Choosing Riding Gear and Clothes – A Beginners Guide

So you have taken the first steps to becoming a rider! You have found your local stables, booked in for your first lesson and learnt the difference between a gelding and a mare! Now the next step is choosing what to wear, and whilst this sounds like an easy step it’s not! This can be a hugely daunting process if you don’t know where to start, and a hugely costly one unless you’re careful. There are so many clothes and so much equipment involved in riding it can be hard to know where to start. If you are a beginner then before you rush out and buy a whole wardrobe wait until you’ve had a couple of lessons to make sure it is something you will continue with before you make any financial commitments.

A riding school will not expect you to turn up to your first lesson with complete riding kit. Most riding schools will have plenty of essentials that you can borrow. The most important piece if a riding hat and again this is something that most riding schools will have plenty of – you can check this with the school before hand, but all good riding schools will have some spare. If they don’t then it should really raise alarm bells and you may want to consider your choice of stables.

Whilst you don’t need to have the complete riding kit for your first lesson wearing unsuitable clothes can make riding an uncomfortable experience and much harder than it needs to be. So choose your clothes carefully and think about how comfortable they will be in the saddle. Once you have decided that you are going to be a regular down at the stables and a frequent rider choosing good quality riding gear is a great investment. Here are some hints and tips for choosing a good, compact riding wardrobe.

Although we all like to look good, and we want to make our horse look good, we ned to combine that style with functionality. A rider needs clothes that will not restrict or hinder movements, allowing for a freedom and flexibility whilst looking elegant at the same time. Also as every rider knows riding is a full work out and so fabrics need to be durable and light so that riding cloths remain cool and will also absorb moisture.

The appropriate riding clothes depend on what discipline you are doing but here is a guide to your basic essentials; 1. Riding Hat 2. Riding Boots / Jodhpur Boots 3. Breeches / Jodhpurs 4. Jacket 5. Riding Gloves

Riding clothes have come along and there are now a variety of styles and cuts to suit any shape and any budget so do your research and find out what brands are best for your needs. Find a tack shop or online equestrian shop with a good selection of brands and keep your eyes out for any bargains they may have – a good tip is to think ahead and buy out of season and then you can often get real bargains!

RIDING HATS & SAFETY WEAR

Without doubt riding hats are the most important piece of equestrian clothing. Riding hats consist of a hard shell lined with shock absorbing material and provide vital protection for the rider’s head should they fall from a horse or be kicked by a horse. As well as wearing a riding hat at all times when riding, it is also wise to wear a riding hat whilst lunging, or handling any horse from the ground.

It’s very important that a riding hat fits well. If you are unsure of your hat size, or this is your first riding hat, then it’s best to visit a BETA registered saddler or tack shop who will be able to help you choose the best fitting hat for you that also appropriate for the equestrian disciplines you enjoy.

Riding hats should always be replaced immediately if they suffer a severe impact as a result from a fall from a horse, being dropped onto a hard surface or kicked by a horse as although no visible damage may be seen, there may be cracks in the shell or other unseen damage that could make the riding hat unsafe for further wear. In addition the protection offered by any riding hat diminishes over time as the padding inside becomes compressed and so any riding hats should routinely be replaced every 3-4 years even if there are no visible signs of damage, wear and tear, etc.

There are two safety standards acceptable in the UK for riding hats: EN1384/BSEN1384 or PAS 015. Check that any riding hat or helmet you are looking at conforms to these standards.

When trying on any riding hat, it is important that the riding hat fits both comfortably and securely. Without the chin strap fastened the riding hat should fit securely enough that you should be able to nod or shake your head briskly without the hat moving.

Another important safety feature is a Body Protector. Whilst these are not mandatory they are advised and can offer extra protection in case of a fall. Body or Back Protectors are similar to vests and are filled with foam, they are worn over the top of clothes either under of over a jacket. When you first wear a body protector they can seem stiff and uncomfortable at first the foam will mould itself to the rider’s body shape and become more comfortable over time.

