What To Wear Horseback Riding: Do’s, Don’ts for Style and Function

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Are you unsure of what to wear horseback riding? This guide will provide you with the do’s and don’ts for style and function. It’s important to wear proper attire for both safety and comfort while riding. Remember to choose clothing that is both practical and stylish, and always prioritize safety over fashion. So, whether you’re a beginner or experienced rider, make sure you’re dressed appropriately for your next horseback riding adventure.

Are you a first-time rider wondering what to wear? Have no fear, I’m here to cover all the do’s and dont’s of what to wear horseback riding, plus give you some stylish outfit suggestions for your time in the saddle!

image of a woman standing next to a horse wearing riding boots, jeans, and a t-shirt

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Originally published June 8, 2022 – Updated October 23, 2023

What To Wear Horseback Riding

If you’ve never ridden before, horseback riding can feel like a bit of a daunting challenge! It’s important to feel relaxed and comfortable when riding to have an enjoyable experience, for both you and your horse friend!

I’ve ridden horses for years, both as a child and teenager. And I was a member of a horse 4-H club, so I have a lot of experience in the area of what to wear horseback riding. As an adult I haven’t been able to saddle-up as much as I’d like, but I do plan to pick it up again once my kiddos are older and I have the time!

When it comes to horseback riding, comfort starts with clothing! And equally as important, in my opinion, is how to make it stylish. In this article you’ll learn all about the must-have horseback riding outfit items, what to avoid wearing, and get some great outfit inspiration for your ride. 

Must-Have Riding Outfit Items

Below I’ve compiled some of the must-have riding outfit items for your first time out in the paddock:

Riding Boots

Every horseback rider needs a functioning pair of riding boots. You don’t need to buy professional riding boots, but make sure to wear a secure pair of shoes. Your shoes/boots must have a minimum 1-inch heel to prevent your foot from slipping through the stirrups.

If you are going to be riding Western, you can stick with casual boots with a small heel or go with cowboy boots. And if you are riding English, go for a pair of comfortable ankle boots or invest in a pair of English riding boots. 

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Riding Helmet

Most stables will provide you with a riding helmet for your lesson or trail ride. If you wanted to go all out and buy your own, opt for a classic black. It does go with everything after all! Even if you are an experienced rider, it’s best to wear a helmet, even though a cowboy hat might look better… safety first! 

Kim Lansdell, professional horse trainer, says “Because of insurance reasons, many stables and facilities won’t even allow people to ride without helmets.”, so it’s best to bring one along or ask the stable if they provide helmets to first time riders. 

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Sweater or Long Sleeve Shirt

When it comes to what to wear horseback riding, you want to be prepared for all eventualities. If you’re out on a long trail ride, make sure to bring along a sweater or long-sleeved top to keep warm in chilly temperatures or avoid sunburn and bites from bugs you might encounter on the trail.

If it’s going to be a hot day you can go for a tank top or t-shirt, just don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray.  I usually opt for a t-shirt as riding a horse can work up a good sweat! 

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Comfortable Pants

When horseback riding you’re going to need a lot of mobility in your legs. Make sure to wear pants that you can easily move about in, especially when mounting and de-mounting.

For English riding I recommend you choose a cute pair of black, neutral, or beige leggings. And for Western, opt for a pair of straight-leg or skinny jeans with some stretch

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Riding Gloves

While gloves aren’t mandatory for riding, they are worth getting to protect your hands on long rides. English riders often wear nice leather gloves, and Western riders go for classic cowhide gloves.

If the weather is really warm or you are just going for a short lesson or ride, you can skip the gloves or rent some. 

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image of a woman standing in a field of cows wearing a wrangler t-shirt, denim button up, jeans, and a belt with large buckle

Can you wear jeans while horse riding?

Yes! Slim fit jeans, bootcut jeans, or jeggings are the best denim options for horseback riding. On the other hand, extremely tight jeans that restrict your movement or baggy jeans that can easily catch on riding equipment are a big no.

Kim Lansdell, horse riding expert, recommends Wrangler Q Babies or Wrangler Willow, and Levi’s also has good bootcut jeans that are suitable for riding. Just be sure to choose jeans made from denim with stretch so that your movement isn’t restricted when riding.

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What should you not wear when horseback riding?

