Horseback riding is an enjoyable pastime that anyone can participate in. First, you need to learn the basics of how to ride, and second, you need to know what to wear while riding!
If it’s your first time riding a horse you may be unsure of what clothing to wear. There are lots of different styles of clothing that are commonly worn while riding. What you wear depends on what type of horseback riding you are doing, English or Western, and also what type of weather you are expecting.
The good news is there’s a suitable outfit available for everyone, Western style or English style, so keep reading to learn all about what you should wear while horseback riding!
Summer Horseback Riding Outfits
No matter who you are, you are going to want lighter clothing for hot weather summer horseback riding.
Summer temperatures can range from mild to scorching so it is not a time to be wearing heavy clothes and sitting on a sweaty animal for long periods of time.
Summer Clothing for Western Women Horseback Riders
In modern Western cultures, women are not suggested to wear dresses while riding. Some cultures still do ask for this though.
The basic Western riding shoe is the classic cowboy footwear, cowboy boots! The riding boot is the best option out of the many styles available.
The riding boot has a narrow tip made for slipping through the stirrup. It also has high heels to keep your foot from sliding through the stirrup and getting caught.
Women’s boots aren’t much different from men’s except for the boot’s color and design. Make sure to wear good boot socks as well to avoid the boot rubbing on your leg.
The most common pants worn during Western riding are a pair of jeans. Any comfortable pants that cover the legs are acceptable, but jeans are the best.
Riding a horse involves some natural rubbing of your legs on the saddle due to the movement of the horse.
If you aren’t wearing long pants, long rides could result in chafing and become very painful, especially in warm weather.
During a Western horseback riding event, women generally wear black, blue, or colored jeans, depending on the event.
There are a variety of shirts worn by women during Western riding in the summer. Any style of short-sleeved shirt or a tank top is acceptable.
It is a good idea to remember to wear sunscreen, especially on longer rides. During riding events, a nice short-sleeved western shirt, or thin material long-sleeved shirt, is normally worn.
For Western women, the most common hat is still the cowboy hat. Women’s cowboy hats are, of course, usually more feminine in style and/or coloring.
Another popular hat choice is the baseball cap. Again women’s caps are usually more feminine in color and style. Helmets are a personal preference for most western riders.
It is recommended that new riders wear a helmet though. Two choices are available for helmet styles. There are helmets that fit over a cowboy hat, and helmets that are worn without a hat.
Summer Clothing for Western Men Horseback Riders
Clothing for Western men riders really hasn’t changed that much over the last hundred years, but there are some key misconceptions to be debunked.
To start, chaps are not worn at all times during riding! Who would have guessed?
The most common footwear for Western men any time of year is the same as for Western women, cowboy boots. The only minor difference is the styling and design of the boots.
Men’s riding-style cowboy boots normally are less brightly colored and more, well, masculine. Different styles are still available for men, such as ropers and work boots.
Short boots like ropers are less recommended than tall boots though, as they don’t protect the leg as much.
Also, a small tip for wearing boots, make sure to wear tall boot socks, or else the boot can rub a painful callus on your leg.
Pants for Western men are the same as for Western women. Jeans are definitely a staple of western horseback riding.
Men have it even easier than women during competitions, however, as blue jeans for men are the standard instead of black or colored jeans.
Chaps are worn primarily when working with cattle or riding through thick brush to increase protection of the legs (Source).
Western men have a variety of shirts available to wear. The most common are the short sleeve western shirt, the long sleeve western shirt, and the short sleeve t-shirt.
Occasionally, you will also see a masculine version of the tank top worn while riding. Wearing sunscreen is a good choice to avoid painful sunburns while horseback riding.
The hats that are worn by most western men are the same as western women. The classic cowboy hat is the most common, with the baseball cap not too far behind.
There are several different types of helmets available for men’s western riding, the over-the-cowboy-hat helmet, and the basic riding helmet. Both are great options for the Western man.
Summer Clothing for English Women Horseback Riders
The most common pair of boots worn by English riders are tall riding boots.
Even in the warm weather of summer, tall riding boots are generally worn to provide protection to the foot and leg.
Women’s and men’s styles are very similar, with most styles being black or brown in color.
Riding breeches are one of the most common riding pants worn in English riding.
The summer variety is generally slightly thinner, while still maintaining enough thickness to protect the legs from chafing.
In the English riding discipline, Sun stopper shirts are a common choice during the summer.
Sunstopper shirts are long sleeve shirts that protect the upper body from the sun, while still allowing the wearer to remain cool with moisture wicking material.
Short sleeve riding shirts are also a common choice. Some also come with moisture wicking material also to help cool the wearer.
