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Summer Horseback Riding: What to Wear & What NOT to Wear

what-wear-summer-horseback-riding
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Written by Cathy H.

A step-by-step guide to surviving (and thriving) while horse riding in the heat.

It doesn’t take long to learn that in the world of equestrian sports, wearing the right clothing and using the right riding gear influences whether your ride is safe and comfortable. That’s never more so than in the heat of summer.

(No wonder we love our Kerrits Ice Fil Cooling Tech Tights SO much!)

This article discusses essential summer horseback riding clothing, including:

We’ll also share some summer riding tips and frequently asked questions that’ll help you enjoy your horse all year-round.

Key Considerations: Hot Weather Equestrian Clothing

Throughout this guide, you’ll encounter some of the same words on repeat: moisture-wicking, ventilation, lightweight, etc.

We don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but these are important considerations for a reason.

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Summer riding doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.

You need your sweat to move away from your skin in order to experience the cooling effect of evaporation.

Fabrics that are moisture-wicking speed this process along, and ventilation allows air to reach your skin to whisk away sweat droplets as well. Lightweight, non-clingy, breathable materials all play a role in keeping your temperature in check.

Keeping all of this in mind, here are some of the best products for staying cool and safe while riding in hot weather.

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Best Horse Riding Helmets for Hot Weather

You lose a lot of heat through the top of your head–especially while exercising. But, when you wear a riding helmet without proper ventilation, where does all that heat go?

Heat gets trapped and makes you feel overheated and even dizzy. That’s why when you ride in the summer, you should choose a helmet that is designed to help keep your head cool and safe.

What to Look For:
  • Ventilation windows that allow heat to escape
  • Visor to keep the sun off your face and out of your eyes
  • Mesh liner to help keep your head cool

Click to see One K’s wide brim helmet on Amazon

Summer Savvy Solutions:
  • One K Defender AVANCE Wide Brim Helmet – This riding hat is specifically design for high-sun situations with an extra wide brim and plenty of ventilation. This is a good option for trail riding.
  • Tipperary Sportage Hybrid Helmet – This classic black design looks awesome in the show ring, but its exceptional vents will keep you cool no matter what you do with your horse this summer.
  • Ovation Deluxe Schooler Helmet – This helmet has an adjustable dial in the back to make sure you get a great fit for maximum safety. It also comes in a variety of fun colors and are perfect for your riding lesson.
  • Dover Saddlery EquiVisor – For those hot days when you’re squinting in the sun, an extra-wide brim helps keep your entire face cool. It easily attaches to any helmet.

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Learn more in our article about the 8 Best Horse Riding Helmets for Hot Weather Relief.

Best Summer Horse Riding Shirts

Choosing the best summer horse riding shirts ultimately depends on your personal preferences and what you intend to do with your horse.

If you’re going to a show, you may need to wear a collared shirt, for example. And, if you burn easily, you may want to wear long sleeves and/or SPF-treated fabric when schooling outside.

What to Look For:
  • Moisture-wicking fabric that keeps your skin cool and dry
  • Built-in SPF protection
  • Lightweight and loose design to prevent fabric from clinging to your body

Click to see Ice Fil riding shirts on Amazon

Summer Savvy Solutions:
  • Kerrits Ice Fil Shortsleeve Solid – Ice Fil fabric cools you down by reducing your skin’s temperature up to five degrees. Plus, these shirts come in a lot of fun colors.
  • Ariat Women’s Sunstopper Show Top – This long-sleeved white collared shirt was designed for those summer show days, when you need to look your best, but also need to stay cool.
  • TuffRider Ladies Artemis EquiCool Riding Shirt – If you want sun protection and cooling fabric with a dash of bold fashion, you’ll love the fun and functional design of this shirt.
  • Miss Fortune Short Sleeve Cool Dri T-Shirt – Although not designed purely with equestrians in mind, this shirt will keep you comfortable, cool and dry in the saddle. It comes in short sleeve and long sleeved options, plus a variety of attractive colors.

