- Sports and Recreation
Beginner’s Guide To Horse Riding: What To Buy From Riding Helmets To Riding Gloves To Riding Boots
Beginners to horseback riding soon discover that learning how to ride a horse is not simply a matter of getting astride a horse and galloping off into the sunset. Horseback riding is an athletic endeavor that requires training, conditioning, knowledge and the proper equipment. Most English riding stables and horse riding summer camps will provide beginning riders with a list of riding equipment and riding apparel necessary to participate in horse riding lessons safely and effectively.
Unlike the roping, herding and other livestock management work associated with Western riding and its necessarily heavier saddles and riding apparel, English riding requires a certain measure of elegance and decorum at all times. English riding apparel fulfills that requirement by creating a trim, well-fitting silhouette while allowing for the necessary freedom of movement to ride safely. Whether you are riding in Pleasure, Hunt Seat or Dressage, it is important that you purchase the appropriate equestrian riding apparel.
Ask Your Trainer First
Before you begin shopping for equestrian riding apparel and show clothes, talk with your trainer. Most stables provide beginning riders with a shopping list of what riding equipment you will need before you start taking riding lessons. Most trainers will require that you wear an ASTM/SEI approved riding helmet, paddock boots and jodhpurs, and a riding shirt during training sessions. Once you begin showing, you will need tall boots and a show coat. You can protect your hands from wear and tear with riding gloves. Most trainers will also require that you purchase a riding crop.
With your shopping list in hand, you can go online to find reputable riding apparel companies. As you shop for riding apparel, you will want to stay focused on durability, fit, and comfort. Use the webpage's sizing charts to ensure that your riding apparel fits properly. Purchasing well known brands of riding apparel, such as Equine Couture and Tuffrider, will ensure that you are purchasing riding apparel that is well made, that will last, and that will help you to look and ride your best.
Riding Apparel To Avoid
Many beginner horse riders are tempted to show up at the stable in a pair of shorts and some sneakers, with a baggy sweatshirt thrown over top over a tank top. Bad idea. As anyone who has ever ridden in shorts can tell you: it hurts. The skin on your legs will get pinched and chaffed to the point that you will find it difficult to think about anything else. While close contact with your horse is desirable, bare legs and English saddles do not go together. Sandals, sneakers and open toed shoes should also be avoided. Sandals can fall off as you ride and open-toed shoes leave your feet vulnerable to heavy hooves. As comfortable as sneakers, or tennis shoes, may be, they do not provide a firm enough heel to communicate with your horse. Also, the thick rubber sole can lead to potentially dangerous issues when mounting and dismounting.
Baggy clothing should never be worn while riding. Many riders, as they gain experience, make the mistake of feeling overly confident. Feeling that they can handle whatever may occur; they relax their standard of dress and wear inappropriate riding apparel. Baggy clothing can easily become snagged or it can bunch up, limiting your movement. In either case, baggy, loose clothing can create potentially dangerous circumstances for the rider.
Take It From The Top
The first article of riding apparel the beginning rider must purchase is an ASTM/SEI approved riding helmet. Riding helmets should be worn at any time a rider is working around a horse, even on the ground. Horse's heads are heavy and their necks powerful. Riding helmets can protect you from a playful head toss, a snap at a nearby horsefly, or a frightened horse not yet secured in the cross-ties, in addition to protecting you from falls.
Riding helmets receive ASTM/SEI certification only after they have met rigid safety standards set by the American Society For Testing and Materials (ASTM). The ASTM develops a series of grueling tests meant to simulate the possible hazards faced by riders. Riding helmets are then tested by the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI), according to the tests developed by the ASTM. Only riding helmets that can provide the minimum standards of protection receive ASTM/SEI certification. Agua and Advance Technology both make high quality, ASTM/SEI approved riding helmets.
When shopping for an ASTM/SEI approved riding helmet, be sure to use the sizing charts provided online. You will need to measure the circumference of your head, using a tape measure at the widest part of your forehead in inches. Retention harnesses should be of the 3-point variety, which means the strap is attached on either side and in the back, ensuring a secure fit.
