Horseback riding can be an extremely enjoyable activity, and it's great outdoor exercise. However, if you're stuck in the wrong riding clothes, it can be an uncomfortable experience that you'll find yourself wishing would end as soon as possible. Fortunately, it's not difficult to put together a riding ensemble that is both attractive and serviceable. The following are basic guidelines designed to provide you with all you need to know about selecting comfortable, functional equestrian attire that'll make you look forward to that next exhilarating ride.
Headgear has two essential functions while riding a horse -- keeping the hair out of the eyes of the rider and providing head protection in the event that the rider takes a spill. Headgear should never interfere with vision or be at risk of flying off during a ride. Although it may be tempting to wear a dashing cowboy hat or an English derby, neither option offers head protection. Some horseback riders choose to wear their bicycle helmets, but these don't offer protection for the areas most likely to be affected in falls from horseback -- the forehead as well as the sides and back of the head. For optimal comfort and safety, wear a helmet that's specifically made for horseback riding that meets or exceeds the standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
Footwear needs to be well-fitting and light with low heels and tread. Many people think that any old athletic shoe will do, but sneakers, running shoes, and tennis shoes tend to have heavy tread for added traction on paved surfaces, and shoes with heavy tread run the risk of snagging in the stirrups -- anything with a waffle tread is an absolute no-no for horseback riding. You want something that slips out easily in the event you take a spill to minimize the possibility of being dragged. A one-inch heel prevents feet from slipping through the stirrups. Sandals and flipflops should never be worn even on short, casual rides in the event that your horse accidentally steps on your foot. Always wear lightweight cotton socks under your footwear.
Riding pants need to be a unique combination of snug-fitting and flexible. Loose pants put riders at risk of catching on something during the ride, which can result in being pulled off the horse and possibly injured. For casual riding, a pair of stretch pants made with a cotton/spandex blend for optimal flexibility is fine, and you can also wear certain types of jeans as long as they are neither baggy nor overly stiff. Don't wear any pants that bunch up at the knees or ankles or are flared at the bottom. Traditional riding jodphurs with leather seat patches are recommended if you do a lot of riding, and you can opt for winter-weight varieties if you like to ride when outdoor temperatures are chilly. You can also wear leather riding chaps over regular pants in winter if you want some added protection from the cold.
As with the other apparel you select for horseback riding, shirts should be snug and well-fitting in order to avoid the possibility of getting caught on something during the ride. If the weather is warm, a light-colored T-shirt is just fine. If you're going trail riding, consider wearing a long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms from being scratched by tree branches as you navigate the trail. Also, a brightly colored shirt increases your visibility while on the trail. If you're going to be spending several hours riding in an area where weather conditions tend to be changeable, wear a shirt that can easily be layered with a light jacket or snug sweatshirt.
Check out horse riding protective clothing as you put together the perfect riding outfit.