You’ve had an introduction to the English riding style, and you’ve decided to go forward and commit to lessons on a regular basis. That means getting the right kind of clothing and equipment that helps you stay comfortable while being able to maintain a proper seat and positioning at every gait. You may have been told by your instructor about the type of clothing they prefer their students to wear, but you’d like to learn about your options. So, just what do you need for English riding? You’ll need clothes and footwear that is designed for the sport along with accessories that protect you from accidents and mishaps. Here’s an answer to the question of “what do you need for English riding?”
What Do You Need for English Riding?
Breeches or Riding Tights:
The English saddle is designed to give a rider close contact with their horse. There’s not a lot of leather between you and the horse, and you need pants made from material that withstands the friction generated by the contact with the saddle along with the heat of the horse. Breeches and riding tights are made from fabrics intended for riders. Breeches are heavier than tights, but both have their place when it comes to English riding.
Breeches are form-fitting pants that feature a zipper and button closure with a fixed waistband. They’re typically made from materials that stretch, but not as much as a typical pair of knit pants. This is to allow the garment to move with your body as you engage in the different types of moves that are performed in English riding. Breeches also has a self-fabric or leather patch on the inside of the legs that start below the knee and taper off around mid-thigh. They act as a continuation of the boot to help protect the tender skin on the inside of your legs from the saddle and stirrup leathers. Beginning riders should start out with two or three pairs for rotation. For more examples, check out Equoware’s selection of breeches made with modern cuts and the latest in technical materials.
In the event you want to get into competitive riding, you’ll need breeches that are appropriate for the classes you’re entering. Judges will take away points for riders that haven’t put any effort into a proper dress at any level of competition.
Riding tights are similar to breaches, but they’re made from a lighter material and usually have an elastic waistband. They’re primarily designed for hacking out or for wear during hot weather. Tights tend to not last as long as breeches but are a good alternative for those days when breeches are uncomfortable.
Riding Boots and Socks:
English riding boots, also known as tall boots, are designed to protect your lower leg from the stirrup and horse, help you place your ankle and keep it in position, connect with the sides of the horse for cues, and helps to stabilize your calf. Boots come in a variety of styles and designs, but the standard tall boot is good for beginners. If you find it difficult to get into a traditional pair of English riding boots, look at styles that have a zipper in the back, lace at the ankle, or combine a gaiter with a jodhpur boot.
All English riding boots require a break-in period in order to form to the calf and foot. Sometimes the boot will hit at the back of the knee initially, then drop as the leather flexes and wrinkles at the top and at the back of the ankle. For the beginner rider, it can be a bit uncomfortable to deal with initially. As long as the majority of the boot fits correctly, the remaining areas will stretch out and become comfortable to wear.
In order to get your boots on with the least amount of difficulty, you’ll need socks made specifically for wearing with English riding boots. Riding socks are thin and stretchy so they can go over the breeches easily and don’t add a lot of bulk to the boot shaft. You’ll still need boot pulls to help get your boots on, but riding socks make it much easier for you to get into your boots in general.
Correct attire for English riding is to wear a shirt that’s tucked into the waistband, but you won’t want to wear a button-down shirt when on horseback. A normal dress shirt isn’t cut and tailored for horseback riding. Instead, riding shirts, also known as a ratcatcher, are cut with a longer tail to prevent it from being accidentally pulled out when going over a jump. Beginner riders won’t be going over jumps right away, but you will want to wear a shirt that doesn’t limit your movement as you do riding exercises and drills. Polo shirts are a good choice for beginners, but it doesn’t hurt to have a ratcatcher or two for your first schooling shows.
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A riding helmet is a must-have gear for riders at all levels because they protect your head from serious injury in the event of being thrown from or falling off a horse. They also come in a variety of designs and purposes, something that can be confusing to a new rider. The best helmet for a beginning rider is one that provides protection and air flow for comfort. In the event that you want to compete in the future, you can always buy a cover for the helmet to make it look neat and proper. A standard riding helmet provides the same kind of protection as a competition helmet with the only difference being the exterior design. It’s far more important to have the right kind of protective headgear in the beginning as opposed to visual appearance.
Gloves protect your hands from leather dye, sweat, and dirt, and help you keep your grip on the reins. Leather gets slick when it’s wet with sweat or water and makes it harder to hold onto the reins. The best pair of gloves for a beginner are ones that combine stretch material with leather palms and fingers. The stretch material eliminates the need to break in the gloves but offers a grip for uncertain hands. Leather palms and fingers transmit the needed sensation from the bit and horse’s mouth without dulling. Gloves with tacky palms are an option but can make it harder for the rider to release or take up the reins as needed. Sueded or smooth leather is better for learning how to hold the reins without impacting the horse’s mouth.
English riding is a sport that follows traditions set hundreds of years ago, and almost always for practical reasons. Buying the proper equestrian gear and clothing helps you learn to discipline without the distraction that comes from wearing improper equipment and clothes.
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