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What to Wear for Horse Riding: A Beginner's Guide

If you’re thinking of taking up recreational horse riding or you want to get more serious with your hobby, there are some essentials which you will need to ensure you’re safe and protected at all times. In this guide, we will be sharing our top tips for what to wear for horse riding when you’re a beginner, covering:
•   Riding Hats
•   Riding Boots
•   Riding Tops
•   Riding Body Protectors
•   Riding Trousers
•   Riding Jackets and Coats
•   Riding Gloves


Riding Hats

With a wide variety of sizes and styles to choose from, "what riding hat should I buy?" is one of the most frequently asked questions by beginners looking to build up their horse-riding kit. Protective head wear is an essential, not just in the saddle, but also on the ground while handling horses.

What type of riding hat do I need?

It’s important that you choose a riding hat that will complement the type of riding that you do, whether you are building up to become a showjumper or you simply want to take it on as a recreational hobby.

Skull cap: These don’t have a solid peak, which minimises the chances of injury if the rider should fall. Skull caps can be used for all types of riding from hacking down a lane to jumping a x-country round at a four-star event like Badminton. There are a massive range of these hats on offer from ones with features including leather harnesses and ventilation holes.

Dressage, show jumping and hacking: A traditionally shaped riding hat with a peak is acceptable for these activities. There are plenty of styles available, from the lightweight and highly ventilated to the more classic look in a variety of colours and designs.

Once you find the right riding hat for you, it’s important that you care for it properly. This means keeping it out of the heat, as high temperatures can melt the protective heavy-duty polystyrene layer inside the hat, as well as cleaning it with specialist products to preserve it.

If you do have a fall, it’s crucial that you buy a new hat to replace your current one immediately. This is because any impact could cause the air pocket inside the internal material the hat is made from— which protects your head — to burst, meaning it can no longer offer you the protection it should.

It’s always advised to choose a riding hat that adheres to the standard. For Britain, this means that your hat must be certified with PAS 015:1998, PAS 015:2011, or VG1 to offer you the ultimate protection — you can find more information about the criteria in the updated advice from BETA.

Which riding hat fit should I choose?

There are two types of  fit available in riding hats to choose from: single size and adjustable. For young beginners, an adjustable one will be the better choice as it offers a potential longer life span than a single sized hat for a growing child.

Single size: These hats are fitted specifically to the rider and can offer greater protection around the neck and head. This means they are good for those who ride competitively.

Adjustable: These hats can be adapted to the rider’s head usually with a slider or dial at the back which means there is more leeway for the hat to grow with their heads over time. These are commonly used in riding schools and for young children.

How do I know if my hat is the right fit?

Every riding hat will have a protective liner inside which is made of a high-grade polystyrene which acts as a buffer between the impact and your head to help to prevent brain damage and bruising. When you have a fall, the shell of the hat disperses the impact so it’s less of a shock to your head.

While the style of your riding hat is entirely up to you, however it’s crucial that you find one to suit your head shape as only then will it provide you with the maximum protection from any falls. To find the perfect fit, you’ll need to ensure it:
•    Rests on your head between your ears and eyebrows. If it’s any higher or lower, it won’t offer your head enough protection should you have an accident.
•    Fits comfortably without squeezing or applying any pressure to your temples, as this can cause discomfort and headaches.
•    Doesn’t move easily when the harness is fastened — this should include both the chin strap and the one that fits around the back of the neck. If it’s not immediately obvious, try shaking your head to check if there is any motion. If it does move, this means that the hat is too big for you and could slip to the side during a fall. If you think you’re between two sizes, go for the closer fitting one rather than looser, as this will be able to offer you the most protection.

And, be sure to never buy a second-hand hat as you won’t know what has happened to it before purchase — even dropping it on the floor can significantly reduce the protection offered.

We stock great ranges of velvet riding hats for women, men and kids, from top brands such as Charles Owen, Gatehouse, Champion and Uvex so everybody is sure to find a safety hat to keep them protected while out with the horses.

Riding boots

Riding Boots are another crucial element of kit you’ll need to buy before you can take up the sport.

There are two main types of horse-riding boots available: short (ankle height) and long (knee height).

Short boots: These boots are great for beginners as they offer the riding sole, a small heel which helps to prevent the foot slipping through the stirrup iron. These boots also have a relatively flat grip which allows the foot to move as required without slipping. . As short boots tend to be far less expensive than long riding boots it makes these great for children with growing feet.

Long boots: Longer riding boots give a traditional and professional feel to your riding outfit. There are two main types of horse-riding long boot available: field boots and dress boots.

Field boots: These are the more versatile and flexible of the two, making them great for beginners. They have lacing at the ankle so you can adjust them to fit you perfectly and are ideal for all kinds of riding and jumping.

Dress boots: These are made from a stiffer type of leather and aren’t as flexible around the ankles, making them popular with dressage and show jumpers. This is because the higher intensity of the sport in these cases calls for increased leg and ankle support.