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Planning an equestrian getaway? See our article about What to Wear Horse Riding on Vacation.

Best Summer Horse Riding Pants

Riding in summertime means having to wear long pants, even on hot and humid days. But you can stay cool and comfortable by choosing riding pants that were designed with summer in mind.

What to Look For:
  • Breathable fabric, even on the knee patch area
  • Moisture-wicking technology
  • Built-in SPF protection
Summer Savvy Solutions:
  • Kerrits Ladies Ice Fil Tech Tight – A popular summer riding tight for good reason. Their moisture-wicking technology and functional side pocket (for your cell phone) make them ideal for hot weather riding.
  • Ovation Ladies AeroWick FS Tight – The AeroWick tights have additional technology that keeps them odor free and makes it easy to wipe dust and dirt off, plus keep you cool.
  • TuffRider Ladies Ventilated Tight – These riding tights have a strip of ventilation on each leg, improving air flow.

Chief Rookie Aside: Kerrits Ice Fil Tech Tights are my all-time favorites for summer riding!

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Learn more in our article about the 9 Best Horse Riding Breeches for Hot Weather Relief.

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Best Summer Horse Riding Socks

Don’t neglect your feet in the summer! When your feet stay sweaty and wet, they can be susceptible to things like athlete’s foot. (Ouch!)

Choosing socks designed to keep moisture away from your skin can help avoid this problem in the summer.

What to Look For:
  • Moisture-wicking fabric
  • Lightweight material
  • Ventilated design

Click to browse D&S boot socks on Amazon

Summer Savvy Solutions:
  • Dreamers & Schemers Boot Socks – If you’re looking for equestrian-centric socks with top craftsmanship, D&S will keep your feet fashionable and comfy.
  • Zocks Ladies Boot Socks – Who doesn’t love socks with a fun design? Zocks deliver with their unique patterns, plus the slick lycra-blend material helps you pull your tall boots on and off due to decreased friction.
  • TuffRider Ventilated Neon Socks – These socks have reinforced toes and heels to make them last longer, and their ventilated design helps keep air circulating around your feet.
  • Dublin Cool-Tech Socks – Designed with a cooling strip in the front, these cotton-blend socks are soft and comfortable, even when you’re sweating.

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Dreamers & Schemers boot socks also made Shelby Dennis & Milo’s Equestrian Gift Guide.

Best Summer Horse Riding Underwear

If you’ve ever experienced panty lines or over-bouncy breasts, then you know how important it can be to pay attention to your choice in underwear.

Summer horse riding underwear also throws in the added benefits of keeping you cool and avoiding awkward sweat marks.

What to Look For:
  • Moisture-wicking technology
  • Proper support and padding in bras
  • Smooth lines
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Click to see it on State Line Tack

Summer Savvy Solutions:
  • Cheata Trotter Bra – Meant to reduce uncomfortable bouncing in your breasts when you ride, this bra also has moisture-wicking technology and is said to improve the way clothes fit and look over it.
  • FITS Wunderbreech Riding Underwear – Panty lines ruining your show pictures? Your favorite pair of summer riding breeches showing a little more than you bargained for? This is the fix you’re looking for.

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Best Horse Riding Gloves for Summer

Sweaty hands and leather reins don’t mix. It can be not only uncomfortable to hold the reins without gloves, but also dangerous in the right (or wrong?) circumstances.

The best horse riding gloves for summer combine comfort and function so that you don’t even realize you’re wearing them!

What to Look For:
  • Ventilated fabric on the back of the hand.
  • Flexible, grippy, and breathable materials on the palm of the hand.
  • Adjustable closures around the wrist for a great fit.

Click to see them on Amazon

Summer Savvy Solutions:
  • SSG Ladies Cool Tech Open Air Glove – Featuring a mesh back and “open air” palm, this is the perfect riding glove to keep air circulating around your hands during the summer.
  • Noble Outfitters Perfect Fit Mesh Glove – These lightweight gloves come in plenty of fun colors and designs. Plus, you don’t have to take them off to use a touchscreen, meaning it’s easier than ever to take pictures of your horse!!
  • Roeckl Montreal Unisex Gloves – These gloves provide a “barely there” design that reflects the sun’s rays as well as heat.