JODHPURS / BREECHES

There is often huge confusion over the difference between jodhpurs and breeches and which you should be wearing. As a general rule jodhpurs are for younger riders and breeches for adult riders. However, these are not hard and fast rules and it is more important to wear something you are comfortable in. Breeches are usually just worn by adults for showing and jodhpurs for everyday riding – but again it really is personal preference.

The main difference between jodhpurs and breeches is the leg length. Breeches are worn under long riding boots (or jodhpur boots and chaps) as they are shorter on the leg and jodhpurs have a slightly longer leg with a small cuff that fits over the top of a jodhpur boot or a low riding boot – jodhpurs also often have a stirrup to prevent them from riding up the leg but that isn’t always the case. Unlike regular trousers the leg seams of both jodhpurs and breeches are placed on the outside to prevent chaffing the rider, or the horse!

Jodhpurs and breeches are often designed to increase performance and can have reinforced knee pads to help maintain correct position and the seats can be covered in ‘sticky’ material to increase grip giving the rider help in the saddle.

Jodhpurs comes in a huge variety of colours and styles now so there really is something for everyone. From the low rise hipster style to the high waisted cut and all in a variety of colours – you can get even get union jack ones for the more patriotic among you!

RIDING BOOTS / JODHPUR BOOTS

In the case of riding boots, the tall ones are perfect to wear for competitions and shows, while short ones are comfortable and hard wearing for casual riding. For beginners long / tall riding boots are not necessary, I would suggest starting with paddock boots or jodhpur boots. These come in a variety of styles and fit can vary from brand to brand so take the time to find out what is most comfortable for you. If you do get jodhpur boots of paddock boots then you will also need to get a pair of half chaps. Chaps come in different styles and types including; leather and suede, back or side zips, elasticated gussets so again there is a type for everyone. With chaps, it is worth thinking about your calf size and making sure that you buy a pair that fit comfortably!

When it does come to the time to buy long or tall riding boots it is important to choose well. Correctly fitting riding boots are one of the best investments you can make, riding with ill fitting boots is a nightmare and can ruin the experience and your performance. Boots that are too big in the foot will make it hard to keep your foot on the stirrup correctly and boots that are too small will prove nearly impossible to get on and off and be hugely uncomfortable. Boots come in a variety of measurements for regular, wide, extra wide calf fits, and long or short fitting depending on your leg length – so it is important to look at the measurements for each brand and choose the right fit for your leg.

JACKETS

You should not need a show jacket yet. When you do, the color, style, fit, the season and the comfort will be your choice to make, and will also depend on what discipline you are competing in. But an everyday riding jacket is a must! Come the cold winter rides and purchasing a high quality and high insulation jacket will be the best decision you ever made! Also as the days get shorter and the afternoons darker jackets are useful as in addition to keeping you warm they also often have reflective strips on them which is useful for drawing attention to yourself and your horse in dark or gloomy conditions.

GLOVES

Gloves are a necessity. Eventually you will need a pair of show gloves but for everyday riding just an inexpensive pair of standard riding gloves will do. Riding gloves have added grips on the palms and are usually quite durable. Use them all the time to protect your hands when grooming, riding and lungeing. At most stables riding gloves are a magic mystery as they seem to go missing all the time so make sure you always have a back up pair.

UNDERGARMENTS

I don’t really want to get involved in your underwear nor would you want me to. But one word, for the ladies, make sure you purchase a good supportive sports bra as this really is a must have.

The rest of your clothes are important too. Always wear layers so you can peel them off if you get too warm, as being hot and bothered is not a comfortable way to learn to ride.

When it comes to following the trends, there is a lot of opportunity with horse riding clothes and gear. Horse riding fashion is quite quick changing and so whilst it’s fun to follow – remember to always follow your own instinct and preference more!

Apparel for the horse is a whole different story. Tack, saddles, blankets, horse rugs, turnout rugs. So much more to talk about!