ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Essential Equestrian Horse Tack and Horse Riding Apparel

Updated on November 12, 2009

All English riders use the same essential articles of horse tack and riding apparel with some minor variations, depending upon the style of riding. The most basic horse tack includes the saddle, saddle pad, girth, stirrups, and stirrup leathers along with a bridle and bit. Equestrian riding apparel includes riding breeches, boots, and a helmet at minimum. As any horse lover can attest, there are always new and interesting products on the market to help riders ride better and to help horses look, feel, and perform their best, whichever style of riding is being done.

Styles of English Riding

The style of riding and the decision to compete in shows or not will determine many aspects of essential equestrian riding apparel and horse tack needs. Simply riding for pleasure on trails or in a ring requires only minimal riding equipment, whereas showing competitively requires far more extensive and style-specific riding equipment and equestrian riding apparel.

The most popular forms of English riding competition include English pleasure, show hunters, show jumping, and dressage, which share most of the essential horse tack and equestrian riding apparel. Many other styles of English riding, including polo, eventing, saddle seat, endurance, and racing have their own rules, regulations, and requirements regarding horse tack and equestrian riding apparel. 

The Essentials of Equestrian Riding Apparel

The most basic articles of equestrian riding apparel include riding breeches or jodhpurs, riding boots, and a helmet. When showing, a riding shirt, also known as a ratcatcher and a show coat are also required. The point of wearing equestrian riding apparel, rather than baggy old jeans and sandals, is safety, control, and contact. Riders must be in close contact with their horse without getting their skin pinched or having their clothing snag, potentially resulting in a fall.

Riding Breeches

While riding for pleasure or in a lesson, riding breeches, riding boots and a helmet are all that are required. While the terms riding breeches and jodhpurs are frequently used interchangeably, they are actually two different types of riding pants. Jodhpurs refer to the city in India where they originated as baggy pants from the waist to the knee, which then fit snugly over the calf to the ankle. Riding breeches are snugly fitting riding trousers that reach just below the knee, sporting leather or other fabric stitched inside the knee area for a better grip on the horse. Riding breeches are frequently found with a longer than traditional leg as they have become more popular as a fashion item, but the fit remains the same, with the advantage of stretchable fabrics making them more comfortable. Riding jeans are acceptable for casual riding. Properly fitting riding breeches protect against skin being pinched by the saddle and allow for close contact with the horse. Riding breeches should be tan, beige, or gray for the show ring, unless it is for a dressage class where the riding breeches are white.

Shirts and Jackets

For casual riding and lessons, any shirt that allows for freedom of movement without risking catching on anything will suffice. In the show ring, a ratcatcher must be worn with a tie or stock pin. Traditionally, the ratcatcher is white and long-sleeved, though many shows currently allow riders to wear short-sleeved or pastel colored ratcatchers. While showing, riders must also wear a show coat.

The shadbelly is a black or other dark colored show coat worn by dressage and other high caliber riders. The shadbelly is short in the front and has long tails in the back. The shadbelly is worn with a stock pin and tie for an elegant look. Hunt seat riders must wear a show coat that is neat and trim. Colors can be navy, dark brown, hunter green, or gray. Black is legal, but is generally kept to the dressage ring.

The Riding Helmet

The most crucial article of equestrian riding apparel is the riding helmet. The traditional hard hat has been significantly improved for better protection and comfort over recent years. Riding helmets are tested by the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) according to standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Only riding helmets approved by the SEI will display an ASTM/SEI sticker.

ASTM/SEI helmets feature a hard outer shell, thick padding, a ventilation system, and an attached, adjustable harness. ASTM/SEI approved helmets must be worn when showing, unless it is an upper level dressage class where the rider will wear a top hat. Lower level dressage riders are required to wear ASTM/SEI approved helmets.

Riding Boots and Paddock Boots

Foot protection is always important when working with horses. Paddock boots are generally used for casual wear around the barn. Paddock boots, also known as jodhpur boots, are short leather boots with extra toe protection, called a toe cap, that can be laced up or feature an elastic side. Paddock boots can also be worn in the show ring, as long as they are neat and clean.

There are several types of boots for showing, depending upon the style of riding. Tall boots, which come just below the knee, include field boots, hunt boots, and dress boots. Dress boots are worn by dressage riders and they are rather stiff. Traditionally, dress boots are black. Hunt boots, also known as top boots, are similar to dress boots except that they feature a tan cuff at the top. Field boots offer lacing at the ankle, allowing for greater flexibility. Field boots can be dark brown, but the majority of them are black.

Essential Equestrian Horse Tack

To ride safely and effectively, a rider must fit their horse with horse tack that includes a saddle, a saddle pad, a girth, and a bridle. There are many varieties, again dependent upon the style of riding. Saddles provide a comfortable and secure seat that keeps the rider in the correct position and the bridle allows the rider to dictate the direction taken by the horse.

Saddles and Saddle Pads

Beginning riders should become familiar with the parts of their saddle to facilitate communication between rider and trainer. Saddles are built upon a wooden frame called a tree. The panels provide cushioning between the horse and the saddle. The space between the panels is called the gullet. The pommel is the front edge of the saddle and the cantle is the rear edge. Attached to the tree are the stirrup bars, which support the stirrup leathers. The skirt, or jockey, is the leather that covers the stirrup bar, protecting the rider's legs. Also attached to the tree are the billets, or girth straps, to which the girth is attached. The billets are covered by the sweat flap. The girth is the strap that holds the saddle on the horse's back by running underneath the horse's belly. Knee or thigh rolls may or may not be present. Stirrup leathers are used to hang the stirrups from the saddle. The metal part of a stirrup is called the iron.

