Western Horse Riding Attire: A Complete Guide To What To Wear

There’s no doubt that horseback riding can be an expensive hobby and as you get more serious about it you will probably want to buy clothing that has been specially designed for riding but what do you need and what can you do without? While there are certainly some things you shouldn’t scrimp on there are things that you definitely won’t need (or even end up using).

In this article, we’ll look into exactly what you need for western horseback riding. We’ll look into what you need for pleasure riding as well as what you’ll need if you want to compete or show your horse. 

Western horseback riding attire

Western horseback riding is all about comfort which is why the western attire is completely different to that for English riding. The idea is that you can move freely, stay comfortable, and be protected from the elements while spending all day in the saddle.


Riding helmets aren’t as common in western riding as they are in English riding but that doesn’t mean to say they shouldn’t be essential, and in fact, many riding schools will insist on them. 

The style of riding helmet you go for is down to you and your personal preference (and of course your budget). English style riding helmets and skull caps are often used by western riders. Still, if you prefer to go for something with a little more of a western feel then you can actually buy ’Stetson style’ helmets or you can buy a cover for your riding helmet to make it look a bit more ‘western’. If you’re looking for a proper western riding helmet then I’d suggest you check out Resistol or, if you’d prefer a cover then Troxel has a brimmer cover, both of which are available on State Line Tack which has a great range (and free delivery for orders over $99).

Whatever style of riding helmet you choose it must meet the latest safety standards though.


Most jeans are suitable for western riding but you’ll ideally want a pair that are tough, durable, and comfortable. Ideally, you’ll also want a pair that either doesn’t have an inside seam or at least has one that is flat. If you’re only riding for an hour at a time you may not feel the benefit of a flat seam but if you ride for any longer your legs will definitely notice the difference as they won’t be rubbed raw. You’ll also want the leg of your jeans to be long enough to prevent them from riding up while you’re in the saddle.

When it comes to the style of jeans, ie straight or boot cut, it’s down to personal preference, as is whether to wear them inside or outside of your boots. One thing I would say though is, if you do opt for boot cut, make sure they’re not so baggy that they get caught in the stirrups. 


While belts aren’t typically essential for pleasure riding they can be really useful, not least for keeping your pants up. They also offer a handy place for you to attach any valuables that you don’t want to leave behind while you’re out riding.

If you choose to compete or show your horse though a belt is a must and is often accompanied by a big buckle, typically depicting a horse, a western scene, or an event you’ve entered (and possibly won).


Like English riding, your footwear must have a heal but in all other respects, they’re very different. While riding or jodhpur boots tend to be plain in style, western riding boots, on the other hand, can be far more decorative.

There are a huge number of different boot manufacturers out there (and I’ve tried most of them over the years) but from a personal point of view, I prefer Ariat (my current pair are their heritage boots). They’re comfortable, even if you wear them all day long, but more importantly, look darn good!


While chaps may be a traditional part of western attire (and complete the stereotypical western look) they’re not essential for most forms of western riding, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a purpose though. They’re great at keeping your legs warm and dry during winter rides and can help protect them while riding through dense brush or thorns.

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Body protector

Body protectors aren’t an essential piece of kit, and aren’t even compulsory for every competition but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear one. Hopefully, you won’t fall off (so therefore won’t need a body protector) but if you do, and let’s be honest most of us have at some point, you’ll be glad you’re wearing one as they can drastically reduce the risk of serious injury, especially to your vital organs.

Some people argue that they’re not comfortable to ride in, restrict your movement, and can’t be used with a western saddle but that simply isn’t true. Yes in the past they were made too long for western saddles but these days they fit perfectly, are lightweight, don’t restrict your movements at all, and, in my opinion, are an absolute must.

Still not convinced you need one? Why body protectors are a must when riding.


When you first start riding you undoubtedly won’t be that worried about the style of shirt you wear but when you start to get a bit more serious you’ll probably want to think about getting one that’s more suitable, even if just in terms of styles. 

For pleasure riding any plain, well-fitting, long-sleeved shirt will do but when it comes to competing there are rules about the style of shirt you can wear. They should be long-sleeved and can also be plain, but more commonly they have a plaid or paisley pattern with decorative, contrasting stitching.


I bet you’ve not given much thought to what sort of underwear you’re wearing when you’re riding but it can make more of a difference than you may realise. If you’re only riding once or twice a week then you’re probably fine with what you have right now. If you’re spending hours in the saddle at a time though you may want to consider something a bit more comfortable.

Generally, sports undergarments are good for spending a long time in the saddle because they give you plenty of support, don’t have awkward seams, and are breathable, If you really want you can buy underwear that’s been purposefully designed for equestrians but I’ve never found them to be any better, just way more expensive.


Unlike English riding, western riders don’t tend to wear jackets, even for competitions but that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t times when you could benefit from a comfortable jacket. 

If you’re riding out in the cold and wet though a warm, waterproof jacket is an absolute must, but style-wise it’s down to you and your tastes. I would, however, avoid a jacket that can get caught on the back of the saddle as well as one that’s made of a noisy material that can scare the horse.


Gloves aren’t compulsory when it comes to horseback riding and every rider has their own opinion on whether or not they’re a good idea but I personally won’t leave the yard without them. They keep my hands warm in the winter, cool in the summer and most importantly of all protect my hands on long rides or if I’m riding a headstrong horse.

Want to know more about riding gloves?

Check out these articles on the pros and cons of wearing gloves when riding and the ultimate guide to riding gloves.

Takehome message

While each event will have its own requirements for riding attire, when it comes to riding for pleasure it’s largely down to you and your preferences. That said though it’s important to make sure you have the right footwear and that your clothes aren’t restrictive and won’t get caught up in the saddle or stirrups.

Riding helmets and body protectors aren’t compulsory (and aren’t even a requirement at some events) but I do feel they are essential. After all, nothing can be more valuable than your health and safety.

Interested in English riding? A complete guide to English 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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