Horse Riding Equipment for Beginners
Horse riding (or equestrianism) has never been more popular than it is today. Whether you love horses and want to begin riding casually or you’re looking to take on others in competitive sport, you are never too old or too young to start. Yes, it can be an expensive sport – but it doesn’t have to break the bank.
There is no need to go out and start pouring thousands of dollars into saddles and boots with silver spurs and all kinds of other riding gear. A good practice is to start simple. Talk to your local riders and see what they suggest. Go down to the nearest shop and take a look at what they offer. In this article, we will concentrate on some of the basics. Helmets, gloves, pants, and boots.
Helmets are important. Your head, as you might already know, is a rather integral part of your body as a whole. The proper helmet is going to keep you safe in case of a fall or another type of accident. You will need to find the right helmet for you, and preferably something suitable for a beginner. Make sure it abides by all the safety standards, is certified appropriately, and fits snugly on your head.
You don’t want your helmet slipping over your eyes while you’re riding, and for that reason, it is important to try a helmet on before you make a commitment. It doesn’t hurt to pick up a helmet that fits your stylistic choices either. If you’re riding a majestic horse, why not look a little majestic yourself?
For a more detailed explanation of helmets, please refer to our post regarding the best riding helmets.
Gloves may seem like a silly thing to talk about, but these little accessories are an absolute must for most experienced riders (compulsory in most serious competitions). However, they are not necessary for pleasure riding or those just starting out. Still, it is not a bad idea to get used to wearing them.
Riding gloves will guard your hands against all kinds of nasty wounds you might otherwise receive while handling ropes, reins, and leads – specifically blisters and friction burns. Without gloves, you might go home missing quite a bit of skin from your palms.
Accessories and price
But wait a minute, riding gloves do so much more than just protect your hands. Similar to driving gloves, they add extra grip when you’re riding, which will improve your safety. They can also make you look refined or distinguished (if that’s your thing). With endless styles, colours, and themes – bedazzled anyone? – riding gloves can bring out your unique riding personality.
Starting cheap and rising exponentially in price, there are infinite options to choose from, all depending on the season, material, flexibility, and brand name. It will be your job to pick what feels the most natural to you. Just make sure your hands are comfortable before pulling out the credit card.
We have all seen it before in the movies – a hot stud riding around on a… well, on a hot stud… clad in blue jeans and a cowboy hat, a plaid shirt with half the buttons missing and a pair of leather boots. And while you can indeed wear jeans when you ride, it is unrealistic and not very comfortable. Unless you are a movie star on a film set, we suggest going out and buying the appropriate gear, especially as a beginner.
After you spend a couple of hours on a horse, you are going to understand the meaning of comfort pretty darn fast. If ill-equipped, you might spend the night scratching at the chafes and possible sores on your legs and thighs. To avoid this unfortunate consequence, try a pair of riding breeches.
These are pants specifically intended for riding in a saddle, keeping you comfortable and free of irritations. This lets you keep your focus on the task at hand. A well-made pair of riding breeches should fit securely throughout the seat, thighs, and legs (this will keep you on the horse instead of under it), while having neat hems that don’t interfere with your riding boots. Where do you think the term ‘bootcut’ comes from?
Riding breeches are made of fabrics that allow for an ample amount of stretching, and most come with knee patches (for grip). But don’t worry. Whether corduroy or denim, there are no restrictions on fashionable choices for pleasure riding.
Embellishments, logos, bright pink, or even leopard print – a pair of unique riding breeches can give the most inexperienced rider the confidence to get in the saddle. Of course, you can always go with the dusty traditional look of a rugged cowboy or cowgirl. Just please, whatever you do, for the love of all that is good, don’t go riding in your pyjamas!
Riding Boots for Beginners
Surely the most exciting part for any horse-riding newbie is putting on their first pair of leather cowboy boots. But did you know not all boots are created equal? There is a lot to consider when picking a comfortable pair of boots for riding. As a beginner, your number one priority should be safety.
Above all, you want a boot that fits and feels good, just like you would with running shoes or sneakers. If you’re not comfortable in your boots, you won’t be comfortable in the saddle. Secondly, you want proper riding boots. That means no sandals or slippers. You need your feet to stay in the stirrups.
Otherwise, you might have a rather unpleasant meeting with the dirt. We could get into the specifics of boot styles, talking about English style or Western style – but let’s not. For more information on riding boots, please check out our comprehensive post dedicated only to boots. I will leave you with one piece of advice.
If you are getting serious about horse riding, slip your feet into a pair of cheap vinyl boots, then switch to a pair of more expensive leather boots. See the difference? I thought so. If you’re going to be spending days outside with your horse, be sure to come equipped.
What to Wear Horseback Riding for the First Time
A Few Tips on the Best Apparel for First-Time Riders
First thing’s first, horse riding is a lot more strenuous than it looks. If you are a virgin horse rider and are thinking about stepping into the saddle for the first time, you should know it isn’t a walk in the park, and certainly not as effortless as you may see on TV. That does not so say it’s difficult, but horse riding is more of a sport than many people think. To keep your balance on the horse’s back takes significant core strength and powerful legs. Suffice to say, horseback riding is a workout.
