Investing in a good pair of riding pants is essential if you want to be comfortable in the saddle. While you can go out galloping in your regular fashion jeans, you will likely come back with abrasions and painful contact points on your legs (and butt). Riding pants like jodhpurs and breeches allow you to enjoy a comfortable and safe ride. The real question is: which should you choose?
Spoiler alert: My personal preference is to wear breeches as they are simply more comfortable for me. But let’s look at both in more detail before you decide on which to buy between jodhpurs vs. breeches. (You can check out my full guide to breeches right here.)
What Are Jodhpurs?
Jodhpurs are riding pants that are highly structured in design. Children’s jodhpurs often have an elastic strap at the end of each leg to fit over jodhpur boots and keep these pants in position. Adult riders wear jodhpurs that may have a folded cuff at the bottom of the leg. Both types of jodhpurs are longer in the leg than breeches, which end above the ankle. (Jodhpurs usually end below the ankle.)
The unique shape of jodhpurs is thanks to their heritage as riding pants for mounted military soldiers. Cavalry soldiers used to wear these tight-fitting pants with long boots to protect their legs while riding on the battlefield. The addition of a belt also allowed for gun holsters and sword scabbards. They were traditionally made out of cotton twill, a durable fabric that dries quickly and was thick enough to protect the soldier’s legs and body from the friction of the saddle.
What Are Breeches?
Unlike jodhpurs, breeches are shorter and designed to fit above short riding boots. Usually, breeches have a Velcro fastening at the bottom of each leg, securing the pants above the ankle. Breeches have a more comfortable cut, especially for ladies. Breeches are also available in a greater range of performance fabrics than other riding pants.
Today, there is a huge range of breeches available from online suppliers. The design has also changed a lot from the baggy breeches that polo players fancied. Breeches often have a snug cuff of elasticated fabric that covers the ankle section better for greater comfort. This also allows the pants to be worn with any type of boots.
The Main Difference Between Jodhpurs and Breeches
There are several differences between jodhpurs and breeches. Some subtle differences include the type of fabric used, the cut, and the addition of tucks or darts along the front for extra space and freedom of movement (which is the case for breeches).
Another key difference between jodhpurs and breeches is that jodhpurs tend to be high-waisted, and these always come with belt loops to secure the waist section.
Some More Differences Between Jodhpurs and Breeches
Other unique differences between these two styles of riding pants include:
Breeches are available in many more colors and color combinations. Jodhpurs, on the other hand, are mostly sold in more neutral and classic colors like black, white, beige, navy, and canary (depending on the type of horse riding you are doing). Formal showing classes require the rider to wear white or beige jodhpurs with appropriate boots.
Breeches tend to be available in more color combinations that make them much more sporty. Two-tone breeches, for example, are popular for everyday riding.
I love my two-tone breeches with silicone seats and different colored knee patches. These allow me to see my leg position clearly on my training videos. When I train students, I can see whether they are using the correct leg position much more clearly if they wear breeches than if they wear other riding pants in their riding lessons.
Usually, breeches are made with a combination fabric that has a large lycra and spandex content for greater flexibility. Jodhpurs tend to be manufactured from cotton twill, which is why they have a “ribbed” appearance up close.
In the equestrian world, fashion has become almost as important as functionality, and having fun colors, fancy designs with detailing, silicone seats, and special pockets can really set you apart from other riders on the trail or in the training arena.
Technical fabrics or a stretchy fabric can help you grip better and keep you in the saddle when riding a rough course. Since breeches have silicone strips and use specialized fabrics like suede on the contact points (seat and knees), the rider enjoys better stability and grip in the saddle.
In hot weather, you want to wear riding pants that are comfortable and generally breathable. Cotton jodhpur pants can be comfortably worn on warm days as the fabric breathes well. Depending on the cotton blend used in your breeches, you may also enjoy a cool ride in these.
Jodhpur boots may make the longer adult jodhpurs warmer and create stiffness in the ankle if the fabric bunches under your gaiter straps or half chaps.
Knee Patches and High Waist
Jodhpurs may or may not have knee patches. Traditionally, knee patches are something breeches have, and these may be made from a different color fabric. Knee-patch breeches are very comfortable and provide great protection when riding on trails or engaging with cross-country jumps where friction between your knees and the saddle can cause painful bruises.
