Whether you prefer to ride English or Western style, you should always be sure you wear boots. In fact, you should wear boots even if you are just going to feed and groom your horse, because having one of those heavy hooves come down on top of your foot when you are wearing sandals or sneakers can really hurt. Of course, although cowboy boots can be quite comfortable, English riding boots can be a bit stiff to walk around in. You may want to invest in a pair of barn boots or hiking books to use for stable work.
Few people enjoy wearing riding helmets. After all, they are not the most stylish accessories. However, falling from a horse onto your head without any protection can result in a deadly accident. If you ride Western style, your cowboy hat will not provide you with the proper protection if you are thrown. You should consider using a vented riding helmet to protect your skull.
When you are competing in events, you will need to keep your blue jeans and T-shirts at home. While Western wear is usually just as comfortable as your less formal riding clothes, English attire is designed more for looks than comfort.
If you are riding in a show that requires hunt seat attire, you will need a white or pinstriped riding shirt, breeches, a wool riding jacket, a hunt cap or riding helmet and dress riding boots. You should also wear riding gloves. Your breeches and jackets can be almost any dark color, but before you invest in clothing, make sure you find out what colors are in style at the moment. After all, you wouldn’t want to buy last year’s green jacket by mistake when this year everyone is wearing navy blue. Standing out because you are out of style is not a great strategy in the show ring.
For dressage riding, you will need to dress very formally. You should look for a white shirt, a stock tie, white or tan breeches, a black jacket, black dress boots and a hunt cap or riding helmet. The stock tie is fastened with a pin that has a horse theme. For saddle seat competitions, you will want to find a white riding shirt, dark jodhpurs, a dark coat, jodhpur boots and a riding derby.
Male and female Western show riders wear different clothing. Men wear Western shirts, ties, leather belts with ornate silver buckles, riding boots and felt cowboy hats. They also need a nice pair of jeans and fancy chaps. Women need to shop for Western tuxedo shirts, jackets or vests, bow ties, jeans, chaps, riding boots and felt hats. Western riders who are competing in the more active sports do not need the ties or fancy belt buckles.
Finally, if your child is riding for pleasure or competing in events, be sure that you always require him or her to wear a riding helmet instead of one of the other riding hats. It is not safe for anyone to fall on his head, but it is particularly dangerous for children, since they are not fully developed.