As an instructor, first-time equestrians frequently ask what to wear to their riding lessons. While many facilities don’t have a dress code, there is some merit to dressing appropriately for your lessons.
There are four main elements to an appropriate riding outfit.
While jeans are more acceptable than tights, the fabric is coarse and can damage the leather of your saddle over time.
Benefits of Breeches for the Rider
Breeches are designed for riding in an English saddle, so they provide extra grip for your leg and are sewn without irritating seams to account for the regular pressure, friction, and position while riding. Breeches also come in a variety of styles depending on what discipline you’re in, and there are a variety of colors that you can choose from.
Benefits of Breeches for the Trainer
Breeches are fitted and provide a middle seam in the back so that I can see where your hips and seat-bones are in the saddle.
If you are planning on competing, you will be required to wear breeches. Competition often brings out nerves and anxiety that students don’t realize is there. Getting used to dressing appropriately and wearing breeches in your lessons alleviates a lot of stress in a competition. More than that, they make riding a little bit easier, and it helps your trainer give more accurate instruction.
Sometimes beginner students will come for lessons in rubber boots or sneakers. Though the only requirement for shoes is that they have a smooth sole with a slight heel, I’ve found that riders struggle to find the correct position when wearing non-equestrian footwear.
What many new riders don’t understand is that correct position isn’t meant to make you look pretty (though it does help), rather, it’s intended to keep you safe and allow both you and the horse to have a quality ride. The foundation of this correct position is in your heels.
When your boots aren’t designed for riding, it inhibits your heel from stretching down far enough. This keeps you from creating your base and may even cause your foot to slide out of the stirrup.
Depending on your barn, you may already have a dress code requirement for lessons. Regarding rider benefits, the shirt you wear won’t matter to you, but it will affect your trainer’s ability to see your position and give you accurate feedback.
Always choose a fitted shirt, regardless of style. When you wear baggy shirts while you ride, the wind will pick it up and cause it to blow out behind you. This makes it nearly impossible for your trainer to see how you carry your shoulders and the curve of your spine. My preference for shirts during lessons is either a polo shirt or a sun shirt.
This is the most important item for a rider. They are expensive. However, a helmet that doesn’t fit properly won’t necessarily provide the protection needed in the event of a fall.
Have someone at a tack shop help you pick out an appropriate helmet. When you try it on, make sure it fits snug with your hair in a low ponytail. You shouldn’t be able to move the helmet by shaking your head or looking in different directions.
When you put your helmet on for your lesson, make sure your hair is pulled back and out of your face. The hairnet will keep any wisps of hair out of your face and protect your hair from breakage. Part of your equestrian attire is about looking professional and ready to learn. However, a greater part of dressing for your lessons is about protecting your body and giving you the best chance to succeed.