Experienced riders know that what you wear on a horse matters for comfort and safety. The wrong clothing promotes chafing, and inappropriate shoes could cause you to slip out of the stirrups. If you're heading to a stable for lessons or a trail ride, call first to find out if they have specific dress requirements. Some will not allow you to ride at all if you aren't in long pants and proper shoes.
Jeans or Khakis
Cowboys wear jeans for a reason. The stiffness of the fabric keeps you protected from the saddle and the bristles of the horse's hair, but denim is comfortable enough to wear for long rides. Long, straight-leg jeans are best; skip cropped, heavily embellished or skinny styles as these may not be comfortable for getting on and off the horse, and they may poke, pull or compress you as your ride. A pair of heavy-duty khakis or other work pants is a suitable alternative. For ring riding, specially made tights made of stretchy, but durable, fabric are favored. Baggy pants, even thick sweats, make you slip in the saddle and possibly chafe. Tight, low-cut pants will ride down and pinch as you ride. Shorts will inevitably make you chafe as your bare legs rub against the saddle and horse.
Shoes or Boots
The classic cowboy boot isn't designed only for style, but also for function. They have just enough heel to keep you solidly strapped into the stirrups, but not enough heel to be dangerous. Spiky heels are definitely out of place on a horse. Sandals, flipflops and flats do not provide you with the stability you need to stay in place either. If you don't have cowboy or riding boots or something similar, opt for athletic shoes.
Top It Off
If you're riding on a hot day, wear a light-colored top, which will reflect the heat -- rather than absorb it. Women should wear a supportive bra; when going at speeds faster than a walk, the bouncing can feel quite uncomfortable. Wear whatever you'd like as a top, keeping in mind the day's temperature and your comfort. Long sleeves will protect you from bugs, excessive sun and scratches from errant branches, if you're riding a trail.
Gloves and Helmets
If it's a particularly cold day, wear gloves as your hands are exposed as you hold onto the reins to control the horse. Most riding establishments require you to wear a helmet as well. You can invest in one made especially for riding, or make due with a bike helmet. Inquire before you ride, as the stables may provide them for you.
- Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images
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