Having a good grip helps a rider keep a secure lower leg position, which is essential when show jumping. Therefore, breeches tend to be favored by show jumping riders and those who event. Jodhpurs are more suited to dressage riders. The high waist of a jodhpur is also better suited to dressage riders where the riding jackets are cut to fit a high-waisted riding pants.
The higher waist of a jodhpur riding pant also helps stabilize the rider’s back. It helps to create the classic straight line from the ear to the elbow, hip, and ankle that is so valued in correct riding.
Types of Boots Worn With Each Riding Pant
Finally, the biggest difference between jodhpurs and breeches is the type of boots that can be worn with each. Jodhpurs are traditionally worn with jodhpur boots, half-chaps, gaiters, and tall boots. Breeches can be worn with most types of boots, including paddock boots.
Jodhpurs vs. Breeches: Which to Wear?
When choosing between wearing breeches or jodhpurs, the choice may be influenced by the level of riding and type of competition colors you plan on wearing. The riding conditions you would wear your riding pants under would also influence which you’d prefer.
Generally, full length riding trousers are best for competition riding. When trail riding, you may prefer the more elastic fabric of breeches over the thicker cotton twill of jodhpurs. The reinforced knee patches of breeches also make these better suited for rough terrain and horse tack that may press against your legs for hours out on the trail.
Men tend to also prefer breeches over jodhpurs, as breeches can have darts and elastic waist lines, creating more space over the groin area. Denim riding breeches are a great way to ride like a cowboy, but still feel supported.
Young riders prefer jodhpurs as they comfortably slide over the short boots that children wear when mucking out or working around the yard.
Best Riding Breeches for Ladies
I love these Ovation Ladies Euro Melange Full Breeches. These are available in four colors, are fully stretchable, breathe well, and they are ideal for showing. The stretch knit polyester is quick drying, so no sweaty bum after a morning’s riding.
Add a great Western shirt, and you’re ready for Western style showing. Pair these with long boots and choose the beige color for English showing.
Best Riding Jodhpurs for Ladies
Jodhpurs have evolved to include some of the comfort features of breeches, and these TuffRider Ladies Cotton Jodhpurs are made from a cotton blend with spandex to create more flexible full length riding trousers.
Available in black and beige, these can be worn in show classes, and with the easy ankle fold-over, these are great with long riding boots or short paddock boots. The addition of a bunch-free knee patch helps to prevent discomfort when entering short stirrup classes or jumping.
Riding Tights: When Jodhpurs and Breeches Aren’t Your Favorite
Okay, so I have always been a breeches girl. I have a fuller figure, so the idea of riding tights made me nervous. Plus, I was sure that these thinner full-length riding pants had to be slippery as hell!
But I was pleasantly surprised.
Riding tights are actually very comfortable. Despite being really close fitting, they are ideal for daily riding, and with the addition of a silicone seat and grip strips, these pants are great!
I wouldn’t want to ride for hours in these tights though, as there is a certain amount of friction between the saddle, your seat, and your legs. After a morning of some jump training, I could feel a few bruises forming in unusual places. Still, they are a great addition to the rider’s wardrobe.
Riding in Regular Pants
Many of my students don’t have the budget to buy full length riding pants. Initially, jeans are a good choice, but the center seam down the rider’s leg tends to rub when riding in jeans. Since jeans have a wider seam, the crotch area will also take some bruising when sitting in the saddle for long, as there is bound to be some bunching (for both guys and girls).
Regular tights or leggings are generally not a great idea since they tend to be too slippery. As a rider, you need all the help you can get to grip in the saddle. Wearing slippery pants isn’t going to help you stay mounted. Loose-fitting pants are also likely to move around your legs and get jammed up in the stirrup leathers.
The Final Verdict
I’ll stick to riding in breeches, though I do like to go Western in some jeans with my roping saddle, too. As a rider, you want your horse to be comfortable, but you also need to be comfortable if you want to ride well.
I find that riding breeches give me more grip, can be worn in different riding environments (from jumping and dressage to trail riding and roping), and they are just way more comfortable, too.
Which do you prefer? Jodhpurs or breeches? Let me know in the comments below.