The riding helmets worn by women English riders are very similar to the ones worn by Western women. They are similar to a bike helmet, but have slightly different designs.
They are normally black in color but do come in a variety of colors to increase femininity.
Summer Clothing for English Men Horseback Riders
The most common boots worn by male English riders are tall riding boots. The tall riding boots for men are very similar to the ones for women.
Most styles have some sort of laces or buttons for decoration but are normally zipped up the back of the calf.
Like all boots, tall riding boots might get a little hot in the summer, but the protection for your leg is well worth it.
Men’s English summer riding breeches are similar to women’s summer riding breeches.
They come in a variety of colors, but almost all are made from moisture wicking materials that increase breathability.
Most men’s breeches also have small knee patches sewn on the insides of the knees for extra grip while riding.
Men’s English riding shirts usually include either a long sleeve sun stopper or a short sleeve riding shirt.
Both are acceptable for summer riding. Sun stopper shirts are made from moisture wicking material to help you stay cool while limiting the amount of skin exposed to the sun.
Short sleeve shirts also have moisture wicking material but have more exposure to the sun. Sunscreen is recommended when riding outside, especially for long rides.
Men’s English riding helmets are basically the same as women’s. They resemble a bicycle helmet with a slightly different style. They are usually black or brown in color.
Helmets are an important item during a horseback ride, especially for beginner riders.
Winter Horseback Riding Outfits
Winter riding, brrrr! Riding in the winter is nice for not sweating as much, but comes with the added discomfort of being cold!
The main keys are to bundle up and to dress in layers so you can adjust as you get warmed up.
Western Women Winter Riding Clothes
Cowboy boots are still the most common footwear for riding in the winter. Thicker socks are a must as the normal cowboy boot doesn’t have a lot of insulation.
The other option is to invest in a pair of insulated cowboy boots.
For winter riding, Western style jeans are still the main choice. There are two options to help improve the warmth of a pair of jeans, thermals or insulated jeans.
Thermals are probably the most common option. The only downfall to thermals is the wiggle-fest that always goes on when you try to get your jeans on over top of them.
Insulated jeans are a very nice option in that you avoid the wiggle-fest, but they lack the added advantage of being able to reduce layers if you end up warming up later in your ride.
Layering is a good idea when out riding in cold weather.
Some common layers worn by Western women while riding are a base layer of a thermal undershirt and a second layer of a t-shirt or long-sleeve overshirt.
Then add a third layer of a vest or light jacket and a final layer of a thick coat.
Gloves, scarves, and face warmers are also a good idea. You don’t always realize how cold your face can get until you’re out riding for hours with nothing covering it!
For winter riding, it is recommended to wear an ear protector or warm hat. Cowboy hats are still ok, but they won’t keep your head as warm.
As for helmets, ear warmers or thin insulated warm hats can be worn under a classic style helmet to trap heat in and keep you warmer.
Western Men Winter Riding Clothes
Men’s Western cowboy boots are the most common choice for winter footwear.
Insulated boots are a better option over regular cowboy boots, and a pair of thick wool socks are also recommended to keep your feet nice and toasty.
If you don’t have insulated boots or wool socks, multiple layers of socks can do a fairly good job also.
The options for men’s Western warm riding pants are about the same as for women. Insulated jeans or thermals worn under jeans are the best options.
For another layer of warmth and protection, shotgun chaps are a good option.
Chaps are commonly worn when working cows while riding but can also be useful if riding rough terrain as they provide extra protection for your legs.
Winter shirts for male Western riders are similar to those available for women.
A base layer of thermals, followed by an overshirt, then a vest or light jacket, and finally a thick coat is recommended.
Again this layering method allows you to shed layers if you warm up while riding.
Men’s hat options for Western riding in the winter include ear warmers, pilot hats, cowboy hats, and western style beanies.
Cowboy hats do not provide a lot of warmth and thus are not recommended for staying warm while riding. A warm hat to keep your body heat in will greatly improve a long trail ride.
English Women Winter Riding Clothes
The most common winter footwear for women English riders is the same as summer footwear.
You can invest in a good pair of insulated riding boots and a pair of wool socks to help keep your feet warm on chilly winter days.
Women’s English winter riding pants are the best choice for cold outdoor rides. They are usually fleece lined to keep your legs nice and warm.
Another option is to wear weather-resistant pants over your normal riding breeches.
Women’s upper body apparel for English riding during the winter is usually a combination of a base layer thermal or long-sleeve shirt, jacket or vest, and a coat.
English rider apparel usually has more of a sleek look than Western rider apparel.
Most of the shirts and jackets are form-fitting, with the vests and coats being either a fleece or puffed style. As with Western apparel, layering is a must so overheating does not occur.
