What Is The Purpose Of Chaps?

Last Updated on February 9, 2022

Half chaps are a staple in most English riders’ wardrobes, especially if riding in paddock boots. Half chaps are fabric or leather lower-leg protectors designed to be worn over a paddock riding boot, but what is the purpose of chaps? The main purpose of a half chap is to give rider protection from chafing or rubbing and provide extra grip. However, many riders use half chaps for protection against brush when trail riding, leg stability for young riders, or as an economical solution to tall boots for smaller horse shows.

What is the Purpose of Half Chaps?


The term chaps, originally “armitas”, is thought to have been derived from the Chapparal Bush found across brush country. “Apron chaps” appeared in the early 1800s specifically designed for lower leg protection and warmth. However, half chaps are typically worn by English riders. They are an extremely popular riding accessory among younger junior exhibitors. Although most federations allow the use of paddock boots and garter straps up to a certain age, some disciplines do not traditionally use garter straps. Tall boots are typically an expensive piece of riding gear, and difficult to size appropriately on growing children. Half chaps provide an inexpensive option for both youth and adult riders that do not own or wish to mess with tall boots on a daily basis. Typically, half chaps will not be worn at major or rated shows. However, they are a great option for local or schooling show circuits.

Half chaps aren’t just for the show ring. In fact, many western-dominant brands are coming out with western-style half chaps, some even have a fringe! These are great options for trailblazers and day workers wanting a little extra grip and protection without a full chap. However, half chaps are not typically designed to fit over cowboy boots. You will see them more commonly paired with English or western style paddock boots, with a snug lower-leg fit to prevent any snagging or sagging.

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Half Chaps Materials

Half chaps are typically smooth leather, suede, faux leather/suede, and now breathable neoprene materials. Although the higher quality half chaps are leather, many people love the durability and machine-washable properties of the newer synthetic materials. For those wearing half chaps through water obstacles or inclement weather, the quick-drying neoprene half chaps are a fantastic option. Leather or suede still offers the most protection from rubbing against stirrup leathers or the saddle.

Many companies have elected to manufacture season-specific half chaps. Some are moisture-wicking materials with extra ventilation holes for warm weather riding. There are also many fleece-lined options to help provide a little bit of warmth during the cold months. In either case, it is important the materials remain thin enough so there will be no interference in leg/horse contact or cues. Although a great stability and grip tool, half chaps should not be worn if they inhibit a rider’s ability to “feel” their horse.

Half Chaps Materials

Wearing Chaps – What is the Purpose of Chaps

Most half chaps are a very snug fit with a side or rear zipper and a strip of elastic. This tight fit is essential due to slight stretching over time. Loose garments with gapping can pose a safety risk on top of being unsightly. Half chaps will fit just below the knee. Unlike tall boots, they will not “break” over time and eventually drop in total height. This is because there is no excessive material at the ankle to loosen and wrinkle. The half chap should not interfere with any bending at the knee but have enough height to provide coverage. Most half chaps will have a slightly taller outside inseam for the sleek tall look of formal boots.

Some western brands offer a looser “bell” fit, with snug attachment just below the knee. This is to accommodate a standard cowboy boot shaft, which will add leg circumference, unlike thin breeches. We have seen some of these options utilize elastic tops, buttons, zippers, and even some leather ties!

Chaps Cost

Most suede half chaps will MSRP between $50-$60 USD. However, premium grain leather half chaps custom-fitted have run several hundred dollars, while custom fringe western half chaps with tooling can climb up in price. Some synthetic half chap designs are available for as little as $25!

ARIAT Unisex Breeze Chap Half Chap

When comparing to the cost of boots, a full-grain leather riding boot of decent quality typically starts in the $225 range, with many brands running $1,000+.  Many high-end tall boots are custom fitted for a streamlined calf-fit, spiking the already-high price tag. Therefore, half chaps are a great economical option for an English rider not yet ready to take the price plunge with tall boots.

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Do leather chaps keep you warm?

Leather chaps are the most popular chaps, and they are widely used in the cold weather. The question is: do leather chaps keep you warm? The answer is yes, they do. Leather chaps are the best option for those who want to stay warm during cold weather. Leather chaps are also waterproof and a great choice if you are going for a long ride. They will keep you warm and dry if you get caught in the rain. You can find several different types of chaps available in the market and the most important thing is to choose a good one for your riding style.

Can you wear half chaps over jeans?

Yes, it’s very common to wear half chaps over jeans, although they can be worn over any type of pants, including breeches or jodhpurs. Many western riders like to wear half chaps over jeans, and the idea is that they can be worn with any type of boot. Half chaps are made to fit over any type of boot, and that’s why they’re often used by horsemen. They’re also commonly worn by riders of other western riding disciplines such as saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, and rodeo.

Why do riders wear half chaps?

Half chaps are worn by riders mainly for the protection from rain and prevention of chafing and rubbing, that can be caused by stirrups. They also help with the rider’s breeches to stay in place and prevent them from riding up or twisting.
They come in various sizes and styles so there is one for everyone! Half chaps are an extremely important part of a rider’s kitbag. They are essential for any rider who rides in the wet or cold weather as they help keep your legs warm and dry. They can also be used to protect your legs from scratches and other damage. Chaps have evolved over time and there are many different types to suit every riding style. 

What is the purpose of fringe on chaps?

The original function of the fringe on chaps was to help raindrops roll off the rider’s leg. Without a fringe, the rain water would accumulate on the chaps and diminish the purpose of the chaps, which is to protect rider’s legs from the elements. However, nowadays the fringe is more a fashion detail than a functional element.

When should you wear chaps?

Chaps are a type of garment that is worn by cowboys. They were first introduced in the 1870s, and were worn as a way to protect the lower legs of men from the elements and environment. Chaps can be worn for different reasons. They are worn for protection against the elements, and also to keep the legs warm. In addition, chaps are also worn for fashion, usually in combination with jeans. They are normally made of leather or denim, and may be either full length or ankle length. The full-length chaps are designed to fit over the boot and cover the entire leg.