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Best Summer Horse Riding Boots

Unless you’re going to a show or get awful saddle sores without them, it’s best to leave tall boots and half chaps in the tack room during the hot summer months.

Stick to paddock boots or a special ventilated riding shoe.

What to Look For:
  • Shorter styles mean less of your leg is covered by hot leather
  • Remember that riding boots should have closed toes and a 1-inch heel for safety.
summer-riding-boots

Click to see these on State Line Tack

Summer Savvy Solutions:
  • Dublin Ladies Elevation Paddock Boot – Zip-up paddock boots like this one have elastic panels that are meant to help the boot come on and off, but they also reduce the amount of heat-trapping leather that you wear.
  • Roper Ladies Selah Short Leather Brown Boots – Western boots typically don’t come up to the knee, but you’ll still find different heights. Choose a shorter cowboy boot like these for the summer.

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On the boot hunt? See our 13 Best Horseback Riding Boots for Lessons.

Additional Hot Weather Horse Riding Tips

Now that you have your full summer riding outfit picked out and are covered in ventilation and moisture-wicking fabric from head to toe, you don’t need to bring anything else to the barn… right?

Wrong! You must absolutely, 100%, no-excuses-allowed bring along plenty of water. Bring more than you think you’ll need or take a large refillable bottle. BodyArmor electrolyte drinks (see at Amazon) are a great alternative or addition to water.

If you do not rehydrate while sweating in the heat, you will start to feel the warning signs of heat exhaustion, which include fatigue, trouble concentrating, and dizziness.

Here are a few additional summer riding tips:

  • Wear sunscreen on exposed skin to avoid painful sunburns.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible.
  • Save hard schooling for early mornings or cooler days.
  • Give your horse plenty of breaks in which you offer him fresh, clean, cool water to drink.
  • Soak a cooling gaiter (like our favorite from Mission) and wear it around your neck while riding.

Also, be sure you understand how to properly cool down your horse to help him stay comfortable and to avoid sore muscles later.

When you’re done with your ride, take his saddle off and hand-walk him in the shade until his breathing and heart rate get under control. Then you can hose him off with water.

Keep scraping the water off and hosing your horse until the water that scrapes off doesn’t feel hot. (Don’t leave excess water on a hot horse, or it can heat him up even more.)

Then, put your horse in front of a fan with plenty of fresh water, or turn him out in a shady field.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How hot is too hot for horseback riding?

When figuring out if it’s too hot to ride, you need to consider both the temperature and the humidity. Add those two numbers together.

For example, if it’s 80 degrees outside with a humidity of 30%, the total is 110.

If the total is below 120, your horse’s body won’t have any problem keeping cool. By the time the total reaches 150, your horse cannot keep cool, even by sweating. This is definitely too hot to ride!

Conditions between 120 and 150 require some common-sense decision-making, such as keeping it slow, offering plenty of water and trying to stay in the shade.

Should you ride your horse in the heat (even when you “could”)?

If you’re very competitive and often go to shows, you’ve probably encountered shows that took place in the heat of the day. You and your horse may want to practice riding in the heat to be prepared to show in these conditions so that neither of you are too shocked on show day.

Remember, horseback riding is first and foremost supposed to be fun! If you don’t think you’ll have fun in the sweltering heat, don’t ride.

Do something else with your horse that’s fun. Practice “walking through water” with a sprinkler, hose, or a kiddie pool.

Get creative, and have fun while staying safe!

What about horse riding in extreme heat if you *must* do it?

The most important thing to keep in mind is hydration. Both you and your horse need to drink water often. You’ll sweat it out before you even realize it.

Also, you need to aid your horse’s natural sweating mechanisms by putting water on his skin and immediately squeegeeing it off.

