What To Wear Horseback Riding

What to Wear Horseback Riding

Horse riding is a fun thing to do, but if you are a beginner, not knowing what to wear can add on unwanted stress. If you are curious to know, then you have come to the right place.

Whether you are a newbie needing to know what to wear for your first lesson, or a friend has asked you to go riding at the weekend, then this guide will give you options when it comes to what to wear.

So, to avoid buying something that you really do not need, let us get to it. 

The Basics

It does not matter what type of horseback riding you are planning to do, you should always start with the basics when it comes to what to wear. Whilst styles may be different, you want to always make sure that you are safe and comfortable.

What to Wear Horseback Riding

A Hat

If you want to protect your head from a potential fall, then wearing a helmet is necessary. This also includes on the beach, or other softer areas. Falling off a horse can cause quite the impact on the head, so it is always better to be safer.

Never opt for a helmet designed for another sport, for example cycling. Each helmet has different areas of protection due to the way you may fall off a horse or a bicycle. 

If you do not have a hat to hand, always ask to borrow one and never go without. If in doubt, purchase your own such as the inexpensive Troxel Equestrian hat, or if you want it to look like a cowboy hat but with protection, try the Resistol Unisex RideSafe for a bit of fun.

Just A Side Note: If a horseback riding helmet has been dented in a fall or impacted in some way, never reuse it. Once this has happened, it is no longer safe and needs to be discarded. Also, the fit matters. If it moves forward as you change direction with your head, then it is the wrong fit. 

Clothes That Do Not Chafe

If you are new to horseback riding, then you may be prone to saddle sores or chafing. To help avoid this from happening, you must wear appropriate clothing that can help to protect your skin, rather than make it worse.

A short horseback ride should not make a difference, unless the pants you have on chafe. If it is a long ride, take precautions by choosing seamless underwear, and adding a lubricant or powder to areas that may be prone to rubbing.

What to Wear Horseback Riding

Heeled Boots

Whilst we are not talking high fashion heels, ½ inch heeled boots can do a great job at keeping your feet inside the stirrups. This means that they will not fall out or fall through, and you can easily remove your feet if you have an unplanned dismount.

Also, the heel can be on long boots, short boots or even hybrid sneakers. So long as you do not mind them getting dirty, they will be fine to wear. 

What To Wear On A Horseback Ride

If you are planning to go on a long horseback ride, then you may be wondering what to wear to make sure you are safe, yet super comfortable. There are a number of options, but it is always best to stay with the basics (as said above).

Because we have already covered wearing a hat, we will skip that here, but never, ever go horseback riding without a well fitted, safety checked hat.

What to Wear Horseback Riding

Riding Pants

When you are looking for the perfect pair of breeches or jodhpurs, make sure that comfort comes before style. You need a pair that will feel extremely pleasant as you will be wearing them for a number of hours at a time.

Ill fitting pants can cause chaffing and help saddle sores to start forming, so just because a pair might look great, it does not mean they are suitable for you.

If you are wondering which one to purchase out of breeches and jodhpurs, then it is all down to your footwear. Breeches are best worn with long boots, whilst jodhpurs are cut differently so suit shorter boots.

What to Wear Horseback Riding


Having the right footwear is important for many reasons, so if you are planning to horseback ride for the long term, you will need to invest in something suitable.

It is always best to have a slight heel as well as a smooth sole. Whilst there is not much grip, the heel will do all the work. 

If you plan to wear long boots, at first they can appear quite restricting when it comes to movements, but they protect the inside of the leg. Short boots are a common choice and allow for extra flexibility.

What to Wear Horseback Riding

Body Protector

Wearing a body protector on a long ride is really important because you always have to be prepared for a potential fall, even if you think it will not happen. It can also protect you if the horse kicks too, and can make a novice rider feel more confident.

Whilst it is always best to get one professionally fitted, it is fine to buy one straight-up due to it generally being best to wear one no matter what. 

It is a flexible item that includes a segmented body to help with movement, and is normally created using military grade mesh and light foam, but this can vary amongst brands.

It is usually worn over your clothes, but can be placed under a jacket or coat if the weather is cold or raining.

