Apparel FAQ Gear Riding

Horse Riding Equipment List: What You Need & What You Don’t

horse riding equipment
Written by Cathy H.

What equipment do you need for horse riding? Our horse supplies checklist can help.

It is no exaggeration to say that equestrianism is an expensive sport, even just in terms of the amount of equipment horseback riders can accumulate over the years. (Chief Rookie Aside: That’s why I started publishing monthly horse expense reports to keep myself honest.)

If you are a beginner, though, there’s no need to be daunted by all of the equestrian products on the market.

Affordable options exist, and you actually “need” very little in order to get involved in horseback riding. From apparel for you to gear for your horse, here’s what you should prioritize when getting started:

  • Riding pants
  • Paddock or tall boots
  • Gloves
  • Helmet
  • Safety vest (We love the Hit Air Vest!)

This article also discusses recommended gear for committed riders or those who lease a horse, plus basic supplies that are helpful to have around the barn.

Thanks to Sarah Harris for our featured photo!

New to horse riding? Check out our step-by-step guide about How to Ride a Horse for Beginners (Basics, Safety, Mistakes).

Horse Tack List for Beginners

If you have just signed up for a lesson or two and have not been totally bitten by “the horse bug” (yet), you might be reluctant to buy specialized apparel.

That’s completely understandable, as any equestrian sport can quickly get expensive. Good news: You probably already own several of the bare minimums to get through your first couple of rides. These include things like:

  • Non-slick long pants
  • Close-toed shoes with heels

See Roper’s Crossrider Boot on Amazon

Pro Tip: If you want riding boots you can also use for other activities, try these comfy combo hiking/riding boots.

Apparel and Footwear

Once you have officially gone horse crazy and are ready to start your equestrian equipment collection, here are some apparel and footwear items you’ll likely want to purchase:

Riding pants: They go by many different names: breeches, jodhpurs, riding tights, riding jeans… but all of these terms refer to pants that have no seams along the inside of your leg and (typically) have patches of grippy material on the inside of the knee, at least.

Riding pants for any discipline will keep you comfortable and secure in the saddle, so beginners do not need to worry much about specific styles. Once you become more skilled, you’ll likely want to invest in discipline-specific pants (e.g. breeches for jumping and dressage, jodhpurs for saddle seat, jeans for reining).

Leather boots: Also called paddock boots in English disciplines (and plain ‘ol’ “boots” in western disciplines), ankle boots with good tread and a 1-inch heel are a great choice when you’re just starting out. Cowboy boots are also a solid option, as long as they aren’t so fancy you mind getting muck and mud on them. They should also be comfortable and have at least a 1″ heel.

The heel prevents your foot from slipping through the stirrup, which could create an unsafe scenario if you became unbalanced and fell off.

You can also wear tall leather boots for English riding if you prefer.

Gloves: Holding leather or rubber reins can be uncomfortable at first, especially if the reins are new and have not become soft and supple yet.

Also, your hands can sweat and make the reins slick, affecting your ability to keep a safe grip. Gloves solve these problems.

Riding gloves conform smoothly to your hands and fingers while having sticky material on the palm side. The key is to find gloves that fit you properly and are no so bulky or stiff that they actually make holding your reins harder.

Shirt: Wear any kind of shirt, sweater, or jacket to go along with your riding pants, boots, and gloves. Breathable fabrics that do not restrict your movement are best.

Pro Tip: Leave excessively loose clothes and jewelry at home because these can get caught on the saddle, create noise that spooks your horse, or create an unsafe situation.

What you wear impacts how you ride. Check out our article about What to Wear Horseback Riding (With Pictures).

Safety Gear

If you’re a beginner, you will likely be riding a very safe and beginner-friendly horse. So, do you really need safety gear if you do not plan to ride in a rodeo? YES!

We must always remember that horses are big animals with a mind of their own.

We cannot predict what they will do, and we cannot guarantee that we will have the best reflexes or balance to keep ourselves safe either. A fall can happen in the blink of an eye, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

Here is what you should consider for safety gear:

Helmet (Critical): Brain injuries are no joke. Protect your noggin with a horse riding helmet specifically designed for the demands of our sport.

A bike helmet does NOT protect you during a horse fall. If you are taking lessons, ask the instructor ahead of time if you need to bring your own helmet or if helmets are provided.

