Getting ready for your first lesson and wondering you have the right English horseback riding clothes?
You’re in the right place!
If you’re a new rider and you are about to start your first series of horseback riding lessons, you’re probably dealing with a lot of emotions: excitement and nerves! At least, that’s how I was before my first lesson. It was a long time ago, but I still remember it!
I could hardly sleep the night before my first lesson…
It’s Always Better to be Prepared
I was around 6 or 7 years old at the time of my first lesson – I don’t remember exactly. But I do remember how I felt and that I must have checked my outfit, my boots and my helmet at least 20 times, to make sure they were still there and ready for the next day.
I was so nervous that what I had bought wasn’t appropriate. Would my breeches be too fancy? Should I wear jeans? No of course not – that’s silly!
Would my boots not match the requirements? Would my t-shirt be good? Did I need a vest? Or a sweater? The questions just kept on coming. I just wanted everything to go perfectly!
If you are anything like me, you are probably feeling the same way right now before your first lesson – anxious and too excited to sit still.
So let’s get down to business. First, I’ll tell you what your first lesson will probably look like, so you can get a sense of what to expect. With that out of the way, we can go through exactly what you should be wearing to the lesson. Before you know it you’ll be stress-free and ready to go!
Your First English Horseback Riding Lesson: What to Expect
You lessons will either be in an indoor or outdoor training arena. This is a rectangular arena, which will usually have a smoothed path around the edges from the horses. There are usually stools, poles, stands and other equipment in the middle or in a nearby room.
Stools will be available to mount your horse, but eventually you should be able to mount using the stirrup only. Poles and stands are for fashioning horse jumps. These might interest you later down the track, if you decide you want to start jumping.
Before your lesson, you will likely be asked to groom and tack up your horse. To do this, your instructor will provide you with brushes, a hoof pick and tack ( a bridle and a saddle).
If it’s your first time around any horse, someone will 100% walk you through the whole process and help you getting everything set up.
At some stables, they do the tacking up and grooming prior for you so you don’t have to. I think this is too bad, because if you’re passionate about horses, you need to learn the basics of horsecare.
The time before the lesson also gives you a chance to bond with your horse, and for both of you to get used to each other.
During the actual lesson you will learn basic riding skills, and how to feel comfortable on your horse.
You will learn to walk, trot, canter, post (when you rise in your seat to the pace of you’re horse’s trot) and change directions (such as circle around the end of the arena to start moving your horse in the opposite direction around the ring). The lesson will teach you how to tell which lead your horse is on when your horse is cantering. Finally, you will also learn the basics of grooming, tacking, untacking, leading and generally being around your horse while on the ground.
Choosing the Right English Horseback Riding Clothing
The clothes that you should wear for casual English riding and training are different than what you would wear during a competition. Eventually (if you are so inclined) you can choose to attend different types of competitions where you will need much more formal and specific clothing.
But for your lesson, you can technically wear any top. Some people prefer to wear long sleeves just in case of a fall – this will minimize skin scraping. While we’re on the subject of falling, here’s something you should learn in your first lesson: how to minimise injury if you do fall. The trick is to ROLL. This will also get you out of the way of your horse’s hooves. They will probably be a bit startled from the fall, and won’t be paying full attention to exactly where you are.
Prepping for Colder Weather
If it’s cold where you are, you want to layer up! It’s best to avoid wearing thick or fluffy coats as you’ll get hot very fast and it will make it harder for you to stay mobile and move with your horse. With layers, if you get very hot, you can remove the top layer and tie it around your waist.
Make sure to tie a double knot as you don’t want this to fall off as you’re riding and startle another horse. You can also ask if your instructor would mind taking it for you and leaving it for you on the side of the arena until the end of the lesson.
Breeches and Why You Need Them
Next, you’ll need breeches (riding pants) which should be well fitted like leggings. Breeches have patches on the inner knees, or in some cases they will extend further up the leg. Any colour of breeches are fine for lessons, although typically riders go for brown, beige or black ones.
The inner patches are meant to prevent the wearing out of the pant material from the saddle as you ride. You’ll learn that you need to use your legs a lot when you’re riding. Your knees will be squeezing the sides of your horse, and thus this part of your pant will rub a lot against the saddle.
Don’t Skip Proper Boots & Helmets!
You will also need riding boots. Riding boots will come with a small heel to prevent your foot from falling forwards in the stirrup.
There are two main options with riding boots: either you go with a paddock boot that come up to your ankle or field boots that come up to your knees. Often riders choose to couple their paddock boots with half chaps that are basically additional thick material that hook onto your books and cover your lower leg (as would knee-high boots). For a comprehensive comparison, check out our ultimate guide to horse riding boots!