Adding and removing water helps remove heat from your horse’s body faster than just letting the water sit there (which can actually be dangerous and prevent heat from escaping). You should also wipe water on your own skin with a damp washcloth.

Stay in the shade and at a walk or a halt as much as possible. Even better: stand in front of a fan. If you’re at a show and waiting for your turn, try to put your saddle on just a round or two before you’re set to enter the arena.

What are the best horse riding helmets for hot weather?

Check out our article on the 8 Best Horse Riding Helmets for Hot Weather Relief.

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What are the best horse riding pants for hot weather?

The best horseback riding pants for hot weather have moisture-wicking technology, lightweight material and built-in sun protection.

You can check out our recommendations on brands and styles by reading about our 9 Best Horse Riding Breeches for Hot Weather Relief.

What should you wear horseback riding on the beach?

Wear proper riding boots to keep yourself safe, long pants to avoid saddle sores, and a lightweight shirt. Wear sunscreen on exposed skin, and don’t forget a helmet!

Wearing riding gloves is a good idea too, just in case your reins get slippery from sweat or sea spray.

Learn more in our article about What to Wear Horseback Riding on Vacation.

What kind of shoes do you wear to ride a horse?

For safety purposes, horseback riders wear boots with a 1-inch heel. This heel helps prevent the foot from slipping through the stirrup.

If you were to fall off with your foot completely through the stirrup, you could end up being dragged.

Check out our 13 Best Horseback Riding Boots for Lessons.

Is horseback riding a good workout?

Yes! Many people mistakenly believe that riders “just sit there.” But the amount of balance and muscle strength required to stay on the horse throughout its various movements, not to mention using your body to guide the horse, means that you’ll experience some sore muscles.

Plus, it’s a great cardio workout that can really get your blood pumping.

Of course, as with any workout, you have to push yourself to feel the effects. If you just want to walk around and enjoy a beautiful day from horseback, you might not feel too sore or winded.

Trotting, cantering, and jumping are different stories altogether.

Can you wear jeans for horseback riding?

Many people do, especially in Western disciplines.

Be aware that some jeans have thick seams along the inner leg that are uncomfortable when riding. Those seams can rub against your leg and cause sores. Second, jeans made of heavy denim can be very uncomfortable in hotter weather.

Finally, tight-fitting jeans just may not be flexible enough to allow you to move freely in the saddle.

See our favorite horse riding jeans on our Riding Essentials Amazon List.

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Can you wear shorts horseback riding? Are horseback riding shorts “a thing?”

Scrolling through social media, you’ll definitely see people riding in shorts. But many people don’t simply due to the awful saddle sores that can quickly develop when your skin rubs against the leather of the saddle.

It’s more comfortable to ride in shorts while bareback. Horseback riding shorts aren’t “a thing” because they offer no protection from sores.

What are the best lightweight summer riding breeches?

Check out the 9 Best Horse Riding Breeches for Hot Weather Relief.

What are the best summer riding boots?

For summer riding, ankle boots are preferable to knee-high boots. That leather can get hot!

Because leather also provides some protection in case you get stepped on by your horse, riding boots made of more breathable materials aren’t really common on the market. See the “boot” section above for some ideas.

Why do people wear long pants for horseback riding?

Two words: saddle sores! Your lower legs rub against the stirrup leathers and on the bottom of the saddle flap when you follow the motion of the horse.

At a walk, this might not be so bad, but at a trot or canter, that friction can wear away your skin very quickly.

What should you wear horseback riding for the first time?

What you wear can make or break your first horseback ride. Check out What to Wear Horseback Riding (With Pictures) for a complete guide.

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Can you wear yoga pants horseback riding?

Check out our article Can You Wear Yoga Pants Horseback Riding?

What are the best boots for horseback riding lessons?

Check out the 13 Best Boots for Horseback Riding Lessons.

Can you wear rain boots horseback riding?

Check out our article Can You Wear Rain Boots Horseback Riding?

Can you wear leggings horseback riding?

Check out our article Can You Wear Leggings Horseback Riding?

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About the author

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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