Any seasoned rider knows just how important the right gear for horseback riding is. When it comes to the right equipment for horseback riding, it’s not only the saddle, stirrups, and hardy equipment that are important but also the attire. That’s why the attire is also a very integral part of the equipment that you’ll need for horseback riding.
Horseback riding is one activity that is quite inundated by the equipment. Choosing what to get can be quite overwhelming, so it’s not surprising that many ask the question what do you need for horseback riding.
While being on the back of a horse can be an exhilarating experience, it can also be a dangerous sport. That’s why it’s so important that you go riding with the right gear for horseback riding to avoid any injuries.
How To Choose The Best Equipment For Horseback Riding
The gear that you choose for horseback riding will depend on your riding discipline. Whether you ride English or Western, all equipment for horseback riding has different specifications that you need to keep in mind. When it comes to the attire, you’ll want to look at the fabric and durability. For the other gear for horseback riding, size, style and durability are important.
This is an essential factor for all gear that you’ll be putting on your animal. For English riding disciplines, the size of the saddle is smaller than other saddles to ensure closer contact with your horse. Western saddles are larger as they allow for better weight distribution across the horse’s back. When choosing a saddle you should also make sure that it fits you as a rider and is also properly sized for your horse. Saddle pads will match the size of your saddle. They should be longer than the skirt of your saddle.
Size also matters when selecting a girth for English riding or cinch for Western riding. You’ll have to measure your horse’s girth area to get the right size. This needs to be done with the saddle pad and saddle on the horse for English riding.
Saddle pads are used to add comfort and protection for your horse’s back and also to absorb sweat. Saddle pads also come in English and Western styles to match your saddle. While English saddle pads are available in different shapes it’s important that the saddle pad acts as a complete barrier between the saddle and the horse’s back. Western saddle pads usually resemble blankets and are rectangular in shape. Depending on the saddle that you have, you will also need to use the right style of girth or cinch.
When it comes to attire for horseback riding, you’ll want to make sure that the material of your outfits match the riding conditions. Moisture-wicking or thermoregulation materials are good for horseback riding pants or shirts, depending on the weather conditions. Horseback riding shoes should also be made from sturdy, durable material that will go the distance. As for the socks, you’ll want something that’s breathable and comfortable.
What Should I Wear To My First Horseback Riding Lesson?
For your first class, the right attire is important. Depending on the style that you’ll be riding you’ll need the following list of things.
- Horseback riding boots
- Horseback riding socks
- A helmet
- Horseback riding pants or comfortable jeans
- A well-fitting shirt
Is English or Western Riding Easier?
Western riding is considered easier for beginners because of the larger size of the saddle. It makes a beginner feel more comfortable and secure. English riding on the other hand has a smaller saddle and requires a bit more coordination and balance.
This is possibly the most important piece of gear for horseback riding and the most expensive part of the equipment. As stated earlier, the design of the saddle depends on the riding discipline. English riding saddles are specifically for English riders. They’re smaller than the other saddles so that the rider has closer contact with the horse, which is necessary for this kind of riding. If you ride English, a good, affordable saddle to check out is the Acerugs All Purpose English Riding Horse Saddle.
Western saddles, on the other hand, are larger than English saddles as they were specifically designed for comfort for cowboys. They allow for better weight distribution and better seating space. Acerugs also has an excellent All Natural Cowhide Western Leather Horse Saddle. This saddle tack set is durable and of excellent value for money. Another Western saddle that you could consider is the Wintec 250 All Purpose Saddle.
One important feature that you need to keep in mind when buying a saddle is the weight. Healthy horses should not carry more than 20 percent of their body weight so you need to keep that in mind when getting a saddle. Your saddle should not touch the horse’s spine either as it will cause great discomfort to the animal.
The size of the saddle is another important factor. It should fit the rider properly and not be sticking out too far behind you once you’re on the horse. Apart from being the right fit for the rider, the saddle should also be the right size for your horse. A saddle that fits the horse right will not move up or down too much and will be evenly balanced.
Once you’ve picked out a saddle, the next bit of gear for horseback riding to look out for is the Saddle Pad. These come in a wide range of materials and shapes which can be a bit confusing for a new rider. Fleece and cotton are the most popular materials used because of their moisture-wicking properties, but you’ll find many other synthetic options. These variants are also good as they’re easier to clean and generally more affordable.
Saddle pads are meant to absorb sweat and also protect the back of your horse. Similar to horseriding saddles, saddle pads also come in two styles to suit the riding discipline. Western saddles are easier to pick out as they resemble blankets and have a fairly rectangular shape. English saddle pads, on the other hand, come in a variety of shapes.
What you need to keep in mind when picking out a saddle pad is that it’s for the horse’s protection. With that in mind, make sure that the saddle pad leaves no part of the saddle exposed to the horse’s back. How you place the saddle pad is the same for both disciplines. It should be placed below the saddle to protect the horse’s back without interfering with its mobility or causing discomfort.
