What to Wear When Horse Riding: Gear, Clothes, Boots, Equipment

Stepping foot in the horseback riding routine can be very exciting. However, what to wear for horse riding, or which gear and equipment you choose to take along, makes a huge difference to the overall experience. As a matter of fact, having the right equipment, gear and horse riding clothes is the only way to provide a novice as well as an experienced rider with a safe and comfortable riding experience.

Anyone who is new to riding would be overwhelmed with the knowledge of all the equipment needed for the rider and the horse. Hence, here is a guide featuring horse riding gear for beginners, that will help anyone understand what to wear when horseback riding.

Safety Gear for Horseback Riding

In order to have a pleasant experience of horseback riding, it is vital for every rider to dress correctly before heading out. Once an appropriate outfit has been chosen, the next step is to make sure that you are aware of all the precautions and you have the safety gear that’s necessary while taking along the appropriate safety gear for a comfortable and harmless ride.

To serve this purpose, take a look at this horse riding equipment and tools list:

1. Riding Hat/Helmet

Wearing a helmet while horseback riding (check out our favorites) reduces the chances of traumatic injuries. Even the best-behaved horse can be the cause of accidents.

A snugly fit helmet, without a gap between the head and the helmet, is like a protective cover for the head. As well as having a comfortable fit, the strap of the helmet should fit under the chin so that the helmet is sturdy. The helmet should not press down on any single point around the head. It should exert pressure evenly all around. Riders should know that a good riding helmet has openings for ventilation to keep the head from heating up.

Another thing to check for is the ASTM certification. The American Standard of Testing Material is an organization that ascertains that the helmet meets the safety standards required for horseback riding. Riders should check for the ASTM certification label on the helmet while making their purchase.

Check out our top picks for horse riding helmets here.

2. Safety Vest

As the name suggests, safety vests provide protection to the torso of a rider. In case of a fall, a rider’s spine, ribs, and organs remain safe from the impact if s/he is wearing a safety vest. Wearing a safety vest for horseback riding is just like putting on a car seat-belt.

A conventional horse-riding vest will be padded heavily but will be lightweight. It tends to fit well and can easily be worn beneath other garments. The design of these safety vests provide riders with the freedom of movement. In fact, they do not restrict or affect the rider’s movements at all.

Though horseback riding is a sport that results in increased perspiration, safety vests are breathable and lets riders enjoy for longer periods. At the same time, they are generally weather-proof.

The types of vests that have seen a boom in the recent years thanks to the advancement in technology are:

  • Airbag vests
  • Leather vests
  • Foam vests
  • Gel vests
  • Multi-layered vests

Attire for Horseback Riding

Comfort and safety can only be guaranteed if you wear the right horse riding clothes when going out for a ride anytime. The attire doesn’t have to be very expensive, and neither is it too difficult to find.

Here are some of the essentials that you should get:

1. Non-Chafing Underwear

While planning to go horseback riding, the thought of underwear rarely crosses one’s mind. But the amount of discomfort that comes with wearing the wrong undies is unimaginable. So it is super important to prepare ahead. One can obviously go riding wearing any underwear, but the smart thing to do is get riding specific underwear.

The right underwear for horseback riding will have some sort of cushioning in the form of gel or pad inserts or extra material that protects the groin from getting bruised.

Another important thing to look for in underwear is the right fitting. As the rider shimmies in the saddle, so does the underwear. It eventually bunches up and chafes the groin, too. And if the underwear is too tight, it tends to affect the blood circulation. Avoiding ill-fitting underwear helps keep riders from getting chafed.

An underwear that does not have breathable fabric or that does not wick moisture, also causes chafing and infection. Beneath summer, or even winter garments, it would be a smart idea to wear undies that are made with synthetic fabrics.

2. Shirt

The shirt worn for horseback riding should also fit snugly. A good form-fitting shirt will not bunch up at the back or get caught anywhere on the tack. Any kind of baggy clothing also gets in the way of riding.

If the rider plans to go horseback riding on a trail, it would be smart to dress in a brightly colored shirt. It increases the visibility of the rider.

The fabric for shirts worn for riding should preferably be breathable. Shirts made with cotton material remain soaked in perspiration and do not wick moisture, leading to discomfort for the rider.

3. Pants

The best thing about going western-style horseback riding is that you could do it in any of your comfy jeans. The right jeans for this would have flexibility, be comfortable to wear for long periods, and would have flat in seams so that they do not press against the skin of the rider. The jeans should also be long enough to go over the boots, so that they do not ride up the leg.

Other choices for riding pants are jodhpurs and breeches. These are pants that are specially designed for horseback riding.

