How to Choose Horse Riding Gear

Three Methods:Basic Riding ClothesTraditional Lesson and Clinic ClothesShow Attire (Hunter-Jumper/Equitation)

Choosing clothes and equipment for horseback riding can be stressful. There are many different items that you'll need, and there are many options available! When choosing gear, it is important to keep in mind your budget, the occasion, and the quality. This article will cover the basics needed for English riding.

Method 1
Basic Riding Clothes

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    Wear long pants or jeans: Choose pants or jeans with a lose fit to make it easy to get in/out of the saddle.
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    Choose close-toed shoes with a smooth sole and 1" heel: Always wear close-toed shoes while riding or working with horses; if a horse steps on bare feet/toes, it can cause serious injury.
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    Get an approved riding helmet. It's best to have someone at a tack store measure your head and help you to pick out an appropriate helmet. Always wear a helmet made specifically for horseback riding; they offer more protection than helmets made for riding bicycles.

Method 2
Traditional Lesson and Clinic Clothes

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    Prepare a higher level of dress for more formal lessons. Clothes should be conservative, fitted, and weather-appropriate. It is appropriate to tuck shirts into breeches and accessorize with a belt.
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    Pick out a shirt. Options for shirts:
    • For casual lessons, solid-colored tee shirts may be appropriate, though very casual, so not always advised.
    • Collared polo shirts are very popular and are universally appropriate.
    • For warmer months, long-sleeved, breathable, quarter-zipped shirts are a smart choice. They can be purchased through equine retailers or tack stores.
    • For cooler months, a great formal lesson look is a button down layered with a color-coordinating sweater.
    • Jackets or coats are appropriate when the weather is cold, but make sure that they are fitted.
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    Consider your pant options:
    • Breeches. Breeches with knee patches are common across disciplines, whereas full seat breeches are typically reserved for higher level riders and dressage disciplines.
    • Opt for solid, conservative colors. Tan, black, navy, and grey are all safe choices.
    • Be sure that your breeches have belt loops.
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    Select your boots/footwear:
    • If riding is just a casual hobby, or you are not interested in showing, leather paddock boots and half chaps are a great choice. There are a wide variety of styles and brands to choose from. It's best to go to a tack store and try different combinations until you find a fit and style that you like.
    • If you are interested in showing or are willing to make an investment in your boots, tall field boots are ideal. It is important to get fitted at a tack store so that they can help you find a pair that fits you well and suits your needs.
    • Be sure that your footwear is made out of real leather and is good quality.
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    Get any other accessories needed:
    • Gloves are usually optional, but are useful when the weather is especially hot or cold, or when you are riding a horse who is heavy on the forehand or likes to pull. There are different styles available, from synthetic, to leather palms with crochet backs, to all-leather gloves.
    • Belts are essential when tucking your shirt into your breeches. Choose belts which coordinate with your outfit. Black is usually a safe bet. Be sure that your belt is the right width to fit through your belt loops.
    • Hairnets. Choose hairnets which match the color of your hair. They are available in two-knot, one-knot, and no-knot. One-knot nets are the most popular and comfortable.
    • Helmet. Black, matte helmets are common and look more professional than brightly-colored, shiny helmets.

Method 3
Show Attire (Hunter-Jumper/Equitation)

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    Expect to see slightly higher prices for this kind of clothing. Show clothes are typically more expensive than lesson-level clothes; however, there are a variety of options to fit any budget.
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    Find a shirt that suits. Wear a long-sleeved show shirt. Choose a shirt made of breathable material. There are even shirts which are ventilated under the arms to promote air flow. Make sure it compliments your shape, fits under your jacket, is long enough to tuck into your breeches, and does not "gap" in the front. There are different colors available, but white is the best option.
    • Choose a shirt with a wrap collar rather than one with a traditional choker collar. If you decide to monogram the collar, make sure that it is small and conservative. In certain rings, riders can be disqualified for having visible monograms.
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    Pick a jacket: Unless it is extremely hot and the judge issues a jacket waiver, show coats are required when showing hunter-jumpers or equitation. Choose a coat that fits well, is long enough, and has long enough sleeves.
    • Choose a coat which is conservative in color. Navy is the most common color in hunter-jumpers/equitation, but black is becoming popular (black is traditional in the dressage arena).
    • Three-buttoned jackets are traditional.
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    Pick your pants. Tan or khaki breeches are the only acceptable colors in hunter-jumper/equitation. Be sure that your breeches are mid- or high-rise so that there is no gaping in the back. One of the most popular brands for show breeches is Tailored Sportsman.
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    Get some tall boots. These are essential in the show ring. Boots must be black. Boots should be tall enough to create a clean line from the top of your knee down and should be fitted through the ankle. They should be field boots (zipper in the back with laces in the front). Be sure that your boots are cleaned and polished for shows.
    • If you are able, it is wise to invest in custom-fitted boots.
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    Get any other needed accessories:
    • Black belt.
    • Hairnets are required. Hair must be neat and tucked into helmet.
    • Black leather gloves are required.
    • Pearl earrings are a traditional and elegant addition to a show look.
    • Helmet. Helmet should be black or a dark grey, depending on the brand. Charles Owen and GPA are both popular brands depending on your budget.


  • Clothes should always be clean, fitted, and presentable.
  • When in doubt, ask an instructor or trainer about what is appropriate to wear to lessons, clinics, or shows.
  • You can often find high-quality used apparel at tack stores or online.


  • At shows, judges will judge you based on your appearance. Be sure that your clothes help, rather than hinder, your score.
  • Make sure that your clothes are safe to wear. Shows should be sturdy enough to protect your feet from being stepped on, scarves should be tucked into jackets to avoid being caught on something if you were to fall off, helmets should be approved.

Article Info

Categories: Horse Showing and Competition