As with any physical exercise, it is important to wear the right clothes when you go riding. And if it’s your first time, you might be a little stressed trying to figure out what duds to pick up at the store. And while this is a workout, it’s not the same as going to the gym. Yoga pants or a pair of shorts will be an absolute nightmare when propped on the horse’s back. Chaffing, irritation – oh, the itching! It’s not a good idea. Better to prepare yourself with the right clothes for this age-old favourite.
Believe it or not, there are two different “styles” to horseback riding. We don’t mean front and reverse – what we’re talking about is English and Western. Almost every stable will practice both forms of riding, and it will depend on which you prefer to try during your first day. English riding style involves smaller and less cumbersome equipment, giving the rider closer contact with their horse, whereas Western-style originated with cowboys (cattle drivers and not wild west shooters). This form of riding incorporates saddles designed for comfort and the long haul, having a deep seat, longer stirrups, and a saddle horn for you to grip onto for dear life.
The style you choose for your first day in the saddle is all up to you. Below you will find the differences between the apparel used in these two styles.
English riding is a little more serious than Western and can be daunting to someone who has never ridden before. Within the riding styles are something called “disciplines,” which are the areas of sport these styles specialize in. For English disciplines, we are talking about jumping, eventing, and dressage.
So, what do you wear?
Boots: As with anything English, it is always a bit fancier than Western. The boots you want to wear when riding in this style should have a distinctive boot heel (which all horse-riding boots have). However, if you want to wear trekking boots it is very important to make sure they have the proper heel, or your foot can slip through the stirrup and you might get dragged painfully through the dirt. Pick up a pair of knee-high dress boots or ankle-high paddock boots when English riding. Black or brown are suitable enough for this style, though most pros choose a plain brown colour.
Pants: Because the English style brings you in close contact with your horse, jeans are not recommended. You want to wear fitted clothing that won’t interfere with your other gear, while at the same time providing the needed grip for you to remain in the saddle. For this, you want either jodhpurs or breeches. Jodhpurs come with a stirrup that runs beneath the arch of your boot and holds down your pants. Breeches don’t have this feature and are the widely preferred option among all horse riders in this style.
Shirt: Any well-fitted shirt will be okay for English riding. You don’t want to wear something loose or baggy that can get caught in your equipment and cause problems (same rule as the pants). But since you are riding a horse, we suggest a short-sleeved shirt that looks fashionable for the occasion. Something breezy and attractive that fits your personality is just fine.
However, stay away from tanks or muscle shirts. These offer zero protection if you take a tumble. Also, sunburns can happen when romping around on hot days.
This style of riding is for the inner wranglers out there. Where English is a bit cleaner and more into sporting and events, Western riding is all about cow work and trail riding. This style is far more relaxed and easygoing than English, and so is the apparel.
Boots: Don’t just pick the coolest-looking cowboy boots. Yes, you want cowboy boots with a thick heel for staying safe on top of your horse, but you also want good quality. Considering it is your first time, try on a few pairs and see what’s most comfortable. Like with everything, the higher the price of the boot, the more comfortable you will likely be when riding.
Pants: Because Western riding puts you in less contact with your horse’s back, it is perfectly acceptable to wear good old-fashioned blue jeans. This style of horseback riding is where the wrangler jeans came from. Since you are trying this for the first time, your everyday pair should suit okay. If you get serious and start spending more hours riding, we highly suggest buying a pair specially made for being in the saddle.
Shirt: Long-sleeved shirts are the best suited to Western riding. And because this is the method of the cowboy, we recommend dressing the part in a stylish plaid or paisley button-up. The colour is all up to you.
Helmets & Gloves
Helmets are inarguably the most important piece of equipment with horse riding in any style. You must protect your precious brain at all times. This means buying the right helmet to fit your head and guard the contents of your skull. Luckily, we have larger articles dedicated to the perfect helmets for beginners and pros alike.
Gloves are all about style, grip, and security. They come in tons of sizes and patterns. We also have more detailed articles about the best riding gloves.
- Saddle Pad
- Saddle Accessories
- Stirrup Leathers
- Stirrup Irons
- Lead rope
Your horse should be groomed before and after each ride.
Grooming is a great way to bond with your horse.
- Curry Comb
- Hard Brush
- Soft Brush
- Mane and Tail Brush
- Shampoo and Conditioner
- Hoof Pick
- Shedding Blade
- Sponges and Cloths
- Fly Spray (check out our article on fly spray)
Feeding & Care
Depending on whether your horse is at home or at a boarding barn that provides self-care, partial or full service, you may need to provide all (or none) of these items.
Necessary horse care items vary based on its living situation.
- Buckets for water and food
- Treats (Please!)
- Food of choice
- Water Heater or Heated Bucket/Trough, if weather reaches freezing temps
- Outdoor Broom
- Manure Fork
- Horse Blanket
- Fly Sheet
Be sure to keep a fully stocked first aid kit with your horse supplies.
If your horse is ever sick or injured, having these items available immediately could be a life saver.
Make sure to keep basic vet care supplies on-hand.
- Emergency Vet Phone Number
- Wound Dressing
- This can be diapers, cotton gauze, or any other type of absorbent first aid padding.
- Antibacterial Ointment
- Clean Stable Wraps
- Zinc Oxide Cream
- Self Adhesive Bandages
- Latex Gloves
- Duct Tape and/or Medical Tape
- Large Tweezers