Horse riding is an activity steeped in heritage and tradition, and riders are expected to honour those traditions when taking part in equestrian events. Having your horse properly groomed, and having the correct tack, are essential when showing, competing, or whenever riding in a formal setting.
There is no point going to all the trouble of making sure the horse looks the part and then neglecting the rider. Certain items of clothing specific to horse riding are essentials, to be worn whenever you saddle up and take to the bridleway. If you chose to show or compete with your horse, there will be different items which you will be expected to wear for different events.
Let’s take a look at a few of the more common items of equestrian clothing.
Helmets – Modelled on the traditional English hunting cap, the standard riding helmet belies its traditional appearance with a surprisingly modern and sophisticated structure underneath. Like a cycling helmet, this item of headgear is designed to protect the rider from injury in the case of falls and collisions with obstacles. But the two are also different in many ways. Equestrian helmets have more protection around the back of the head, as backward falls are far more likely than they are on a bicycle. And certainly, the futuristic cyber mushroom look preferred by many cyclists would not go down well in the conservative worlds of dressage and eventing. Some other designs of helmets are specific to certain disciplines and types of competition, such as racing helmets.
Breeches and Jodhpurs – For many years, breeches were the traditional below the waist item of clothing for riders in all formal circumstances. Riding breeches are trousers which are flared at the hip and thigh for free movement, before cutting in trim in the leg and ending around mid calf, where they were usually buckled or laced. Jodhpurs are a similar garment which originated among riders in India, the key difference being that they reached the ankle with reinforced fabric on the inner calf to counteract wear. This negated the need for the tall boots usually worn with breeches. Since the 1960s both these designs have been adapted to make use of elasticated fabrics for the hip and thigh areas, and therefore appear as tight fitting trousers. In many competitive disciplines certain styles and colours of clothing are required by the rules of the tournament.
Boots – One of the most important items of clothing for any rider is their footwear. On horseback, they are a long way from the ground and in a potentially compromising position, necessitating a high level of protection for the extremities. Traditional tall boots give the calves and shins good protection from the leathers of the saddle, while the pronounced heel is there to prevent the foot slipping through the stirrup and causing a broken ankle, or worse. Many modern boots come up only as far as the ankle. Once again, it’s important to know which activities you wish to take part in.