What to Wear Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding Gloves

A little bit like playing the guitar, over time hands can become calloused. To make sure hands stay blister free and super soft, a good option is to wear horseback riding gloves.

Whilst it is tempting just to buy any old pair of gloves, it is recommended that you wear specific horseback riding gloves.

This is because they have been made to be grippy around the area where you need to hold the reins, for example, and are thin enough to be able to feel everything you are doing without them being bulky. 

Unplanned Horseback Riding With A Friend/Family

If your friend or a family member has asked if you would like to go horseback riding this weekend, then you are probably wondering what to wear – especially if you did not ask them.

If it is amongst the stables in a casual setting, rather than a long ride, then you can go a bit more casual. So long as you know you will have a good fitting hat, we can move on to the other areas.

Firstly, think about how comfortable you will need to feel and then see what you have in your closet. A good pair of jeans that are not too tight or loose will be a great option so long as they do not feel too snug between the calves. You really do want to avoid chafing!

A regular shirt or sweater will be fine, so long as it does not look like you are heading to the bar afterwards. Keep it simple, and look at the weather beforehand just in case you are wearing something too thick for the heat.

Lastly, you will want to find footwear with a slight heel, whether that is a chelsea boot or wellington boots. So long as you do not mind getting them dirty, and that they have a slight heel, they will be fine.

Things To Avoid

Whilst there are plenty of options when it comes to what to wear horse riding, there are a few things you should avoid if you want to be comfortable and safe.

What to Wear Horseback Riding

Certain Jewelry

Jewelry can be worn when you horseback ride, but it needs to be something that cannot be pulled just in case something does happen like a fall, or if you accidentally snag it and cause yourself injury. Stud earrings are absolutely fine, however.

What to Wear Horseback Riding

Wrong Footwear

The shoes you wear can make a big difference to safety and if you are comfortable. You will be making commands using your heels and legs, so will need to make sure the shoes you wear can live up to the job if you are going in and out of the stirrups.

Footwear such as clogs, high fashion shoes or boots, slides and flip flops should not be worn. Some of these types of shoes may fall off, and also you should expect to have dirty footwear at times, so do not wear your best Alexander McQueen sneakers.

What to Wear Horseback Riding

Tight Pants Or Shorts

Even though the pants that horseback riders wear are tight, you do not want them to be too tight. This can cause unwanted friction and chafing at the hem in delicate areas, as well as potentially pinch at the inner calves. 

Shorts are the same, and should never be worn for horseback riding.

On the other hand, your clothes should not be too bulky either. Wearing a pair of pants that fit well is the perfect answer.

What to Wear Horseback Riding

Fashion Shirts

As we have stated above, it is perfectly fine to wear a basic shirt that is not specifically for horseback riding. Whilst that is okay, you should avoid wearing anything too excessive such as a top that has holes in, or plastics jewels added to it, etc.

Keep it basic, and leave your best clothes for a different day. It is better to wear something you do not mind getting dirty, and that will clean well without needing special washing instructions.

What to Wear Horseback Riding

A Dress

Whilst it may look super comfortable, it actually is not, especially if it is a long dress because it will get in the way – however, due to the positioning of legs, you also do not want to wear a short dress.

The flow of the skirt can cause an accident when dismounting and mounting, so extra care would need to be taken, especially if you plan to do so in a wedding dress.

Also, due to having very little fabric underneath the dress, it will also be very uncomfortable and cause chafing and potential saddle sores on the legs. If you are planning on wearing a dress, find a pair of shorter leggings to go with it.

Still Struggling On What To Wear

If you are still a little worried about what to wear, then the best thing you can do is ask. It will take away the stress you are feeling, especially if you are going to your first lesson or riding with a friend.

Whilst you do not want to wear the wrong thing to avoid embarrassment, so long as you do not turn up in flip flops and the best pair of jeans you own, then you will be fine.

Final Words

Learning to ride a horse for the first time can be nerve wracking enough (and exciting), but it also brings along with it its own kind of stress and worries. What to wear is one of them, especially if you have never ridden a horse before and you do not know what it feels like.

Jeans are a sensible option for those who have nothing else that might protect their legs, and a plain sweater or shirt will do just fine. So long as you get the basics right, then you are good to go.

Catherine McDowl
Latest posts by Catherine McDowl (see all)