If you love the look of long boots but you can’t find a pair that fit or you aren’t quite ready to commit financially to your dream pair, there is the option of short boots with gaiters and chaps. This combination gives the look and protection of a long boot but gives more flexible sizing.

How are riding boots supposed to fit?

To get the perfect fit for your long riding boots, you’ll need to take three measurements before you head to the shops:

1.    You will need to know the standard sizing of your feet— if you are searching for boots for a growing child, it’s best to get this done as close to the time you’ll be shopping for them as possible, as their shoe sizing may have changed rapidly since you last got them measured.

2.    You will also need to know the width of your calf and the length of your lower leg (from the back of your knees to the floor). The best way of getting these measurements accurately is to ensure you’re sitting down with your leg bent and foot on the floor.
When you try riding boots on, it’s a good idea to wear thick socks to get a true representation of the fit when you’ve got your riding kit on. And, don’t be tempted to just try one boot on, as it’s rare to have the exact same measurements for both legs and feet. Long riding boots should sit comfortably underneath the back of the knee — bear in mind that the length will usually drop with wear.

How to break in riding boots

If your riding boots feel stiff when you first get them, you’ll need to break them in. This means softening the leather to ensure it shapes to your legs and doesn't cause any painful blisters or rubbing.

To do this, we recommend wearing your boots around the house for a few hours at a time and standing on the edge of a step and flexing your ankles up and down. Once the leather has visibly creased around the ankles, they should be comfortable to ride in.

Here at Houghton Country, we have a great selection of kids’, women’s and men’s riding boots.

Riding Tops

For experienced riders who will be entering shows and competitions, a tie or stock shirt is the order of the day. However, when you’re a beginner or just casually riding, you can get away with wearing most things. Of course, you’ll need to ensure it will be warm or cool enough given the weather, but you also need to make sure it’s breathable and stretchy. You use your arms a lot in horse riding, so it’s important that they aren’t restricted in any way.

We recommend going with a casual polo shirt, long- or short-sleeved T-shirt, a base layer or a zip-up top for optimum flexibility. We have wide ranges of polo shirts and rugby tops for men, as well as polo shirts and tops for women and children. There are many colours, sizes and styles available, all from leading equestrian brands.

Riding Body Protectors

Whatever level you’re at, a riding body protector is an essential for your horse-riding kit, as it will help to reduce the severity of impact during a fall or if a horse kicks out while you're on the ground. This piece of protective clothing acts as a barrier to absorb shock and disperse it to lessen the blow. It’s always best to get these professionally fitted, or to ensure that you have got the perfect fit before buying one. There is no one-size-fits-all for horse riding body protectors, so it’s important that you check what measurements certain manufacturers need to find a suitable riding protector for you. In most cases, you will need to:

1.    Use a measuring tape to measure the widest part of your chest and the narrowest part of your waist, making sure that the tape feels snug but not tight at these points.

2.    Take a measurement of the length of your spine. To do this, sit in a chair and get somebody to take a tape measure from the nape of your neck to the bottom of your spine. You should then knock off around two inches from the final measurement to ensure your body protector won’t interfere with the saddle when you’re riding.

3.    Take a measurement from the front of your waist, over your shoulder and to the back of your waist.

The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) categorises horse riding body protectors on the amount of shock absorption they offer. They recommend protectors that satisfy level 3 for general riding as well as competitive riding as this will prevent low-level bruising and prevent some fractures of the rib. The current standards which are acceptable by the majority of organisations are EN 13158: 2009 BETA Level 3 2009 & EN13158: 2018 BETA Level 3 2018 however it is always worth a check of the competition rules to ensure you have the correct protection

If you have a heavy fall, it’s important that you replace this as the protective layer it offers may have been impacted and every 3–5 years as materials may degrade and reduce protection.
We have a range of body protectors for men, women and kids, so you’re bound to find one to suit any age, as well as body shape and size. 

Riding Trousers

In general, it’s possible to wear leggings or tracksuit bottoms for horse riding when you’re a beginner going no faster than walking speed. If you plan to go faster than this, you will need to be wearing long or short boots with chaps or gaiters to avoid the stirrup leathers from nipping and pinching your legs. However, jodhpurs and breeches have been designed specifically to protect the lower leg to help reduce the risk of chafing or damage to the skin. And, as these horse-riding trousers are fitted to the legs, they won’t hinder free movement, which is crucial for riding.

Breeches are streamlined to the ankle to reduce bulk under long boots and gaiters. In comparison, jodhpurs will go down to your ankles and are best worn with short boots as the knee patches help to protect your calves.
Although they are designed to be snug, you shouldn’t struggle to get comfortable in your horse-riding trousers, as this would suggest you haven’t got the right fit.

To ensure you find the correct fit, you’ll need to:
1.    Decide on the style you want: There are plenty of styles available, including low-rise, traditional and high-rise, so you will need to assess these and decide which you would prefer.

2.    Measure yourself: If you go with traditional or high-rise jodhpurs, you will need to measure the narrowest point of your waist, whereas you’ll need to do the widest point of your hips for low-rise styles. You will also need to know what your inside leg measurement is for all of these.