The purpose behind this is to provide greater friction between your leg and the horse so that you have utmost control of the positioning of your legs and thus of your whole body.
Finally, it is very important that you get an ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)/ SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) certified riding helmet. They are expensive but they will last forever and when riding, safety always has to come first. We have a great review of three different helmets you can check out.
You will learn that safety for you and for your horse at all times will be of highest priority.
Generally riding helmets are bought in black but for training, any colour is fine.
What Other Equipment you Might Want to Bring
Some optional riding equipment you can bring if you want are a crop, gloves, spurs and a protective vest.
A riding crop is used to encourage a horse to move forwards. Don’t worry – crops do not hurt the horses, as a horse’s skin is extremely thick. In actual fact it’s the noise that’s intended to startle the horse. In order to move away from the source of the noise, the horse instinctively moves forward.
I would recommend not buying your own crop yet, as the stables you are getting lessons at will most likely have crops that you can use. Also whether a crop is of use or not is highly dependent on the horse, so you should see what your horse’s personality will be before considering getting one.
Gloves can be useful if it is cold outside and also if your horse has a tendency to pull. Again, before your first lesson I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them unless it’s very cold where you are.
See what your horse that you’re riding is like first. If he or she is extremely quick and you have to pull often in order to keep him or her at pace with the other horses, it may be worthwhile to get a pair in order to save your hands from rubbing.
Personally, I don’t like riding with gloves – I would only use them if I had to for a competition dress code, or if it was freezing outside. I like feeling the horse through my hands, even if the horse is particularly feisty. But this is totally up to you!
Similar to using a crop, spurs can come in handy if you are dealing with a very slow, lazy horse who is difficult to get going. I put these here so you would be aware but definitely don’t buy these or wear them unless you are used to wearing spurs or you know in advance that you are required to.
See what your horse is like and if you are having problems getting him or her to move, then talk to your instructor about the use of spurs.
Again! Don’t worry – spurs aren’t necessarily the sharp, pointy ones you know from cowboy movies. English riding spurs are actually made from smoothened steel. They simply provide a little metal ball-like shape that can be used to accentuate your kicks.
Finally, you can choose to buy a certified protective vest. These are shock absorbent vests that reduce the likelihood of injury in case you should fall. These are not usually worn for training; however, I have friends who do wear them all the time and some stables require riders younger than a certain age to wear them. Call ahead to double check if the stable you will be riding at has this regulation if you’re younger than 18.
If you have any type of pre-exisitng back, rib, joint or other injuries or problems that could be worsened through a fall, I would definitely recommend buying one.
These are also expensive but definitely worth the money if they help you stay as safe and injury-free as possible! Remember, an injury could keep you out of the saddle for quite some time and no one wants that. The safer you are, the longer you’ll be riding!
The Ultimate English Horseback Riding Clothes Checklist
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#1: Sporty Shirt
You want to get a comfortable shirt that’s weather appropriate. Sometimes if you have a golfing shirt or other sporty shirt, those are the best options. You want something that you can sweat in (the horse DOES NOT do all the work, contrary to what some people may tell you).
#2: Vest or Jacket (if needed)
Depending if you’re riding in colder weather, you might want to bring a jacket or a vest.
Our top vest recommendations:
Our top jacket recommendations:
If you don’t have these yet and don’t have time to get a pair, you can use leggings. Eventually you should really consider investing in breeches though – they’ll last you a lot longer and will be more comfortable!
#4: English Riding Boots
Riding boots were my first purchase. They honestly make you feel like a rider the second you put them on.
I personally got a pair of high jumping boots, but if I could do it again I would get paddock boots and a pair of half-chaps first. In fact, that’s mostly what I ride in today. High riding boots are less comfortable and less versatile, in my opinion.
Our top paddock boot recommendations:
Our top high riding boot recommendations:
You should 100% get a helmet. Usually if you don’t have one, the stable will lend you. But… do you really want to wear other people’s used, sweaty helmets? Or is that just me?
Our top helmet recommendations:
#6: Riding Gloves (Optional)
I didn’t like wearing gloves until I started riding finicky dressage horses that tend to require short reins and a lot of control. But if you’ll be riding in the cold or have skin that’s sensitive to rubbing, I would recommend them!
Our top glove recommendations:
#7: Safety Vest (Optional)
Hopefully now you are ready to get started on your journey to become an amazing rider. You have all the info you need to get the right English horseback riding clothes!
Please let me know if you have any thoughts, questions or comments below. Let us know how your first lesson went!
Happy riding 🙂
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