Now that you know the do’s, here are a few things that are best avoided in your outfits for horseback riding:

  • Flip flops. Flip flops a safety hazard when riding as they can easily fall off and do not protect your toes from horse hooves! 
  • Flat shoes. Ballet flats, sneakers with a flat sole, or any other style of shoe without a heel are a no-no. When horseback riding you need at least a 1-inch heel to keep your foot secure in your stirrups. Without a heel to prevent your foot from slipping through your stirrup, your whole leg could get caught if you happen to fall off the horse. 
  • Jewelry. Accessorizing is a great way to liven up any outfit, however, when it comes to horseback riding jewelry is best left at home. Dangly jewelry can be a safety hazard, and there’s a change you could loose it while on your ride. 
  • Skirts or dresses. While it might make you feel like you’ve walked straight out of a scene from Bridgerton, long skirts and dresses don’t function all that well when up in the saddle. 
  • Shorts. When riding your legs will naturally rub against the saddle, without the extra layer of protection that pants provide, you can end up with some really uncomfortable chafing, especially if it’s a warm day and you are sweating.  
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Stylish Outfit Ideas for Horseback Riding

Now that I’ve covered the do’s and don’ts, it’s time for some outfit inspiration. Below are some of my favorite, simple looks for first time riders whether it’s an English equestrian lesson or Western trail ride.

Long sleeve top, jeans, + tall cowboy boots

image of a woman wearing a black long sleeve shirt, western buckle belt, cowboy hat, and black jeans sitting on a horse

get the look:

There’s nothing like a western look when horseback riding. Opt for a monochrome outfit like the one above for a classic and stylish silhouette in the saddle.

A simple black long sleeve top and black jeans with stretch are the perfect combo. And if you really want to hit the nail on the head, add a large belt with an iconic western buckle.

A western horseback riding outfit calls for cowboy boots above all. So pick up a pair of mid-calf length black or brown boots to complete the look. 

Tank top, bootcut jeans, + boots

image of a woman riding a horse wearing blue jeans, a belt, a black tank top, a rancher hat, and cowboy boots

get the look:

When riding in hot summer weather, keep cool and stylish in a comfortable black tank. Pair the tank with waist-high bootcut jeans (with stretch) as pictured above.

Opt for a comfortable pair of hiking boots (with a minimum 1-inch heel), or get the real western look with a pair of comfortable cowboy boots. And, don’t forget the sunscreen! 

Blazer, riding leggings + English boots.

image of a woman standing in stables wearing an English equestrian outfit with a blazer, white shirt, riding leggings, and riding boots

get the look:

In my riding days I always loved dressing in the English equestrian get-up.

Get the look with a pair of neutral jodhpurs or leggings for a sleek silhouette. Then add a pair of tall leather riding boots as well as a fitted navy or black blazer to complete this sophisticated riding look.

If you feel the blazer is too stuffy for a simple lesson, I recommend going with just a white button up shirt tucked into the pants, or a simple knit sweater. 

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Leggings, English boots, + vest.

image of a woman standing in a horse stable with a horse wearing riding leggings, riding boots, a sweater, and a vest

get the look:

For an English riding look that’s a bit more casual than the previous outfit, go with a pair of jodhpurs (riding leggings), a zip-up sweater, and a lightweight vest. Finish the outfit with a pair of English riding boots and don’t forget your English riding helmet (safety first!)

This look is great for a casual lesson or training day, and the extra layers are nice for chilly weather or more time spent in the stables where the temperature can feel cooler. 

image of a woman on the beach horseback riding in blue and white pants and a white crop top

What do you wear horseback riding on the beach?

When taking a gentle ride on the beach, you don’t have to be strict when it comes to functional horseback fashion. To prevent chafing (especially in hot weather) I recommend wearing a pair of lightweight linen pants instead of shorts or a dress. For a top, go with a swimsuit, tank top, or button-up linen shirt to keep you cool. 

Kim Lansdell says “Many beach or tourist riding facilities offer riding helmets for their guests. If they do not, you could bring your own or opt for a snug fitting straw hat that won’t blow off in the wind.”

If you are riding bareback (without a saddle) it’s still important to wear shoes as there is a chance your foot could be stepped on by the horse when standing beside them. Kim recommends closed-toe sneakers or sandals for a beach ride. 

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In summary, figuring out what to wear horseback riding isn’t as challenging once you know the basics. I hope this post has helped you on your way!

Whether you are going for an English equestrian lesson or heading out on a trail ride, you’ll be able to put together an outfit with ease. Just remember to choose the right footwear for safety, and always wear pants…leg chafing is no joke!

Need more inspiration? Here’s another great article with outfit ideas for horseback riding from Learning Horses. 

Happy trails!


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