What to Wear for a First-Time Horseback Riding

Are you planning on getting in the saddle for the first time? Do you love horses but have little experience riding them? Then this article is for you! I want your first experience in the saddle to be just as enjoyable as you do. In this article, I will be discussing what to wear horseback riding for the first time and what to wear horseback trail riding.  

Horses are amazing animals, and everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy riding them at least once.  If you’re going riding on vacation, there’s a good chance you’ll be riding on the trails, and it will be important to wear the right clothes to have an enjoyable experience!

What to Wear Horseback Riding for your First-Time Ride

Close-Toed Shoes

Footwear is one of the most important pieces of your riding attire.  The proper pair of riding boots can range from a broken-in pair of cowboy boots to an expensive pair of custom fit tall boots.  These aren’t necessary for your first time riding, though may be considered if you decide to ride more regularly. But, for your first ride, there are just a few characteristics your shoes or boots should have.  I’m going to discuss these features that your shoes must have in order for you to be safe and comfortable on your first ride.

What to Wear Horseback Riding for your First-Time Ride

The only absolute necessity is that your shoes must be closed-toed.  This means that your toes are not exposed in any way; no flip-flops, no sandals, etc.  Horses are large animals with large and heavy feet. Getting stepped on by a horse can be painful, even with closed-toed shoes. Open-toed shoes allow the possibility of bare toes getting stepped on, which could break both bones and skin. This would definitely ruin your riding experience!  

A few more characteristics to consider are heels and laces.  If you have safe, comfortable heeled boots, these would be a good option to wear when riding.  So long as the heels are short enough, they can keep the stirrup from sliding too far back on your foot. Also, if you are going to wear a shoe with laces, make sure the laces can be tucked in;  laces left out can easily get stuck on both your saddle and on trees or branches you may be riding around.

What to Wear Horseback Riding: Long Pants

Another crucial part of your riding wardrobe is long pants.  English riders wear breeches, western riders wear jeans- you just need to make sure you wear long pants for your first ride.  If you decide to take up riding more regularly, then you can get more specialized pants, depending on what discipline you decide to take up.

What to Wear Horseback Riding: Long Pants

Similar to your shoes being closed-toed, the most important characteristic of the pants you choose to ride in is that they end at or below your ankles.  There are a few reasons for this, the most important of which is your saddle. English or western, your saddle is going to be made of leather. The friction that will be created between the leather and your skin, especially if you start sweating, can cause leather rubs, similar to rope burns or carpet burns, on your legs.  These can be extremely painful, especially if they develop while you still have much of your ride left. Long pants will protect your legs from these painful rubs.

Long pants will also protect your legs from bugs, sunburns, and trees or bushes.  If you’re going trail riding, it’s likely you’ll be riding close to trees, branches, bushes, or anything that could potentially come into contact with your skin.  It’s also likely that you’ll be exposed to the sun for long periods of time, and that there will be bugs attracted to the sweaty horses. Long pants can protect you from all three of these dangers.  It may seem tempting to wear shorts in the heat of summer, but remember, long pants are worth the heat while riding! In fact, the thicker your pants, the less likely you are to experience any of these inconveniences. 

What to Wear Horseback Riding: Helmet

The most important part of your riding attire is a helmet.  Never, ever ride a horse without a helmet. I’m sure you have seen or will see people riding in cowboy hats or ball caps, but, for your safety, don’t follow these examples.  I have personally witnessed helmets save riders’ lives and will never ride without one myself.

What to Wear Horseback Riding: Helmet

Like riding boots and riding pants, helmets can vary in cost from $50-$500, and sometimes more.  If you are going trail riding at a tourist location, helmets will most likely be provided for you.  But, it’s worthwhile to ask in advance, should you need to provide your own.  

Unlike riding pants and shoes,  not every helmet is suitable for riding safely.  Depending on the country in which you are riding, there are national safety requirements that helmets must meet. In the US, these are ASTM-SEI requirements.  So long as the helmets meet these requirements, they are safe to use while riding. Otherwise, do not wear a helmet.  

Helmets may not seem glamorous or photo-friendly, but they will protect your head and your life while you’re enjoying your ride.  Serious head injuries can occur from horseback riding, and it’s best to always be prepared for the unexpected.


Your first ride will be smooth sailing with just three important articles of clothing: closed-toed shoes, long pants, and a helmet.  Riding horses is an amazing experience that everyone should be able to enjoy, and these three things will help keep you safe and comfortable while doing so.  I hope this article helped you understand what to wear horseback riding for the first time or trail riding for the first time. Please share this article and share your riding experience with us!

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