Equestrian sports rookie? Our horse riding equipment list starts you off on the right hoof.
Getting started in horseback riding can be both exciting and overwhelming. I still remember my first visit to the local farm store, staring wide-eyed the bright colored halters, fun saddle pads, and tie dye leg wraps, unsure what to buy.
While it may be tempting to grab everything that catches your eye and start purchasing immediately, you might find yourself with an empty bank account and a long list of items you still actually need.
In this article, we break down the must-have and nice-to-have horse gear for beginners.
If you want to get a better sense of what horses cost, check out our monthly horse expense reports. Learn exactly what we spend–down to the dollar.
Thanks to Sarah Harris for our feature photo!
Before you move on to the fun stuff, your first priority should be picking solid safety equipment that you use every time you ride.
We always recommend being fitted by a professional to make sure the gear you purchase fits correctly and keeps you safe.
- For English riding, go ahead and purchase a fun helmet now. If you decide to show later, inexpensive helmet covers are a great option for beginners or you can upgrade to a dedicated show helmet.
- For Western riding, there are helmets designed to look like cowboy hats and standard helmets with beautiful leather detailing.
- See our favorite english and western helmets on our Riding Essentials Amazon List.
- Check out our 9 best helmets for hot weather.
- Body protectors are basic vests designed to help absorb the shock of a fall and protect internal organs.
- Air vests are innovative safety vests that inflate via CO2 in the event of a fall to provide superior cushion and stability across your neck and sides.
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.
Riding: Clothes & Shoes
We will cover the basics for lessons here, but once you get more involved in the sport, a whole new world of options opens up!
- Be sure to buy a pair of boots that are intended to be used for horseback riding to ensure they provide the ankle stability you need and have the right amount of traction for your stirrups.
- For English riding, you can choose to purchase paddock boots and half chaps or full boots.
- For Western riding, a pair of cowboy boots is the standard choice.
- For English riding, a pair of breeches. (At least one pair in a classic khaki color.)
- For Western riding, jeans that fit well and have a skinnier leg are ideal. They should have some stretch and minimal seams to keep you comfortable.
- Any well fitting top that is weather appropriate is a good option for lessons.
- If you find the reins rub your hands, or you simply want a better grip, invest in a pair of riding gloves.
What you wear impacts how you ride. Check out our article about What to Wear Horseback Riding (With Pictures).
The style of tack you purchase will be dependent on whether you ride English or Western, but the basic items will remain the same.
Tack needs to fit the horse correctly, so wait until you have your horse before buying these items, then work with an experienced rider or instructor to find the perfect fit for your horse.
If you are riding a lesson horse and do not own one, these items will most likely be provided by the owner.
- Bit (Read our review of the Herm Sprenger Turnado bit.)
- Saddle Pad (Read about best saddle pads for trail riding.)
- Saddle Accessories
- Stirrup Leathers
- Stirrup Irons
- Lead rope
New to horse riding? Check out our step-by-step guide about How to Ride a Horse for Beginners (Basics, Safety, Mistakes).
Your horse should be groomed before and after each ride.
This helps to keep your horse healthy and comfortable during your rides and also gives you the opportunity to look over your horse for any injuries, swelling, or issues that may need addressing.
- Curry Comb
- Hard Brush
- Soft Brush
- Mane and Tail Brush
- Shampoo and Conditioner
- Hoof Pick
- Shedding Blade
- Sponges and Cloths
- Fly Spray (Check out our 14 best fly sprays (homemade and brand name.)
You can make things easier on yourself by buying a ready-made grooming kit at Amazon.
Feeding & Care
Depending on whether your horse is at home or at a boarding barn that provides self-care, partial or full service, you may need to provide all (or none) of these items.
- Buckets for water and food
- Treats (Please!)
- Food of choice (Read about common types of hay.)
- Water Heater or Heated Bucket/Trough, if weather reaches freezing temps
- Outdoor Broom
- Manure Fork
- Horse Blanket
- Fly Sheet (Check out our 14 best horse fly sheets.)
Be sure to keep a fully stocked first aid kit with your horse supplies.
If your horse is ever sick or injured, having these items available immediately could be a life saver.