Click to see this Troxel helmet at Amazon

It is also a good idea to have your coach help you find properly fit any helmet you purchase. Always buy new vs. used!

Safety vest (Encouraged): A safety vest protects your chest and vital organs. Hitting the ground is inevitable for anyone who rides horses. It will happen one day, especially as you learn how to do more things that affect your balance in different ways, like cantering and jumping.

Wearing a vest that absorbs some of the shock of hitting the ground is definitely preferable to getting the wind knocked out of you or cracking a rib.

Pro Tip: You will not always get hurt every time you fall, but safety gear reduces the likelihood of injury. #nobrainer

We love Hit Air Vests so much we wrote an entire article about them! Check out our Equestrian Hit Air Vest Review: My Favorite Fall in 30 Years.

Horse Tack List for Committed Riders

If you stopped at this point and only bought the recommended apparel and safety equipment listed above, you would still have all you need to enjoy taking horseback riding lessons.

If you become more serious about this whole equestrian thing, showing up to your lessons wearing your breeches, boots, gloves, helmet and safety vest is only step one. What else might you buy for your favorite horse?

Gear for Your Lesson Horse

Here are two purchases that make sense for beginner riders who do not have horses of their own (yet!):

Customized saddle pad: Get a saddle pad (called a saddle blanket in Western arenas) that lets your personality shine and also looks great on your lesson horse. Unlike saddles, which need to fit the shape of the horse’s back perfectly, saddle pads can typically be used for any horse.

Just keep in mind the saddle that you use. For example, western saddles usually require thick, rectangular pads.

In the English disciplines, saddle pads are thinner rectangles or shaped to align more closely with your saddle. Be aware that english hunt-seat and jumping saddle pads will be too short for a dressage saddle’s long flaps.

A saddle with an adjustable gullet: Finding a comfy saddle in your instructor’s tack room can involve some trial and error. And it is always disappointing when you have a group lesson and one of your riding buddies has snagged your favorite saddle!

Plus, you also have to adjust the stirrup leathers every time… it is enough of an inconvenience to make you long for your own saddle. Luckily, you do not need your own horse to have a saddle.

A stirrup leather is the long, thin, adjustable piece that loops through the top of the stirrup and secures to the saddle.

Find a saddle with an adjustable gullet so that it can fit a variety of horses. Stirrups and stirrup leathers may have to be purchased separately. It’s usually best to choose an english saddle or western saddle once you have a better idea about the type of activities you want to pursue.

Shop adjustable gullet saddles on Amazon

Gear for Your Own (or Lease) Horse

Wait until you buy or lease a particular horse to buy this essential equipment, because the size and type you buy depends on the horse.

A girth: This keeps the saddle nice and snug on the horse. Different types of saddles require different types of girths.

Western saddles, Australian stock saddles, hunt seat or jumper saddles, and dressage saddles use types of girths (called cinches in Western riding) that are not interchangeable.

Bridle and reins: Unless you plan to show, you can actually get away with using a Western bridle (called a headstall for Western riding) and an English saddle — or vice versa. Whatever floats your boat!

The bridle should be comfortable for your horse’s head and the correct size. Ask your trainer for help choosing a good bridle to ensure the fit and noseband work well for your horse.

The reins should be long enough to allow your horse to stretch his nose down to the ground without ripping your arms off. 

Shop tack starter kits on Amazon

Bit: This is a highly specific piece of equipment that completely depends on your horse’s training and sensitivity, as well as your own riding ability.

A bit that is too strong will irritate your horse’s mouth and cause head-tossing and other unwanted behaviors, but one that is not strong enough may make you unable to slow down or stop your horse effectively. 

What you wear impacts how you ride. Check out our article about What to Wear Horseback Riding (With Pictures).

Additional Horse Equipment for Beginners

Continuing to move up in the horse world? Whether you take lessons or own your own horse, the items below are solid investments for all levels of equestrians.

Grooming tools:

For starters, pre-packaged grooming kits are very affordable. (See our favorite one at Amazon.)

It’s also really fun to visit a tack shop and hand-select all of your favorite brushes after holding them and feeling the soft bristles. They come in a wide variety of colors, styles, and courseness.