Women’s winter hats for English riding are similar to those offered for Western riders.
Ear warmers and thin-insulated beanies can be worn under helmets to trap heat, or cute knit hats and beanies can be worn without a helmet.
English Men Winter Riding Clothes
Men’s winter English riding footwear is the same as women’s. A nice pair of insulated riding boots, combined with wool socks, should keep your feet nice and cozy.
English riding breeches for men during the winter months are very similar to men’s summer riding breeches.
The main difference is the thickness and thermal technology combined in the winter breeches. Both winter and summer breeches usually have knee pads sewn on for extra grip while riding.
Men’s winter shirts and jackets for English riding are very similar to what is available for women.
Masculine versions of base layer thermal shirts combined with a jacket, vest, or coat are the most common upper-body apparel.
The options for Men’s English riding winter hats are similar to Western men’s winter hats, except for the cowboy hat option.
Beanies, English style pilot hats, and ear warmers. Scarves and gloves are also good options.
Bad Weather Horseback Riding Outfits
No matter what discipline of riding you adhere to, riding in bad weather occasionally happens.
For Western riders, waterproof slickers, jackets, and chaps are all good options to keep the water off.
It is a good idea to layer under your waterproof outerwear so you can regulate your temperature.
Waterproof cowboy hats are very convenient during bad weather, as long as there is limited wind. They keep water out quite well but are very susceptible to wind.
English riders can utilize waterproof jackets and breeches. Investing in a jacket with a hood is a good idea in order to have impromptu head protection to keep water out.
Waterproof outerwear pants are also available to wear over your regular breeches so you have the added convenience of being able to change according to the weather.
What Not to Wear Horseback Riding
A few common sense rules should be followed when it comes to apparel worn during horseback riding.
- Do not wear pants that don’t cover your legs. Shorts, pants with large holes, or pants that are too loose can all encourage chafing.
- Do not wear shoes that have no heels and don’t cover the lower leg. Without heels, your foot can easily slip through the stirrup and become stuck, which is a safety hazard.
Shoes that don’t cover your lower leg can lead to the stirrup chafing on your calf or shin.
- Do not wear loose or flappy clothes with lots of excess fabric or strings that could get caught on riding gear or spook your horse.
Related Horseback Riding Clothes Questions
What types of cowboy boots are there for horseback riding?
There are four main types of boots for horseback riding.
- Walking heel tall boots
- Riding heel tall boots
- Work boots.
All four can be worn for horseback riding, but riding-heel boots are the best.
What are Paddock Boots?
Paddock boots are generally worn in the English riding style and are short boots that have a zipper and come up only to your ankles. They are a more comfortable type of riding boot.
Can Paddock Boots be worn for Western riding?
Yes! There are types of Paddock Boots that can be worn for Western style riding although most Western riders probably don’t.
What are Jodhpurs?
Jodhpurs are simply another term for riding pants but they are special riding pants. Jodhpurs are tight-fitting pants that go down to the ankle and boots cover up the bottom of them.
Jodhpurs are normally seen in competitive English style riding events.
Can Western style riders wear jodhpurs?
Yes! Some Western riders do wear jodhpurs but you will mostly see jeans as the pant of choice for a Western rider.
What accessories are good to wear while horseback riding?
The most common accessories to wear horseback riding are gloves.
Besides the needed clothing and horse tack, gloves are commonly worn to protect the rider’s hands from the leather reins.
What does an English competition rider’s outfit look like?
A competition rider’s outfit usually consists of black riding boots, white riding breeches, a white shirt, a black tie and jacket, and a black hat or helmet. It is the same for either sex.
What does a Western Pleasure competition rider’s outfit look like?
A Western Pleasure competition rider’s outfit usually consists of a solid colored western shirt, jeans with shotgun chaps, a wild rag scarf, cowboy boots, a belt and buckle, and a hat or helmet.
As with English riding attire, it is the same for either sex.
What types of safety gear are there for beginner horseback riders?
Helmets are the number one piece of safety gear for any rider. Just like with riding a motorcycle, you want to protect your head if thrown from a horse.
A crash vest is another common safety item that simply helps pad you during a fall. Both are easy to find and utilize.
Horseback Riding Clothes are Fun
Throughout this article, you have learned how to dress for different riding disciplines during all seasons of the year.
The bottom line is that choosing the right equestrian clothing is a big part of the fun of riding a horse!
You have also learned what not to wear, and what to wear while riding during bad weather. Wearing long pants and sturdy riding boots are always a must.
Shirts and jackets, as well as hats, are worn according to the weather. Remember, always try to follow these guidelines, dress comfortably, and you should have a good time riding!