Breeches are fitted pants that are long enough to go over the knees and, therefore, are easy to wear with tall boots. On the other hand, jodhpurs are longer and generally have a strap that goes over the boot.

Both these pants are made with breathable material that is flexible while riding, and they do not have prominent in seams. They usually have textured knee and seat patches that make the rider’s movements easier.

For an in-depth guide and recommendations on what horse riding pants you should get, check out this article.

4. Riding Breeches or Chaps

The purpose behind wearing chaps for horseback riding is the same no matter which ones you wear. They give riders protection against the weather and prickly bushes, as well as make the ride more comfortable. We cannot ignore the fact that they look good, too.

For the English horseback riding style, riders need to wear half chaps. They can be slipped on over the boots and have a zipper that runs along the length till the knee. Just as they protect the legs from pinching, they also protect pants from getting wear and tear.

Western-style riding is possible with both full chaps and chinks. Chaps cover the leg from the thigh to the heel. They offer greater protection against the elements of nature.

Chinks, on the other hand, are a shorter version of chaps that are generally fringed. Chinks are best worn in a warmer climate and can be secured behind the thigh with straps and buckles. They allow the lower leg to move freely.

We recommend you try one of our top picks for riding breeches.

5. Boots

Almost everyone has a pair of boots at home. But how does one determine which boots could be used for horseback riding?

Generally, the best horse riding boots are those that have heels. The heel ensures that the rider’s foot stays inside the stirrup.

For English-style riding, the best boots are either paddock-style boots or dress boots. Paddock boots are ankle length, while dress boots reach up to the knees.

With western-style riding, one is most likely to wear jeans and cowboy boots go great with them. Take a look at our top picks for riding boots.

6. Gloves

While horseback riding, the rider is supposed to hold on to rubber or leather reins. Holding them for some time can cause blisters and dirt also gets on the hands. Wearing gloves lets riders comfortably hold on to the reins for long periods. But while purchasing the gloves, one should make sure the Velcro around the wrist is not too tight or uncomfortable. We recommend you check out our review post on the best horse riding gloves.

Other Things to Have

In addition to horseback riding gear, there are a couple of basic essentials that you can consider taking along. These include the following:

1. Sunscreen

It is pretty obvious that an equestrian sport like horseback riding calls for a lot of sun exposure which can eventually lead to sunburns. In order to prevent this, it is important that the rider not only wears protective clothing, but also makes ample use of a good sunscreen. The best option would be to generously apply a water-resistant, broad-spectrum SPF30 sunscreen to all areas that are exposed, i.e. the ears, neck, and hands.

2. Spurs and Whips

You may also want to consider using spurs and whips on your horse, especially if the animal is a bit stubborn or lazy. These help riders give their horse a cue to respond to them and move accordingly.

Although you can use both spurs and whip to discipline and command a horse while riding, make sure that the action doesn’t harm the equine but only gives it directions gently.

Horse Riding Tack

A horse riding tack is going to be very beneficial if you are planning to take riding lessons. In fact, it is very likely to be given to you by your riding coach or academy.

Tack refers to the equipment required for horseback riding. All beginners need to learn what the tack includes. It may take some time and practice, but they will also need to know the function of each piece.

The most common tack items include the following:

1. Halter

The halter is a leather harness. This goes around the horse’s head and a lead rope attached to it lets one take the horse around.

2. Reins

These are longer leather straps that the rider holds onto. Furthermore, they are part of the bridle and connect to the bit.

3. Bridle

Though a bridle also goes around the head of the horse and resembles a halter, it has a different purpose. Bridles aid in taking the horse in different directions. Moreover, it includes the bit as well as the reins.

4. Saddle Pad

The saddle fits on the horse’s back for the rider to sit on and keep balance during trail riding. Morever, a rider can also hold on to it for security and comfort.

This blanket or pad is put on the horse’s back before putting the saddle on. It protects the horse from any irritation that the rubbing of the saddle could cause.

5. Girths

The cinch or the girth, is also a strap of leather that goes around the belly of a horse, and secures the saddle in its place.

6. Breast Collar

These straps go across a horse’s chest, down from the saddle and around the legs. There are also known as the breastplate or girth.

7. Stirrups

Basically, the suspended loops on both sides of the saddle are known as the stirrups. Besides, these leather loops are helpful to riders while mounting themselves up on the saddle. Once seated, riders place their feet inside the stirrups while riding.

8. Bit

The bit is a small metal piece that goes inside the mouth of the horse. It helps convey the rider’s commands to the horse, and if used correctly, it does not hurt the horse.

