using good judgment about social distancing, not lingering in enclosed spaces like the tack room, and just generally not being a yutz. And that’s easy to do in South Florida, where it’s been pretty reliably in the 70s and 80s since we arrived. But it’s not so easy to do at home, which means that my Virginia team – and me, when I’m at home – need to make good decisions about dressing warmly because the tack room just isn’t a place we should be hanging out.

Then there’s the skin care challenge. Yes, face chapping is real. When you breathe into your mask and condensation becomes a thing, wearing a wet rag around your face all day really stinks. I know there are some companies out there advertising winter proof face masks, and I have no mileage with those. When I’m somewhere cold right now, I always have a second mask ready, in case my first mask gets wet or uncomfortable (frankly, I always have multiple masks everywhere I go, just in case). But I also can’t say enough nice things about Kiehl’s snootily named Creme d’Elegance heavy face moisturizer. It’s remarkably light for how heavy duty it is, and all the Kiehl’s products are really top quality. They’re also manufactured in the United States, which is neat.

And if you don’t know this, an aside on lip care, as the owner of EXTREMELY dry lips: petroleum based products like Chapstick protect, but do not moisturize. That’s fine, in a situation like this, where you want to shield your lips from crummy wet conditions, but once you’ve got a chapping situation, you need to use something conditioning. I personally dig the Burt’s Bees or Trader Joe’s lip balms, and here in FL, I use Sun Bum, which has sunscreen in it.

Important caveats: I’m not a medical expert, consult one if you have questions or concerns, bla bla bla. I’m just a dumb horse trainer trying to a) avoid COVID, and b) not have my face fall off. But that’s what I’m doing in my barn, and so far, it’s worked for me, combined with a WHOLE LOT of good judgement and NO going out anywhere unless I can make sure it’s a safe experience.

But also, know this – if your barn isn’t requiring masking, your barn is doing it wrong. If you’re a barn owner that isn’t requiring masking, you need to. And if your barn owner is requiring masks and you’re bitching and whining about it, you’re a part of the problem. Get it together. It’s not that hard.

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