Equestrian sports are filled with tradition. Specific styles of dress are required for certain events, both for safety and performance. Even when you’re not competing, riding instructors still require adherence to a specific dress code when training riders–for their safety, comfort, and for tradition, as well.
Knowing what to wear when riding horses is a big part of being an equestrian. Whether you’re just looking to take horseback riding lessons or want to start competing in events, our equestrian clothing guide for girls has everything you need to know.
What To Wear When Riding A Horse?
Young female equestrians have many options when it comes to being comfortable and fashionable.
Breeches, Jodhpurs, Riding Tights
Comfortable pants are vital when horseback riding. There are many different styles of horse riding pants to choose from: breeches, jodhpurs, and riding tights. Each option is typically made from breathable, stretchy material for maximum comfort and range of motion. Additionally, each style of riding pants will likely include either knee patches or full-seat patches to improve leg grip and stability in the saddle while riding.
Breeches, jodhpurs, and riding tights are all worn in specific circumstances. Breeches, for example, can be worn by adults or kids and are typically paired with tall riding boots or paddock boots and half chaps. Jodhpurs are traditionally worn by kids with paddock boots only and can be worn in training or competition. Riding tights, on the other hand, can be worn by both kids and adults and are meant for casual wear, such as training or working in the stable. They are also a great entry-level option for younger riders just getting into the sport as they are similar to a traditional athletic legging and are often more affordable.
Learn more: How to Buy Breeches: Size, Fit, and Style Guide | How to Buy Jodhpurs: Size, Fit, and Style Guide
Proper footwear is extremely important when horseback riding. You should always wear heeled riding boots for equestrian sports. Tennis shoes or shoes without a heel run the risk of slipping through the stirrup and getting caught, which can be extremely dangerous. Additionally, horse riding boots can help protect you if a horse accidentally steps on your feet.
Paddock boots or tall boots are the most common riding boots to wear and come in either black or brown. Paddock boots are worn most frequently by new or young equestrians, during training, and informal situations, while tall boots are worn by older or more experienced riders for events and competitions. Some equestrians opt to pair paddock boots with half chaps if they are wearing breeches or riding tights.
When training or casually riding, you can typically wear any type of shirt so long as it’s not oversized and in danger of getting tangled in your other equipment. As long as you’re comfortable, you can ride in it. However, remember that horseback riding is a sport, and you’re likely to work up a sweat, especially in the warmer months.
Equestrian Sunshirts and schooling shirts are perfect to wear when training because they help wick moisture away from the body to keep you cool and prevent chafing. These shirts typically have a stretchy, athletic fit, allowing you to have a full range of motion while riding.
During shows and events, the dress code is a bit more strict. Riders are expected to conform to specific styles during events, which we will get into later on.
Learn more: Equestrian Show Shirts: Size, Fit, and Style Guide
Helmets are vital to wear when horseback riding to prevent injury. A bicycle helmet is not enough, however. When horseback riding, make sure to wear an ASTM/SEI-compliant helmet to protect yourself in case of a fall.
Socks are just as important as breeches and boots when horseback riding. When wearing jodhpurs and paddock boots, you’ll want a short boot sock that won’t bunch up under your full-length riding pants. For breeches, you’ll want to wear tall riding socks pulled over your breeches to prevent the socks from falling and the pants from riding up. Lightweight and breathable material is best to help keep your feet dry during long riding sessions.
Invest in riding gloves to protect your hands while riding. Gloves can help prevent blisters and irritation while holding reins for hours at a time. They can also help keep your hands warm when riding in the cold.
What To Wear For Horse Riding Lessons
Horse riding lessons are much less informal than events and competitions, though instructors usually require adherence to a dress code. Helmets are almost always worn during riding lessons to protect the rider.
For younger riders, jodhpurs and paddock boots are commonly worn during riding lessons. Jodhpurs are comfortable and allow instructors to easily see leg position and grip. Jodhpurs typically also have knee patches to help young riders grip and stay on their horses.
Some instructors may even require breeches to be worn during lessons. Always check with your riding club to find out what the dress code is during lessons.
What to Wear by Discipline
There are many equestrian disciplines, each with specific types of dress required per event.
Dressage is a formal equestrian event with very specific rules around a rider’s dress.
- Headgear: ASTM/SEI-approved headgear is, of course, always required for dressage events. Your helmet must be mounted, fitted, and secured, or you will not be permitted to ride.
- Shirts and Jackets: Short riding jackets and cutaway coats are permitted as outer clothing; these show coats can be a solid color or have subtle patterns like pinstripes or plaid. Shadbelly coats are required at higher levels. Show shirts underneath your jacket can be of any color, though you must avoid bold patterns when jackets are waived. Additionally, the shirt must include a tie, choker, stock tie, or integrated stand-up collar.
