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Can you wear leggings horseback riding?

wear-leggings-horseback-riding
Written by Horse Rookie

Wondering what pants to wear horseback riding?

Things aren’t always as they appear when it comes to horseback riding. To the untrained eye, it may look like riders are wearing everyday leggings. But riding tights and breeches aren’t the same as leggings, and deciding what to wear will impact your experience in the saddle. (That’s why I wear my super comfy Kerrits Ice Fil Tech Tights.)

Riding horses puts special demands on clothing, and comfortable, lightweight, fashionable pants are must-haves. But leggings don’t offer the additional features that riding tights and breeches (or even jeans) do once you swing into the saddle. Can you ride in leggings? Yes. Should you? Ideally, no.

Don’t get me wrong: I love wearing leggings around the house. But, once it’s time to head to the barn and ride, those pants go straight back in the closet.

Love leggings and horses? Check out our favorite equestrian style leggings.

Horseback riding pants 101

Ever since I was a child, I’ve hated uncomfortable pants–especially those with tight waistbands. More than thirty years later, I still carry that pet peeve with me every time I shop for casual pants or horse riding apparel.

yoga-pants-horseback-riding-featuredSo if anyone would be tempted to wear leggings (or yoga pants) for horseback riding, it’d be me. And I’ve certainly thought about it. After all, riding pants need to be flexible, comfortable, and lightweight.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like leggings?

Sure, except lounging on the couch binging Heartland (best horse show EVER) is night-and-day different from approaching a three-foot oxer or enjoying an all-day trail ride.

Luckily, there’s a great compromise: riding tights.

Looking for a leggings alternative? Check out our 9 Best Horse Riding Breeches for Hot Weather Relief.

Leggings, meet breeches

When I was riding english as a kid, everyone wore breeches. Period.

These traditional riding pants were typically a thicker cotton blend, had a classic snap and zip narrow waistband with belt loops, featured elastic or velcro around the ankles, and came in really basic colors like tan, black, and white. (Occasionally *gasp* navy!)

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Click to read about the best riding breeches brands

Nowadays, I still see breeches worn at competitions. But for everyday riding, most of us wear a more modern and comfortable “riding tight.”

Riding tights are basically the leggings of the horse world. 

Riding tights combine comfort, safety, and fashion and come in LOTS of fun designs and styles for every body type, riding discipline, and fashion preference.

10 reasons riding tights are the better choice for equestrians

  1. Good Grip: Your #1 priority is to stay on your horse. Unlike leggings, riding tights feature knee patch or full seat grip (usually in the form of silicone or suede). These areas helps you “stick” to the saddle at key contact points like your inner leg, knee, thigh, and seat.
  2. Wide Waist: Wide waist riding pants? Oh, you had me at hello. There are plenty of riding tights with a wide waistband, that are just as–if not more–comfortable as your everyday leggings.
  3. Belt Loops: Some riding tights have them, some don’t. But if you’re pro-belt when you ride, you can still find several great options with loops.
  4. No Cutouts: Many leggings have fabric cutouts or other design accents that look great with your dresses but fall short for the saddle. When riding, you don’t want anything that can get caught on your tack.
  5. Hold, Please: Rookies especially should always carry their cell phones while riding. It’s just the safe thing to do. (And you never know when the perfect selfie moment will strike!) Many riding tights have a special cell phone pocket on the outer leg or thigh that makes it easy to access your phone.
  6. Long Lasting: Many leggings are made from thin fabric that won’t protect your skin from being rubbed raw against your saddle. Riding tights, on the other hand, are far more durable. (I’ve worn my favorite riding tights for 3+ years, and they’re still going strong.)
  7. Comfort Crazy: Riding is only a small portion of my barn time, and that’ll probably be the case for you, too. Handling tack, grooming my horse, watching other lessons, and hanging out with friends takes up way more time. The last thing I want is be so uncomfortable that I wish I was back home in my favorite leggings. Riding tights are made to wear all day with total comfort. (Note: In the wintertime, I actually wear my Kerrits cold weather riding tights as everyday pants. They’re that comfortable.)
  8. Proper Length: The majority of leggings are crop-length pants, meaning your calves stay bare. Cropped pants don’t work for horseback riding because you wind up with a gap of skin between your boots and pants that can rub on your leather tack, get nicked by tree branches on the trail, or leave you with a really awful tan line. #rookiemistake
  9. Price is Right: Unlike expensive traditional breeches, there are lots of nice riding pants out there that won’t break the bank. (Here are my favs.)
  10. Looks Legit: Looks aren’t everything, but even rookies want to fit into the equestrian scene. Leggings won’t exactly have you passing as a pro.