Commonly used English saddles are generally referred to as "close contact" saddles. English saddles are of a forward seat variety, allowing greater freedom of movement for the horse while jumping. Dressage saddles feature a longer flap and a flatter, less forward seat, with the stirrup leathers moved more forward. Jumping saddles have a flap that is shorter and placed more forward, with a seat that is oriented closer to the cantle. Saddle pads protect the horse's back from chafing and rubbing and are generally white in color. The saddle pad should fit the shape of the saddle and extend no more than one inch from the saddle itself.

Bits and Bridles

Most English bridles use what is called a cavesson noseband. The plain or French cavesson is a noseband that surrounds the horse's nose one to two inches below the cheekbone. The flash or Aachen noseband holds the bit more securely, while the crank or Swedish cavesson keeps the horse's mouth closed, for dressage riding. The Hanoverian bridle combines the effects of the Aachen and the Swedish cavessons. The figure-eight noseband is highly popular in show jumping and eventing. Less popular among riders, though, apparently preferred by horses, is the drop noseband, which encircles the horse's nose at the chin groove.

Bits come in two basic styles: direct pressure snaffles and leveraged curbs. Curb style bits, such as the Pelham, use leverage against the horse's chin groove, poll, and mouth to control the animal's head and direction. Snaffle bits use direct pressure against the horse's tongue for the same effect. Some bits, such as the Kimblewick, use a combination of direct and leveraged pressure. Most bits use a single set of reins that are buckled together at the rider's end, while others require the use of an extra set of reins. New riders must use caution when applying pressure to their horse's mouth, as it can cause severe pain to the animal when used incorrectly. 

Halters and Longe Lines

Halters and lead lines are fundamental pieces of equipment required by every horseman or horsewoman. The halter is placed on the horse's head and the lead line is attached under the jaw to lead the horse wherever the rider requires. When exercising and training a horse, a longe line and longe whip are commonly used for ground work. The longe line is long enough to allow the horse to walk, trot, and canter in a circle around the trainer who stands in the middle.

Other Riding Equipment

Most riders will also need to invest in a martingale, which prevents the horse from raising its head above a certain point. Horses also need a blanket if they are clipped or accustomed to living indoors. Horse boots and leg wraps are necessary whenever trailering and horse boots are always a good item to use when jumping.

Riders will also need grooming equipment such as a brush, curry comb, mane and tail comb, hoof pick, and hoof oil. To keep the leather tack in the best condition possible, it is important to clean it regularly with leather cleaner and then oil it with mink oil or some other leather preservative.

Assembling the essential equestrian horse tack and horse riding apparel may seem daunting when, in fact, it is a simple matter of creating a list of items complete with sizes and getting online for a short while. There is no longer a need to drive to various tack shops for everything needed when it is only a click away.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      6 years ago


      I am from Pakistan we make all equipment of horse riding of all brands have u any required of any item pleased contact us for best business with our company.

      looking forward for your best interest.

      with kind regard

      choudry zakria


      cell# 00 92 3364617578

      00 92 3006146845

    • profile image

      A D chaudhry 

      6 years ago

      It has come to know through our commercial source that you are dealing in equestrian products of all kinds.

      We are pleased to introduce you ourselves as ACTUAL MAKER of horse riding equipments of all kinds. We are engaged in this field for the last 17 years. Our prices are most competitive and attractive You would agree with us that the matter of quality satisfaction can not It has come to know through our commercial source that you are dealing in equestrian products be solved unless and until you receive our products, so we request to provide us a chance tor supply you a trial order even of small quantity to prove our standings.

      You may view our website , where you can easily select the items of your interest.

      Products we manufacture are:-

      Saddles, Saddle Pads, Riding Gloves, Chaps, Girth, Body Protectors, Horse Boots, Stripes, Leather Strips, iorn, Bridles, Judo Karate, judo Suites, Boxing Gloves, working Gloves T,shirt Polo,Shirt Dog,Collars etc etc

      For more information or details please feel free to contact us by email.

      Looking forward to hear from you soon.

      With kind regards

      A. D. CHAUDHRY

      Stylo Harness Enterprises

      P.O.Box 2797

      Sialkot – Pakistan

      Tele # 00 92 652 3571266

      cell # 00 92 300 6158060

      00 92 3006138733

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Where are you guys located?

    • profile image

      Mohammad Faisal Aslam 

      7 years ago

      Dear Sir/Madam

      We are manufacturer of horse related items for example, Saddle pads, Spurs, Stirrups, Halters, Bridles, Reins, Breast coller, Saddle, Bits, Boots, etc. Morover please visit our web site and let us know in which items you are interested so, we shall send you some samples for quality approval with make business for your company.

      Looking forward to your reply with your interst.

      Warmest regrads

      Mohammad Faisal ( CEO)

      tell: 0092524580735

      Fax: 0092524601750


      Horse eaccessories

    • PearTreeGreetings profile image


      8 years ago from Rexburg, ID

      Great Hub! I've always been interested in English riding, but never really knew the basics or what equestrian apparel was needed.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)