- Riding Pants: White, light, and dark-colored breeches or jodhpurs are allowed when riding dressage. Bright colors and patterns are not permitted.
- Boots: Tall boots or paddock boots are required at the fourth level and below. If paddock boots are worn, riders may wear half-chaps or garters that match the color of their boots and are made of leather or leather-like material. Tall riding boots are required above the fourth level. Boots can be of any color and pattern, but they must all include a distinguishable heel.
- Gloves: White or other light-colored gloves are permitted at fourth level and below.
- Spurs: Spurs are required during FEI competitions. Spurs must be made of metal with the shank level with the boot and angled down if curved. Rowels, if used, must be blunt or smooth and rotate freely.
Learn more: Dressage Show Attire, Dress Code, and Style Tips for Riders
Show jumping is a very intensive equestrian sport. The dress code for show jumping is as much about safety as it is about tradition and style.
- Headgear: ASTM/SEI-approved headgear is, of course, always required for show jumping. Your helmet must be mounted, fitted, and secured, or you will not be permitted to ride. Helmet colors must be solid black or blue.
- Shirts and Jackets: Riders should wear a dark or tweed hunting jacket at lower competition levels along with a shirt with a high collar, tie, or stock tie. Additionally, riders must wear a medical armband when show jumping in case of injury.
- Riding Pants: White, light, and dark-colored breeches or jodhpurs are allowed during show jumping competitions. Bright colors and patterns are not permitted.
- Boots: Tall boots or paddock boots are required when show jumping. If paddock boots are worn, riders may wear half-chaps or garters that match the color of their boots and are made of leather or leather-like material. Boots can be of any color and pattern, but they must all include a distinguishable heel.
- Gloves: White, beige, or dark gloves are permitted.
- Spurs: Spurs are optional during FEI competitions. Spurs must be made of metal with the shank level with the boot and angled down if curved. Rowels, if used, must be blunt or smooth and rotate freely.
See FEI Dress Code for full Show Jumping Guidelines
Fox hunting events are a long-standing equestrian tradition. As such, the dress code for fox hunting is quite specific.
- Headgear: ASTM/SEI-approved headgear is, of course, always required for fox hunting. Your helmet must be mounted, fitted, and secured, or you will not be permitted to ride. Helmet colors must be solid black or blue. Top hats are sometimes worn with tails, depending on the hunt.
- Shirts and Jackets: Black and tweed hunting jackets are most frequently recommended for fox hunts unless a different color is recommended. Lightweight hunting jackets are usually worn in warmer months while wool is favored in the winter. Red or pinque coats should never be worn unless a rider has earned the right to wear one. Shirts should be white and tucked into riding pants. Additionally, riders must wear a medical armband when fox hunting in case of injury.
- Vests: A yellow or tattersall vest is commonly worn for most fox hunts.
- Ties: Riders must wear a stock tie with a gold tie pin when fox hunting.
- Riding Pants: White or tan breeches or jodhpurs are allowed during fox hunts. Bright colors and patterns are not permitted.
- Boots: Tall boots or paddock boots are required when fox hunting. If paddock boots are worn, riders may wear half-chaps or garters that match the color of their boots and are made of leather or leather-like material. Boots can be of any color and pattern, but they must all include a distinguishable heel.
- Gloves: White or black, depending on the hunt.
Learn more: Fox Hunting Attire & Etiquette – Beginners Guide
What Not to Wear When Horseback Riding
We’ve covered a great deal about what to wear when horseback riding. But what should you avoid wearing when horseback riding?
When it comes to horseback riding, shorts aren’t just a style faux pas–they’re downright uncomfortable, no matter what they’re made out of. Shorts cannot protect your thighs and calves from rubbing and chafing, which means you’ll be feeling quite sore after riding. Most riding instructors will not allow you to wear shorts during lessons for this reason.
Loose clothing is not recommended when horseback riding. Loose shirts and pants can get tangled in your other riding tack or bunch up, causing discomfort. Fitting, athletic-style clothing is always recommended for comfort and a better range of motion than loose clothing. Furthermore, loose or ill-fitting clothing is out-of-spec for equestrian events.
Sandals, flip-flops, and other casual shoes are not recommended for riding. Open-toed shoes run the risk of getting caught in your stirrups which is quite dangerous in the event of a fall. They also won’t promote good posture in the saddle. Additionally, your feet will get extremely dirty while riding with open-toed shoes.
Dress for Success
Whether taking lessons or competing at events, dressing for success is a crucial part of horseback riding. Equestrian sports are incredibly fun and rewarding, especially when you’re able to connect with the traditions through dress. At R.J. Classics, our goal is to provide high-quality equestrian clothing for women and girls who want to excel in the sport. Our clothing is always up to spec and is designed to give riders the confidence they need to succeed in any situation.
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