Anyone who rides will be aware of one key fact- Horse riding is expensive. Lessons are costly, the price of purchasing a horse or pony can run to many thousands of pounds, and the monthly cost of feeding and caring for any size of equine can be prohibitive.The clothes which you wear for riding are no exception, and to fully kit out a rider, be they child or adult, from head to toe can come in at well over £100, even when buying second hand.If you’re new to riding, or find yourself having to kit out your child with everything that they need to ride safely and comfortably, it’s not always clear why special horse riding clothes and equipment are so important- or costly. Are there areas where regular street clothes will do? Is it ok to buy second hand riding gear? The answers are not always simple! Let us help you out by looking at a rundown of the basic horse riding clothes, and why it is important to be correctly dressed around horses.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of horse riding clothing and equipment is the riding helmet, and a riding hat is the single most important piece of equipment which every rider should own. Riding hats are designed to protect your head in the event of a fall or impact, and your hat is the only thing that potentially stands between you and a serious head injury in the case of a fall.Can you compromise with your riding hat or use something else instead? No. A cycle helmet or any other hat which was not designed for horse riding is not appropriate to use around horses, and does not offer the required level of protection. You should never buy a second hand riding hat, as you will never be able to be totally sure of its provenance, or if it has previously been damaged in a fall. It’s vitally important to buy your riding hat new, but the good news is, that riding hats come in a wide variety of brands, sizes and styles at every stage of the price scale. You can spend hundreds of pounds on your new riding hat, or as little as £25. As long as your riding hat bears the BSI Kitemark, it will be fit for purpose- the rest is just a matter of personal choice.
One important thing to remember when picking a shirt or top for riding is that it covers your arms and also allows for free movement. A regular long sleeved shirt is fine, as is a short sleeved t shirt, providing you are wearing something else on top.Picking a suitable coat or jacket for riding is less straightforward. Theoretically, any coat or jacket that keeps you warm and dry and does not flap about is fine, and lots of riders wear brands and styles of coats that were not designed specifically for riding.However, coats designed specially for riding do have a few advantages. Longer coats are generally split up the back to provide warmth to the legs while still giving unrestricted movement in the saddle, and contain loops to fasten around the legs to keep them from flapping around.Horse riding coats are jackets are generally much more hardwearing than street wear, and may offer extra padding at the elbows, vents for comfort and a better range of movement.
The conscientious rider should always wear gloves when mounted, even in the hottest weather. Gloves are not just for keeping your hands warm, but for providing a good gripping surface on the reins, and protecting the hands in the event of a fall or if the reins or a lead rope get pulled through your fingers. Riding gloves come in many materials and styles, from expensive soft leather to woven pairs with rubberised palms at under £5 a pair- but what they all have in common is that they are reinforced in the areas where the reins pass through the fingers, provide a non slip surface on the palms, and are thick enough to provide protection for the hands while still allowing you to feel the reins unencumbered.
Jodhpurs and breeches are specially designed for riding, and much more suitable than jeans, leggings or any other type of trousers for many reasons. First of all, jodhpurs and breeches stretch in all directions, allowing for free movement in the saddle. They are also padded on the inside of the knees to extend their life from wear when in constant contact with the saddle and the flanks of the horse.Finally, you may have noticed that the inseam on jodhpurs and breaches is twisted, and does not run straight up and down the inside of the leg. This is to avoid the seam rubbing against the saddle where it is in constant contact with the leather, and so prevent chafing which can soon prove painful when wearing regular trousers or jeans.
Riding boots come in many varieties and styles, from traditional long riding boots to short Jodhpur boots and more. To add to the potential confusion, there are also lots of different types of yard boots and other footwear aimed at horse riders that are suitable for work on the ground, but not for riding in.In order to identify whether or not a pair of boots is suitable for riding in, there are various factors that you should take into consideration. First of all, the boots must have a heel of around 1” high, and not considerably higher or lower. This is to stop the foot from slipping through the stirrup. The sole of the boot must be relatively thin and not overly large. Also, the sole and the heel of the boots must be flat- the furrowed sole of footwear like Wellington boots is not suitable for riding, as it does not allow close enough contact with the stirrup and freedom to move. Finally, the boots you wear for riding should be sturdy and hardwearing enough to take a knock or stand up to potentially being stood on by a misplaced hoof- and preferably be waterproof and easy to keep clean too.
One thing that most riders will know from experience is that when riding in the winter, your feet can get very cold! Keeping your feet warm enough is important, not just from the point of view of your comfort, but so that your feet don’t get numb from the cold and so mean that you can’t move them freely or feel your contact with the stirrups. For the same reason that wearing a big thick sole on your boots is not a good idea, wearing very thick, heavy socks is not a good idea either. Keep your feet warm by wearing thin, insulated socks that are lightweight and flexible, and layer two or even three pairs of thin socks to trap heat rather than using a thicker pair.
Apart from your riding hat, most horse riding clothing and equipment can be bought second hand in order to make a saving on the purchase cost. However, new riding equipment may not be as costly as you think, and the price of specialist clothing such as riding boots and jodhpurs have fallen considerably in recent years. Don’t be afraid to shop around to find the best deals!