It goes without saying that the size of your saddle pad should suit your saddle. If you’re picking out a saddle pad for a western saddle make sure to measure the length and width of the skirt of your saddle. Western saddle pads should ideally be a few inches longer than the saddle skirt. For an English saddle, the saddle pad should be longer than the seat of the saddle and the flaps.
Depending on your riding discipline you’ll either require a girth or cinch to secure the saddle and saddle pad to your horse’s back. The girth should fit right to avoid discomfort by hampering the horse’s movement.
English riding uses a girth while Western riders look for a cinch. This piece of essential equipment is one of the more affordable pieces of gear for horseback riding and can be priced anywhere from $15 to $100.
To get the right size for your animal you’ll need to measure the horse’s girth area. English riders should make sure that their saddle and saddle pad is on the horse when measuring the girth. Western riders, however, can measure directly for a cinch without having the saddle on. Some Western saddles also have a second strap called a back cinch or flank.
Bridles and Reins
When it comes to choosing bridles and reins as gear for horseback riding you’ll probably get confused with the number of styles that are available. Since both riding disciplines hold the reins differently, there is a noticeable difference between the bridles and reins for both. While English bridles may come with a noseband, browband, and throat latch, you probably won’t find a similar setup with Western bridles. English bridles usually have leather-braided reins while Western reins are much longer than their English counterparts and have two different strands of flat leather.
Bridles are available in various sizes to suit the age of the horse. You’ll find bridles for ponies, cobs, drafts, and horses. It’s easy to pick out the bridle when you know what type of horse you have. Another thing to note is that a bridle consists of many parts, so you should make sure that each part fits your horse right.
While some riders may argue against using a bit for a horse, if used right, the bit helps the rider communicate with the horse. This small piece of gear for horseback riding fits into the horse’s mouth and connects to the reins. It sits in the gap between the back molars and front teeth.
There are all kinds of bits available, from those that are soft and easy on the mouth, to harder ones. However, bits come in two main categories – snaffle bits and leverage bits or curbs. Snaffle bits have a single jointed mouthpiece while leverage bits have shanks. Bits that have more breaks and links are much harsher than smooth thin bits.
Several types of materials are used for bits ranging from rubber, iron, and plastic. Quite understandably, rubber is easiest on the mouth. As with any of the equipment that you need for horseback riding, the bit too should fit your horse correctly. Bits should apply just the right amount of pressure so that the horse is not uncomfortable. Even the mildest bit can be uncomfortable for the horse if not handled well.
Riders require some kind of support for their feet when they’re sitting high up on a horse’s back. This support comes from stirrups that hang on either side of the saddle. There are slight variations in the English and Western riding stirrups, with the most noticeable difference being in the size. Western stirrups are slightly wider to accommodate cowboy boots and allow the foot to slide out easily.
Stirrups can be a bit of a riding hazard if they’re not paired with the right horseback riding shoes. The wrong shoes can slip through the stirrups or get caught in them. This can be especially dangerous if a rider is thrown from the horse. That’s one reason why some English saddles come with safety bars that allow the stirrup leather to fall off the saddle if a rider falls off.
Western saddles also have safety measures in place for stirrups. The wide stirrups of these saddles prevent the foot from getting trapped. Some western stirrups are also hooded to prevent the foot from sliding.
Now that we’ve covered most of the gear that goes onto your horse, it’s time to look at the rider. Without a doubt, one of the more essential items of your attire is a helmet. Like most sports where there is a danger of a rider falling over, you’ll find a helmet is one of the essential parts of the gear. Whether it’s the best helmets for rollerblading or the best helmets for kayaking, this piece of gear protects one of the most vital parts of the body; the brain. When wearing a helmet, it’s important that the helmet fits snugly on your head and doesn’t move.
The best helmets for horseback riding cover the whole skull to ensure every part of the brain is protected. These helmets are also designed to protect the rider from an accidental horse-kick. Make sure that you get a helmet that is ASTM approved.
If you choose a helmet that has a brim it’s important that the brim is removable or can break off easily if you fall. Brims can be dangerous if you face-plant as they can cause serious injuries to your neck or spine.
While many Western riders prefer to stick to their riding hats, there are quite a few who realize the importance of the protection that a helmet provides. Riding with a helmet is more prevalent among English riders.
Safety vests are not an absolute essential part of your gear for horseback riding but they are a good option if you want extra protection. These heavily padded vests protect your vital organs and spine from injury if you have a bad fall. Though they may look bulky, they’re extremely lightweight.
Safety vests are commonly worn by eventers and rodeo riders. They fit well under dressage jackets or a under a colorful jersey, like eventers wear. While these vests are available in different colors and styles, there are two main types of vests. Some that come with an air system that is set off if the rider is thrown from the horse, and the other with protective foam. The body protector is the preferred choice of the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) as it offers additional defense as opposed to the air vest. They also come in a good range of sizes for adults and children.
If you do plan on buying a safety vest you need to make sure that it fits well. For the right protection, the top of the vest should reach the uppermost area of the sternum and the bone at the back of the neck. You should also make sure that the front is at least two finger’s lower than the ribcage.