You can shop for riding helmets that offer extra measures of comfort with features such as ventilation strips and moisture-wicking panels, depending upon the climate where you will be riding regularly. Riders should never buy a used riding helmet as there is no way to guarantee that it has not been in a fall or other collision and thereby lost its protective value. If you are involved in a fall or collision, it is imperative that you replace your riding helmet immediately.
Riding Apparel For The Lesson Ring
In addition to your ASTM/SEI approved riding helmet, you will also need paddock boots, jodhpurs and a riding shirt before you enter the riding arena for your lessons. Paddock boots, also known as jodhpur boots, are ankle high boots, generally made out of leather. Paddock boots provide good support for the ankle, a firm heel to communicate with your horse, and a sole that will prevent slipping in the stirrup iron. The extra toe protection provided by the toe cap in paddock boots also prevents injuries to your toes and feet when working around horses on the ground. Paddock boots can be found in lace-up and pull-on varieties. Tuffrider is one of the most popular brands of paddock boots, offering a wide selection of styles, looks and sizes. Paddock boots can be work in the show ring if they are neat and clean.
Jodhpurs, traditionally, were loose fitting pants that held the lower leg snugly, Arabian Nights style. Modern day jodhpurs are snug riding pants that provide good contact with your horse, protection from chaffing and pinched skin, while allowing the necessary freedom of movement needed when jumping. Most jodhpurs feature an inner knee patch for a better grip, usually made from leather.
Riding shirts for the lesson ring are not necessary, so long as the rider wears clothing that will not cause safety risks or become a distraction. Serious riders are better off getting accustomed to wearing a regular riding shirt, called a ratcatcher. A ratcatcher is a short-collared shirt with extra long sleeves. It can be long-sleeved or sleeveless and is designed specifically with English riding in mind.
Riding Apparel For The Show Ring
Once you have gained some skill as a rider, you will want to challenge yourself in the show ring. Show clothes serve the same purpose as other riding apparel with the added style, grace and elegance of a show coat and long boots. Depending upon the style of riding, you will need show clothes related to that style. The shadbelly jacket used in a dressage ring is far different from the show coat worn in hunt seat classes. Show clothes must always be neat, clean and form-fitting. Again, Tuffrider and Equine Couture are your best bets for high quality merchandise that will provide you with the appearance and ease of movement necessary to do your best in the show ring.
Your show clothes wardrobe must include a pair of tall boots. Generally, these are black and very snug. Tall boots include field boots, dress boots and hunt boots. They come just below the knee and are stiff. The major difference between hunt boots and dress boots is that hunt boots feature a tan cuff at the top edge. Field boots feature ankle lacing that allows for greater flexibility. Tuffrider is the biggest name in high quality tall boots.
A clean ratcatcher is worn under your show coat with either a tie or a stock pin. Tailored Sportsman, Equine Couture and Tuffrider are all recognized as the brands of choice in show clothes. Show clothes must be tailor fit, comfortable and flexible. Everything must be as clean and shiny as possible for you to win that blue ribbon. If you ride in the dressage ring, elegance is the name of the game. Your dressage show clothes will include white breeches, white or black gloves, a black shadbelly and a black dressage hat. Dressage classes are the only time a rider is allowed to show without an ASTM/SEI approved riding helmet.
Shopping for quality show clothes and riding apparel and a riding helmet requires that you understand the need for form-fitting, well made equestrian apparel. Riding horses means you must be able to move freely, maintain contact with your horse, and look your best, all at the same time.
The Little Extras Make All The Difference
Whether you are taking a riding lesson in jodhpur boots and a riding helmet, or decked out in your classy show clothes, there are several little extras that can take you from average to exceptional. Riding gloves not only protect your hands from dirt and injury, but they add a touch of elegance to your overall appearance. Riding gloves also remind you to keep your hands quiet by bringing your attention to them.
A high quality crop not only helps you to communicate with your horse, but it can also give you that extra touch of style and authority, along with your other show clothes. A good crop is an excellent schooling tool in the lesson arena. Thick riding socks will keep your feet dry and comfortable and a trim riding jacket will keep you warm in winter without interfering with your riding skills. Over the counter products are simply not designed for the body movements required to ride well and safely.
A thorough list and a short amount of time at the computer can have you dressed out nicely in a professional looking riding habit, complete with ASTM/SEI riding helmet, tall boots and other show clothes. Just remember, heels down, hands quiet, and plan ahead.