Riding in leggings: When it’s OK

Now, I’m not going to say you can never wear your leggings in the saddle. It’s not ideal, for all the reasons I just mentioned.

horseback-riding-what-to-wear-summerBut, you may decide to stick with leggings if:

  • You’re only doing a single ride (e.g. going on a one-off trail ride).
    Note: Jeans are a much better option for trail rides than leggings. See our What to Wear Trail Riding article!
  • You want to “try before you buy (into)” this whole horse thing (e.g. sign up for a couple lessons to see if you like riding).
    Note: Tack stores often sell used clothing so you don’t have to buy new.
  • You’re on vacation and don’t want to buy/pack separate riding pants.
    Note: Riding tights are very compact and lightweight. I took these on my trip to Costa Rica and loved them.
  • You’re pregnant and leggings are your most comfortable pants.
    Note: If you’re considering riding while pregnant, please be sure to read our Horse Riding While Pregnant article first.

Remember: If you’re going to ride in leggings, make sure to choose a pair that’s full length with no cutouts that could get caught or torn on your tack.

Ready to buy some no-regrets breeches? Check out our 9 Best Riding Breeches Brands.

Horse riding leggings? Gimme!

While I don’t recommend wearing leggings for horseback riding, I do love fun leggings that show off my love for all-things-horses.

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Click to see these cute unicorn leggings on Etsy

Here are my top five horse leggings for everyday wear:

Check out more of our favorite leggings on our Horse Rookie Amazon Watch List.

If you want to show off your favorite horse, you can even design your own horse leggings with your equine partner’s image printed on them!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What should you wear horseback riding?

At minimum, you’ll need these items before swinging into the saddle:

  • An ASTM/SEI-compliant horseback riding helmet.
  • Long pants like jeans, breeches, or jodhpurs. (Shorts and inner leg pant seams can chafe.)
  • Boots with a heel so your feet don’t accidentally get caught in your stirrups during a fall.
  • A fitted long or short sleeved shirt that won’t get tangled in the horse’s equipment. 

Learn more about what to wear horseback riding in our detailed guide.

Q: Can you wear yoga pants horseback riding?

We have an entire article answering that question. 

Q: Can you wear rain boots horseback riding?

We have an entire article answering that question. 

Q: Can you wear sneakers horseback riding?

Unless they are hybrid boots/sneakers like the Ariat Terrain H20, the answer is no.

Traditional sneakers do not have a safety heel to keep your foot from slipping through the stirrup, which is very dangerous.

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(Please Don’t) Break a Leg

Comfortable pants and horses are a natural fit, but that doesn’t mean you should wear the same pants for riding that you do for running errands around town.

If you love the feel of your leggings, you’ll love the equestrian equivalent of riding tights. They’re affordable alternatives that don’t cost an arm and a leg(ging) that can help you stay in the saddle and look like you know what you’re doing.

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About the author

Horse Rookie

I began riding horses at age six, and I'm just as infatuated (OK, more!) with the sport decades later. My AQHA gelding exemplifies the versatility of the breed -- reined cow horse, reining, roping, ranch riding, trail, dressage, and jumping. We're also dipping our toes (hooves) into Working Equitation!