- Emergency Vet Phone Number
- Wound Dressing
- This can be diapers, cotton gauze, or any other type of absorbent first aid padding.
- Antibacterial Ointment
- Clean Stable Wraps
- Zinc Oxide Cream
- Self Adhesive Bandages
- Latex Gloves
- Duct Tape and/or Medical Tape
- Large Tweezers
Note: You can make things easier by buying a ready-made horse first aid kit at Amazon.
Different Parts of Horse Tack Infographic
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Feel free to share on Pinterest, as well by hovering over it and clicking the Pinterest icon. #knowledgeishorsepower
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What should you wear horseback riding for the first time?
If you are taking a lesson, check with your barn or instructor for their policies. They may have helmets or other gear you can borrow for your first lesson or two.
Otherwise, if you have not invested in dedicated riding gear yet, a pair of riding tights, a weather appropriate shirt and/or jacket, and a pair of shoes with medium traction and a small heel. Always wear a properly fitting helmet.
Q: What should you wear horseback riding in the summer?
Stick to lighter fabrics for your pants and tops. You will still want to follow the basic rules for choosing pants and shoes, but summer lessons are a good time to throw on a short sleeved cotton polo or that t-shirt you got for gym class.
Choose lighter socks that wick sweat, and remember you will still need your helmet. Consider moving your lessons or riding time to the earlier part of the day to avoid the hottest weather and try to find shady areas or use an indoor arena to stay cool.
Bring lots of water and take breaks when you need them — both you and your horse will be getting hot faster. Be sure to give your horse a good cool down and lots of water after you ride.
Last, but not least… wear sunscreen!
Q: How should you dress for a riding lesson?
Check with your instructor for their specific policies, but many barns have fairly relaxed rules around lesson outfits. Typically, as long as they are comfortable and well fitting, regular tops and pants are acceptable.
Once you are sure you are going to stick with lessons, it is a good idea to invest in some riding specific gear to make sure you are as safe and comfortable as possible.
Q: How can I find affordable riding gear?
There is a huge market for used riding equipment and clothing. It is not uncommon for a rider to purchase an item and not get much use out of it before outgrowing it, deciding their horse does not like it, etc.
If you want to look locally, many tack shops and barns have bulletin boards where other riders will advertise used gear for sale.
There may also be consignment options locally. Online, you can look to places like Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook groups dedicated to resale.
As always with purchasing used goods, make sure you are using good judgment, shop with people you can trust, and consider bringing along a more experienced rider to evaluate the condition of more expensive items like saddles.
Q: Can you wear jeans horseback riding?
Yes, for most lessons and in some Western shows. Ideally, choose a pair that are stretchy and slim fitting.
You should have enough room to move and be comfortable, but not so much room that they will not get caught on any tack or get in your way while you ride.
Beware of the seams, especially along the inner leg. Jeans with a thick inner seam may cause irritation or bruising where you place pressure on the saddle.
Q: What do you wear horseback riding in the winter?
You can purchase fleece lined breeches, riding gloves, and specially designed jackets that allow you freedom to move while riding. Tall wool socks will help keep your toes warm and if it is very cold, doubling up is an option.
Vests are another popular option to add some extra warmth without restricting your range of motion.
Be sure to dress in layers, you may be surprised by how warm you get once you’re riding!
Q: What do you wear horseback riding on the beach?
Light, cotton clothing is a good choice to help keep you cool while also protecting your skin. While some people do wear shorts (or even swimsuits!), you may find yourself with some skin irritation without protection.
If you plan to ride in the water, be sure to wear something that you do not mind getting wet. Be sure your shoes are appropriate for riding — flip flops and bare feet are bad choices!
And of course, if you are working with a tour guide, be sure to ask for specifics. They may have their own rules that you’ll need to follow.Download Our Free Checklist Shop Horse Rookie Riding Essentials
P.S. If you enjoyed this article, trot on over to:
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- What to Wear on a Horseback Trail Ride
- 9 Rookie Approved Horse Riding Boots for Beginners
- 5 Best English Saddles for Hard-to-Fit Quarter Horses
- 9 Best Boots for Western Horseback Riding
- 13 Best Boots for Horseback Riding Lessons
- The Ultimate Camping for Horses Checklist