Do I Need Gloves When Horse Riding? Pros & Cons Of Wearing Them

The debate about whether or not to wear gloves while horse riding is almost as old as time itself with everybody having their own opinion on what’s right and what isn’t. Of course, debate is a good thing but if you’re new to horse riding (or haven’t used gloves before) it can be difficult to know what the right thing to do is after all most riders base their opinions on their experiences and personal preferences. This is why I decided to write this article, to give the facts (both for and against) and let you make up your own mind.

Why do horse riders wear gloves? Wearing gloves when horse riding can help you to maintain proper control over the horse because they’ll allow you to grip the reins better. This is even more important in the winter when the rain and cold temperatures can reduce your ability to hold the reins properly.

Pros of using gloves when ridingCons of using gloves when riding
Better grip and controlBarrier between you and horse
Protect your handsCan be expensive
Look smartHands can get hot
Pros and cons of using gloves when horseriding

Why you need to wear gloves when horseriding

While I say wearing riding gloves is a personal preference there are some very good reasons why you should absolutely wear them when horse riding.

Give you better control/grip

The number one reason most equestrians give for wearing gloves when riding is that they allow you to grip the reins properly (and constantly) which allows for good communication between horse and rider and therefore gives better control.

Of course, all reins are different and offer different levels of grip (some are even textured to improve this) but if you’re wearing gloves then you’ll always have a firm grip on them.

Wearing gloves when horse riding will all you to have a better grip and control

Protect your hands from the weather

Wearing gloves during the summer will help to keep your hands cool and, depending on the material, will help to absorb sweat that might hinder your grip on the reins, but it’s in the winter when gloves really come into their own.

As the temperature starts to drop it can be difficult to keep proper control of your horse if your hands are numb with the cold which is one of the reasons why gloves are so important. Not only do they allow you to feel your fingers but by keeping them warm the gloves will also help with the circulation in your hands, allowing you to have better dexterity and therefore communicate better with your horse.

Along with the biting cold, winter can also bring with it heavy rain (okay so this isn’t exclusive to the winter) which will make it much harder for you to keep a firm hold of the reins, even if they’re textured. While gloves won’t be able to do anything about the rain they will help you to get a proper grip on the reins.

Protect your hands

Now, this isn’t suitable for every rider but if your horse is headstrong or is young and inexperienced wearing gloves can help to protect your hands while maintaining a firm grip on the reins. Regardless of what material your gloves are made from it will act as a barrier between your hands and the reins which means the gloves will suffer from friction burns rather than your hands! That means no more blisters which is always a good thing.

You’ll avoid insect bites

I appreciate this is more of a seasonal reason than anything else but believe me if you ride near water (running or standing) or through forests in the summer you’ll be grateful for a pair of gloves, even if they’re really cheap ones.

Of course, thinner gloves won’t offer as much protection as thicker ones but even a thin layer of protection will make your hands less tempting to those pesky biting insects such as mosquitoes and gnats.

They look smart

Not everybody is worried about how they look when they’re out riding but if you’re one of those people who like to be fashionable whenever you go out then wearing gloves can make a big difference. Of course, some competitions require you to wear gloves as part of the proper ‘competition’ attire, but even if this isn’t the case, wearing gloves can really look smart. Especially if they’re in a matching or complementary color to the rest of your outfit.

Wearing color coordinated gloves can look really smart and stylish

Keep your hands soft

Okay so I admit this one is a personal preference and won’t make any difference to your riding but if you ride a lot then your hands may be grateful that you wear gloves when you do ride. 

Over time the tops of your palms (where your fingers join your hand) will start to harden and develop thicker, tougher skin which can be uncomfortable and, on occasions, unsightly. This is a fact of horse riding and while you can use moisturizer to help counteract this it won’t get rid of it completely (nor will it completely prevent it) but wearing gloves will stop this from happening in the first place.

If you’ve been riding for years without gloves and already have this thicker skin then don’t worry, if you start wearing gloves when you’re riding then they’ll give your hands a break and will allow the skin time to regrow. This will, over time, make your hands soft again.

Why you don’t need to wear gloves when horseriding

Having read the reasons for wearing gloves above it might seem like a no-brainer and that you should always use them but it wouldn’t be right for me to leave it at that. After all the reasons people give for not using gloves may be just as valid to you.

A barrier between you and the horse

While there’s no doubt that wearing gloves will give you extra grip when riding it does also create a barrier between you and your horse which some riders don’t like. It won’t affect your ability to ride properly but it will mean that if you stroke or pat your horse you won’t be able to feel them.

Wearing gloves will act as a barrier between you and your horse

Can be expensive

The price of riding gloves can vary drastically depending on the material, fastening, and even the brand which means they can be very expensive, especially if you’re anything like me and lose things like gloves all of the time.

Ideally, a good pair of summer gloves and a similar pair of winter ones should be all that you need but this isn’t an ideal world and you may need to buy more gloves as you damage or lose your current gloves. Of course, if you buy a cheap pair of Shires cotton gloves (available on Amazon for only a few dollars) then this isn’t a problem but if your gloves are a top brand and made of leather then having to spend north of $50 every time won’t be much fun.

Hands can get hot

If you’re wearing the right type of gloves for the time of year then this isn’t likely to be an issue. That said though, we all know how difficult it can be trying to second guess the weather and if you turn up to ride with thick gloves in the summer then your hands are going to get pretty darn hot. Likewise in the winter, summer gloves won’t do a lot to keep your hands warm (or dry).

Do all horse riders wear gloves when riding?

While I personally always wear gloves when riding, or even just handling my horses, I can see why some people prefer not to use them, especially if you need to replace them regularly. With this in mind, I decided to ask on social media how many people wore gloves while they were out riding, giving the options of always, occasionally, and never and was surprised by what people said.

How many horse riders wear gloves?

Which riding gloves are best for me?

When it comes to choosing which pair of riding gloves are best for you you need to take the material, durability, comfort, breathability, price, and fastening into account as well as when and what you want to use them for. There are so many different gloves on offer these days that the choice is almost endless which is why I decided to compare a range of different gloves to see which was the best. If you’re interested to know then check out this article on the ultimate riding gloves.

Want to know what you should wear when riding? A beginner’s guide to horse riding attire.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

Recommended products 

Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.

  • Horse Knots by Reference Ready – If you’re like me and enjoy pocket reference guides then you’ll love this knot tying guide. These handy cards can easily fit in your pocket or attach to the saddle for quick reference. They’re waterproof, durable and are color coded to make them easy to follow.
  • Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
  • TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
  • Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
  • Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
  • Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.

Shopping lists

I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉

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