ProChaps Full ChapsFor one month this spring, we tested out a pair of ProChaps to give you the scoop on this new riding gear. The verdict? "I'll probably never be without a pair of these again!" says our editor.
The chaps were put through a one-month test by our editor - a serious amateur who generally rides two horses a day, one old campaigner and one colt in training, as well as spending an hour or two on barn chores.
Weather conditions ranged from -20ºC to 10ºC, from snow to very muddy and damp. The chaps are certainly designed for cooler weather. The neoprene-type fabric is best suited to keeping you warm.
"I have typical leather half-chaps, and while I like their look," says our tester, "I was noticing a lot of wear on my leather paddock boots where they were rubbing - they actually wore a hole through the back of my boots! The elastic strap that goes underneath the boot sole was also being chewed up by my freshly re-soled boots. And, since they're not very stretchy, I found I was prone to muscle spasms in my calves when I was warming up.
"As for chaps, I've ridden in traditional suede (full) chaps, but didn't really like the 'stuffed in' feeling that I got from them. I felt stiff, like I didn't have much mobility in the saddle. Plus, one of my coaches actually would not allow her riders to use full chaps for schooling, as there was too much of a difference between them and what you had to wear to show in."
The chaps feature flat-stiched seams, an elastic front buckle, contoured knee seams, heavy-duty zippers, and a strap at the bottom that goes under your boots. The material consists of 3 different materials laminated together to make them waterproof, washable, and breatheable. The middle neoprene layer is micro-perforated for breatheability, plus there is an anti-bacterial membrane within, to kill the bacteria in sweat, which also kills odor and adds longivity to the fabric. The material, a knitted nylon, has a “memory.” ProChaps also have a unique sizing system that, while not a custom system, easily configures to a rider's three measurements: calf, inseam, and thigh.
02/11/05 - First Impressions "My first impressions out of the box were that these chaps were very different from anything I'd seen in before... to be completely honest, because of the neoprene, I'm not sure I'd buy a pair of these off the shelf. I'd be a little scared they wouldn't breathe very well."
Other features we noticed right away were the stretchiness of the material, which was great, and the contoured seams around the knee. “I can bend my knee - there's no stuffed-in feeling!” says Christy. “I also like the strap that goes under your boots at the bottom. It's rubber-coated and looks very sturdy.” We also found that they fit extremely well, coming as they had via mail-order. “When I ordered them,” explained Christy, “I gave them thigh and calf circumference, and inseam mearsurements. These fit perfectly.”
03/11/05 - Test Results !
Overall impressions were very favourable, to say the least. “I'll probably never be without a pair of these again!” says Christy. “I love them. They are very, very comfortable to ride in. Plus I found that I could work out in a cold arena and not get that cold, damp feeling afterwards, because they wicked away moisture so well. I'm sure they will do the same in hotter weather this summer and will be sure to give you an update. I haven't been getting any charley-horses in my calves, and I can wear them all day and they stay super-comfortable.”
We found that they did "relax" a little bit, from a very snug first fit to a nice relaxed-snug fit - much the same way a pair of jeans will “relax” after they come out of the dryer. The stirrup strap was sturdy and resisted wear. Christy adds,“I found that it comfortably flipped up over the top of my boots when I was walking through mud. Plus they cleaned up nicely; I even rode bareback on a shedding horse, washed them according to their instructions, and they came out great.”
Show riders will appriciate the fact that they have the same approximate "stick" as a pair of breeches and boots, so there's minimal re-adjustments to make when showing.
Update - 09/20/09
"The same pair of chaps is still going strong four years later. I use them every day, all winter long. The zippers might possibly need replacing in a year or two but other than that, they show very minimal signs of wear and tear. I look forward to many more years with my ProChaps!"
ProChaps is a Canadian company, and the chaps are manufactured exclusively in Canada. France Grenier, Sylvie Pageau, and Jean Larivee, ProChaps founding members, saw a gap where the equestrian wear market wasn't staying current with advances in other sport products. Larivee has been riding for most of his life, and until eight years ago competed in showjumping. Grenier and Pageau developed the ProChaps design.
Larivee explains,“We saw a lack of equipment improving as it has in other sports, and were concerned about how this affected rider performance on the horse: how would a pair of boots or chaps that were very tight affect the performance of your legs, and what could we do to improve this?”
Product design started in February, 2002. The team worked with riders and fabric suppliers for over 14 months. The company formed in March 2003, and has been going strong ever since. ProChaps sell in over 14 countries, including Canada, the US, and Europe. In 2004 they won "Most Innovative Product Award" at the Spruce Meadows Masters tournament. They've also introduced a line of half-chaps which has proven to be very popular with young riders.
ProChaps full chaps retail for about $300.00 CDN, half-chaps for about $150.00 CDN.
They can be purchased from a dealer near you, or visit the ProChaps website at www.prochaps.com.
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