3.    Consult the brand’s measurements: Each brand will have slightly differing measurements, with some providing short, long and regular leg lengths, so make sure you compare your measurements to the brand’s size guide before you buy.

4.    Check the fit: Your breeches or jodhpurs shouldn’t gape at the waist and any knee patches you may have chosen to include rest on your knee and not any higher or lower.

An alternative for casual riding wear is riding tights: a hybrid of yoga trousers and jodhpurs. They are pull on, made from lightweight stretchy fabric for summer or a thicker stretchy material for winter, and some are even lined with microfleece for extra comfort.

We have fantastic selections of breeches and jodhpurs for men, women and kids.

Riding Jackets and Coats

Riding jackets are a part of the uniform for the hunting field or competitive riders, but they only offer minimum protection against falls or your horse scratching or pinching you with the reins and bridle when you're on the ground. There are a huge range of riding jackets on the market and it is important that you know what colour of jacket you're required to wear if you plan to enter a class in future.

On the other hand, horse-riding coats are great for everyday riding and yard work. As a beginner, we would recommend you choose a coat that you don't mind getting dirty or becoming worn over the course of your hobby. Generally, it's best to go with a lightweight, waterproof style which is roomy as riding and tacking up takes a lot of movement. Alternatively, a stretchy sports jacket will be suitable in good weather.

If you are riding a lot, it's worth looking at a specialist riding coat in either a short or long style. The long style with a long vent in the back is brilliant for cold and wet weather. The short style also has vents in the back to make them more comfortable to ride in as these allow the jacket to open out at the base, and in most models, they can be zipped closed for normal wear. However, there are other options you may want to consider. These include:

Softshell riding jackets: These softer and cooler alternatives provide you with a lightweight layer that is perfect for everyday wear. As the ‘shell’ part would suggest, they do have the benefit of being showerproof, but they do not offer full wet-weather protection, so it’s best to have another jacket for this. Softshell jackets are particularly flexible and roomy, meaning you will have free movement when wearing one.

Fleece riding jackets: These are a great option for warmer days where there’s a bit of a breeze and can even be worn as a mid-layer beneath a riding coat. To ensure you find a suitable fleece jacket, you should look out for stretch panels and windproof inner linings, as well as ensuring it has a full zip and not a half-zip. This is because taking clothing off over your head can be difficult and dangerous to do while on a horse.

Down riding jackets: These are great for winter as they offer optimum warmth for the coldest weather but feel lightweight. They are good for low-intensity activities, but not if you plan to be busy mucking out stables as it's easy to get very warm doing this.
Whether you’re shopping for a specialist riding jacket or a more casual country coat, you need to make sure that the fit is right. For example, you should check whether it feels tight across the chest or back when done up, or whether it feels restrictive when moving your arms. Remember that you are likely to have layers underneath your outerwear, so your jacket needs to allow room for this.

We offer a wide range of riding jackets for women, men and kids.

Riding Gloves

It’s important your hands are protected when you’re out with your horse. Horse-riding gloves are ideal whether you need to protect your hands from the cold weather or from gripping onto the reins. While some people might be tempted to just use a pair of ordinary gloves, they don’t offer the grip and support that specialist riding ones do.

What fabric should I go for?

There are so many styles available and, while the decision about fabric is ultimately down to preference, there are a couple of things to consider when choosing your riding gloves. For example, some of the hardest-wearing and protective gloves are made from leather, but these won’t allow beginners to get a real feel of the reins from the outset. Instead, we recommend Lycra or spandex gloves that offer stretch and won’t act as much of a barrier between your hands and the reins. For the optimum experience, look for styles that have rubber grip dots on the palm for extra safety while on the horse.

What size gloves do I need?

Before you begin your search, you’ll need to know how to measure your hands for your riding gloves. Many manufacturers will make gloves in half-inch measurements or standard sizes from extra-small to extra-large. To ensure your gloves fit right, you’ll need to ensure they fit snug but don’t feel restrictive or make it hard for you to flex your hands.
When measuring your hand, take a soft tape measure and wrap it around the widest part of your hand (leaving your thumb out). Make sure the tape measure is not too tight or loose around the hand and check the inch measurements to see what size gloves you should be shopping for. If your hand isn’t measuring up as a half or whole inch, you should round it up. For example, if the tape measure reads 5 ¾ inches, you should buy riding gloves to fit a 6-inch hand width.

View our ranges of riding gloves for women, men and kids.

Knowing what to wear for horse riding for the first time can seem confusing, but with this simple guide, you should hopefully know what you need and how to choose your equestrian attire. We have riding wear for all ages here at Houghton Country, with durable and quality products for women, men and kids.

Want to find out more about the lines we stock? Our blog has plenty of equestrian and country news, including product reviews and range information. Or, call in to meet our helpful sales advisors. If you’d prefer to buy over the phone or want to get some advice on a product, feel free to give us a call on 01661 853 110.