Click to shop grooming kits on Amazon

A basic grooming kit should have (at minimum):

    • A rubber curry comb
    • A stiff-bristled dandy brush
    • A soft-bristled body brush
    • A hoof pick to clean your horse’s hooves

Shampoo and bathing equipment: Create a horse bathing kit with the following (or get a pre-made set at Amazon):

    • A small bucket
    • A large sponge
    • A scrubby brush
    • A sweat scraper
    • Equine shampoo
    • Detangler for the mane and tail

Fly spray and/or sheet: When summer hits, you will want your own supply of fly spray so that you can use it liberally, even if your instructor has run out. If your horse has sensitive skin, be sure to get a gentler variety and test out any new sprays on a small area first. This helps you make sure your horse won’t have a bad reaction before spraying all over its body.

Halter and lead rope: Pick out a nylon or rope halter and lead rope in your favorite color, or get a handsome leather halter for a more polished look. If your horse is turned out in a halter, be sure to use a breakaway variation that will break if it gets caught in a fence or hoof.

Whether you’re shopping for yourself or an equestrian friend or family member, trainer Shelby Dennis’ Equestrian Gift Guide is a year-round idea starter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What would be on a horse racing equipment list?

When it comes to racing, here are the most common pieces of equipment.

For the horse:

  • Racing saddle (extremely lightweight)
  • Saddle pad 
  • Stirrup leathers
  • Stirrup irons
  • Girth
  • Bridle
  • Bit
  • Reins
  • Blinkers
  • Ear plugs
  • Shadow rolls
  • Tongue tie

For the horse rider:

  • Helmet
  • Silks (the jockey’s “uniform” showing their barn colors)
  • Boots
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Body protector
  • Whip

Love racing? Learn all about what to wear to a horse race!

Q: What would be on a horse riding kit list?

All the items in this article, of course!

  • Riding pants
  • Paddock or tall boots
  • Gloves
  • Helmet
  • Safety vest
  • Halter
  • Lead rope
  • Saddle
  • Saddle pad
  • Girth
  • Bit
  • Bridle
  • Reins
  • Grooming tools
  • Bathing supplies
  • Horse blankets and sheets

Of course, there’s a LOT more equipment you can buy as you pursue your riding adventure. Check out our monthly horse expense reports to see what we purchase each month — down to the dollar.

Q: What would you find on a horse accessories list?

Accessories would include any “non essentials.” These could include items like: 

Q: What NOT to buy for a horse?

Something about a tack shop makes overspending on a horse super easy. While there are lots of things you need, there are plenty of things you don’t.

Check if your barn has a communal first aid supply. If so, you don’t need to buy any for your horse (just replace anything you use).

You don’t need brand new tack (used is often just as good and much cheaper) or lots of saddle pads (two is fine for one horse).
Supplies used for shows (like leg wraps, tail bags, shampoo, ShowSheen, etc.) can wait until you need them.

Q: Is it possible to ride a horse without any tack?

Absolutely! Riding a horse without a saddle or bridle can be very freeing, but don’t head out to the barn just yet. Not all horses handle bareback riding well at first, so allow some time for him to get used to it.

To ride without a bridle, your horse will also need to listen very well to leg and seat cues. You can also teach him finger commands (you tapping on his neck or shoulder).

Start out riding bareback with a bridle in a round pen. Then, ride without a bridle (use a halter and lead rope for now) and with a saddle.

Q: Where can I find horse riding equipment names and pictures to learn?

Start by spending time browsing Horse Rookie (of course!), but also invest in a comprehensive book. The Complete Book of Horses is a wonderful guide and includes more than 1,500 photos.

complete book of horses

Click to see this book at Amazon

Choices, Choices

Plenty of other horse riding gear exists (understatement of the year), whether you are riding for fun, competing, or just taking care of your horse.

This list will help you start out on the right hoof in your equestrian journey.

Happy trails!

Shop Horse Rookie Riding Essentials

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, trot on over to:

Love it? Share it!

About the author


Cathy H.

The only thing I love more than blogging about horses is hanging out with my Appoloosa gelding Chacos. (I also have a soft spot in my heart for OTTBs, thanks to my first childhood horse!) Chacos and I enjoy training across multiple English and Western disciplines. #varietyisthespiceoflife