Upper Body Clothing
This is probably one of the easiest items to pick out for your gear for horseback riding. If you’re riding for leisure and not for any competition you’re spoilt for choice with the options available. You can wear a plain T-shirt if you like or a long-sleeved shirt. Competitors, however, will have the riding clothes spelled out for them according to the event requirements.
You can choose to wear a top that is long or short sleeves but it needs to be form-fitting so as to avoid any snags. During summer it’s a better idea to wear synthetic over cotton. Synthetic dries faster than cotton when you sweat, that’s why it’s preferred. In winter it’s a good idea to wear a vest or a thermal shirt underneath your clothes to keep you warm.
Western riders prefer the cowboy look that jeans provide, but when it comes to the best pants for horseback riding, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. Pants that have a prominent inner seam on the leg will not work well as they can cause irritation and discomfort while riding. Baggy pants should also be avoided as they can get caught in your equipment for horseback riding.
The ideal pair of pants for horseback riding are breeches and jodhpurs as these have been specifically designed with riding in mind. Breeches are generally made from a thin, gripping fabric that allows for closer contact between the rider and the animal. Most riding breeches also come with knee patches and full seats for added comfort. These pants only come down to around the mid-calf and fit inside tall riding boots without causing any discomfort.
Jodhpurs, on the other hand, are longer and come all the way down to the ankles. Barring the length, they’re almost identical to breeches but are more suited to shorter boots. These pants are more popular with children and young riders.
Like we mentioned earlier, many riders love their blue jeans when riding. The versatility and durability that these pants provide is quite unparalleled. They’re also exceptionally convenient for those working in a barn as you can go from the saddle to the barn within no time. All kinds of jeans will not do for riding though. You need to make sure that your jeans are high-waisted and comfortable. These days thicker tights are also becoming increasing popular for horseback riding because of the stretch that
Gloves are another piece of clothing that is not considered an essential part of the equipment for horseback riding. One of the reasons why riders are not too keen on gloves is that they feel that it hinders the movement of their fingers. It also makes it difficult to understand the horse’s muzzle signals. However, just like the best ice-fishing gloves, horse riding gloves offer good protection for the hands. They prevent the hands from getting chaffed by the reins and also protect the hands from adverse weather conditions.
Contrary to popular belief, riding gloves also improve the hand’s grip on the reins. The palms of the gloves are usually covered with non-slip materials for a better grip. Most gloves for horseback riding also have a booster around the 4th-5th finger, index finger and thumb to increase the durability.
Riding gloves are available for the whole year or specifically for winter. Predictably, winter gloves are made of thicker materials and are also padded. Gloves for the summer are more breathable and generally made from perforated leather. As with any gear for horseback riding, the fit is of utmost importance. An ill-fitting pair of gloves will be more of a hindrance than a help.
Horseback Riding Shoes
It goes without saying that the right horseback riding shoes are one of the most important items of your gear for horseback riding. Shoes for horseback riding are available in a wide range of styles and sizes to suit all levels of learners. While riding boots are the preferred choice of most riders, there are other kinds of shoes that can also be used for riding. Riding sneakers, some hiking boots, and muck boots can also double up as horseback riding shoes.
When choosing riding shoes the important feature to look out for is the heel and tread. Riding shoes generally have a small tread and a heel that is about one and a half to two inches high. They’re also narrower on the foot than regular shoes as they need to fit comfortably in the stirrups.
Horseback riding boots also come in two main categories – tall boots and short boots. Tall boots can go all the way to the knees and are generally preferred by English riders. The most common type of these boots is clean black riding boots, also known as dress boots. These boots are stiffer than field boots which are also tall boots with laces on the top.
The short riding boots known as paddock boots are cheaper and easier to wear. That’s one reason why they’re preferred by children and beginners. These boots are similar to jodhpur boots but have noticeable differences such as the rubber soles and material. Jodhpurs are made from fine leather and have wooden soles. Both these short boots can be paired with half chaps or gaiters for added protection.
Western boots are another popular choice of riding boots for their distinctive style and durability. You’ll find the traditional cowboy boots with a one-and-a-half-inch tall heel which makes them comfortable for walking around. They usually come up to the mid-calf and are a good option for leisure riders. Tall cowboy riding boots are distinguishable from the angled two-inch heel and smooth holds. Some of the best women’s boots for horseback riding are Western boots.
While the above equipment for horseback riding is some of the essentials that you’ll need, there are a few less important items that you should also consider. For one, a good pair of horseback riding socks is important to match your shoes. This item of clothing may seem unimportant but the wrong pair of socks can cause extreme discomfort. Socks made from 100% cotton will make your riding experience highly uncomfortable in the summer. It’s a good idea to get material that wicks moisture away from the skin.
If you’re wearing short boots, half chaps or chaps are a good addition. The reason being they protect your legs from chafing against the saddle and also from scratches on the trail.
Off the horse, a halter and lead rope are also important to catch and lead your horse. A grooming kit for your horse and a first aid kit and also handy additions to your gear.