Tack for Western Riding vs Tack for English Riding

The two most common types of horse riding styles are Western riding and English riding. Both styles have their own unique tack even though some of the tack items are common in all types of riding.

In other words, you can say that the English style of horseback riding uses a smaller and lighter saddle. Moreover, the construction of these saddles help in keeping the rider closer to the horse’s back. Moreover, this enables the rider to feel the equine’s movements while riding and give it direction by tugging its rein. This is also why the English style of depends mostly on touch and contact. English saddles are available in various kinds and tend to differ in their size, horse bridle styles and bits.

On the contrary, the saddle used in the tack for Western style horseback riding is larger and heavier. The tack for Western Riding gives greater balance to the rider and is most favourable on rough terrains. Horses for Western riding are usually trained to respond to neck reining, and change direction when the rider rests the rein against the side of the animal’s neck. Also, unlike English Riding, the rider only needs to keep a light touch to direct the horse. The rest of the equipment is more or less the same as used in English riding.

What Not to Wear When Horseback Riding?

Whether or not you are a horse person, horseback riding is a guaranteed fun activity for everyone. However you may want to flaunt the most fashionable clothes while striking with your horse, but that may not necessarily offer you optimal comfort and safety during your ride.

To make things easier for you, here’s a list of what you should NOT be wearing while horseback riding:

  • Open toe shoes like flip flops and fancy sandals – not at all ideal footwear for the sport.
  • Leggings or Yoga Pants – do not provide a proper grip or any advantages like riding pants and breeches do.
  • Shorts – these will get you saddles sores on the feet and probably also pinch your bare skin.
  • Floppy or baseball caps – likely to fly off while horseback riding, therefore, a helmet is always a better and safer option.
  • Cut-off Shirts – will not protect your arms from the sun exposure, thus, not advisable.
  • Cargo Pants or a casual dress – extremely nonviable due to safety concerns of riding a horse.

All-in-all, just make sure to don attire that is comfortable and does not restrict movement, and you’re good to go horseback riding!

FAQs Related to Horse Riding Gear

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions regarding horse riding gear that you should know:

Can I wear leggings horseback riding?

You can definitely wear leggings when horseback riding, but they are not the ideal attire for this sport. Although horse riding calls for stocking up clothing that is lightweight and comfortable, leggings fail to provide the rider with the additional features that breeches and riding tights do when you’re at the saddle.

How much does tack cost for a horse?

The average price of horse tacks is approximately $500. However, the price is likely to differ from place to place, and quality wise.

Low-cost tacks usually offer poor fittings and leather quality, whereas custom-made tacks tend to be more expensive depending on their details. However, you can also get your hands on good quality, used tacks at an affordable price.

What side do you tack up a horse on?

Your horse should be able to accept saddling from any side; however, riders usually prefer to tack up from the left.

To tack a horse, first place the saddle pad between the animal’s shoulder blades and then position a Western saddle on the top. Next, attach the cinch to the off billet which is on the right side of the horse, and then take it to the left side to tighten it up using a latigo to secure the saddle.

What to wear horseback riding in the summer?

It is advisable to wear breathable riding tights, lightweight shirt, socks and underwear, ventilated helmet and gloves, and short riding boots when you are gearing up for the sport during hot weather. Because the summer heat can be quite a nuisance when you don’t have the right clothing to keep you comfortable during horseback riding.

What to wear horseback riding on the beach?

Riding a horse on the beach will require the same attire as you would normally wear during horseback riding in summer. Essentially a moisture-wicking shirt, comfortable pants and a riding shoe without a heel will be best. You just need to make sure that the clothing is comfortable and easy to dry in case it gets wet at the beach.

One may also opt for wearing shorts, but the attire is generally not preferable due to the likelihood of getting saddle sores.

Can you wear shorts for horse riding?

Generally, wearing shorts for horse riding is not a very good idea as your bare skin is likely to chafe when rubbing against the leather saddle, causing discomfort. You may also get pinches from between the stirrup leather and saddle which won’t be a pleasant experience either. Not to forget that your bare legs are likely to get more sun exposure and possible sunburns as well.

Besides, shorts do not provide a grip as good as breeches. The only time shorts are considerable is when you are planning to take your bareback horse for a swim.


With such a huge variety of tools, attire and equipment to choose from, one is likely to stress out just by wondering how to dress for horseback riding? However, choosing the right gear and properly tacking up the horse is essential for the safety as well as comfort of every rider.

It is therefore better to always choose comfortable attire over fashionable gear and consult an expert to guide you in the best manner. Also, make sure you choose only what you need instead of fascinating over the availability of various horse riding tools and equipment. This will help to save you from unnecessary spending.

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