Apparel FAQ Gear Riding

What gear do you need to ride horses as an adult?

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Written by Horse Rookie

Horse riders are notorious for accumulating lots of gear. Luckily, adults don’t actually need much to get started.

If you’re entering the equestrian world later in life, it’s easy to see all the gear and apparel on Instagram and at your local tack store and think… “YIKES!” (We even started publishing monthly expense reports showing what horses cost in the real world.)

The good news is that you only need a few essentials to begin your horse journey. You can grow the rest of your gear collection slowly over time. Adult equestrian gear essentials typically include:

  • Apparel and footwear
  • Safety gear
  • Tack
  • Stable supplies

Read on for a deep-dive into each category and guidance about what gear you should prioritize.

Want to ride, but short on cash? Learn How to Ride & Show Horses on a Budget.

Apparel and Footwear

Whether you want to take a few lessons or jump into horse riding with both feet, you’ll need some basic apparel and footwear.

Boots with a heel (Must Have)

Click to see this hiking-style riding boot at Amazon

Though boot styles vary by riding discipline, a sturdy heel is mandatory for all equestrians.

Heels prevent your feet from sliding through the stirrups and getting caught in the event of an unplanned dismount (i.e. fall).

Avoid tennis shoes, rain boots without heels, and flip flops.

If you plan to do cross-discipline riding, or want to be able to wear your riding boots more places than the barn, you may prefer equestrian footwear that resembles a pair of hiking boots.

The Ariat Terrain H2o Hiking Boot combines the riding safety heel you need with the comfy fit of a waterproof hiking boot that you love.

See more of our favorite horse riding boots on the Horse Rookie Riding Essentials Amazon List.

Comfortable Cowboy Boots

Riding pants (Must Have)

For Western disciplines (e.g. pleasure, reining, roping, trail), you can wear jeans. Just make sure they don’t have bulky inseams that may rub against your saddle.

Click here to browse horse riding jeans at Amazon. Brands like Wrangler and Ariat are excellent choices for adult riders.

Click to see our favorite Kerrits Ice-Fil Tight at Amazon

If you’re focused on English disciplines (e.g. dressage, jumping, flatwork), you’ll need riding tights or breeches. They’re stretchy, fit inside English boots, and are designed with a knee patch or full seat for extra grip.

Browse a myriad of options at Amazon for all seasons, body types, and style preferences.

Shirts and jackets (Nice to Have)

Shirts and jackets should be fairly form fitting so they don’t blow around or get caught on your equipment, trees, etc.

Many riders also prefer long-sleeve shirts to protect themselves from the sun and abrasions if you fall.

Luckily, you don’t need to buy anything special when you’re starting out. Grab an existing t-shirt (short or long sleeve) for now, and invest in riding-specific attire down the road.

Note: When you’re ready, we love the Ice-Fil collection from Kerrits (click to browse it at Amazon) because the material is durable, fashionable, and — most importantly — keeps you cooler than traditional fabrics.

Chaps and gloves (Nice to Have)

Chaps and gloves fall into the “nice to have” category. They will help protect your legs and hands, and increase grip, but they aren’t necessary for basic riding.

See our favorite options on the Horse Rookie Riding Essentials Amazon List.

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Safety Gear

Safety precautions aren’t just for kids. Every rider, regardless of age, gender, or discipline, should always wear a helmet. Want to boost your safety even further? Keep reading.

Helmet (Must Have)

Quality helmets are made by several reputable companies and come in a wide variety or styles and colors. (There are even cowboy hat helmets available on State Line Tack).

Click to see the Tipperary Sportage at Amazon

Our favorite all-around helmet is the Tipperary Sportage, as it has ample venting, fuller coverage in the back, and the fit is super comfortable.

Make sure your helmet is ASTM-SEI certified.

If you fall while wearing your helmet, it should be replaced — even if you can’t see any damage. (Helmets can be structurally compromised without visible wear.)

In addition, ALL helmets should be replaced after five years. Read more in our article about How Often to Replace Horse Riding Helmets.

Body protector (Nice to Have)

A body protector offers increased protection by distributing the force of impact during a fall, and it should be SEI-ASTM certified. If you’re jumping or eventing, we highly recommend getting one of these!

Check out the 6 Best Horse Riding Body Protectors for Unplanned Dismounts for our favorites.

Air Vest (Nice to Have)

In addition to a body protector, you may also want to invest in an Air Vest.

Click to see Hit-Air Vests at Amazon

For example, a Hit Air Vest attaches to your saddle with a simple strap and inflates to cushion your fall if you’re separated from your horse.

We love these so much, we wrote an entire Hit Air Equestrian Vest Review.

Again, if you’re jumping or eventing, air vests are well worth the investment.

Tack

If you’re taking lessons or leasing a horse from someone else, you can probably use the tack at your lesson barn or borrow the leasor’s tack.

If you have your own horse, you’ll need to purchase tack that specifically fits your equine partner — and you.

Regardless, the four most crucial pieces of tack include a saddle, girth, bridle, and saddle pad.

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Saddle and girth (Depends on Situation)

There are lots of options, including English, Western, and hybrid saddles, such as an Outback saddle (available at State Line Tack). Your equestrian goals and the horse you ride will dictate much of your saddle decision.

Also, make sure your girth fits your saddle and is the correct length for your horse.

If you’re embarking on the saddle/girth search, check out our other articles: 

Bridle or headstall (Depends on Situation)

Western and English

bridles differ, so be sure you use the style that aligns with your chosen discipline.

You can also try a hybrid bridle that combines a halter and bridle into one.

Click to see this hybrid trail bridle/halter combo at Amazon

The bit, which is an essential piece of the bridle, must fit your horse’s mouth size (unless you choose a hackamore or bitless bridle).

If you’re embarking on the bridle/headstall search, check out our other articles: 

Saddle pad (Depends on Situation)

Saddle pads help protect your horse’s back, cushion the saddle, and absorb sweat. But, don’t use saddle pads to make up for an ill-fitting saddle.

It won’t work.

Find a saddle pad that is the correct size and style for your saddle, so that all parts of the saddle are covered by the saddle pad.

Check out our article on the 6 Best Saddle Pads for Trail Riding.

Bell boots, martingale, etc. (Nice to Have)

Over time, you may want to invest in a few additional pieces of gear that fall into the “nice to have” category. These items include bell boots, splint boots, martingales, and seat savers that cushion your saddle seat.

Your horse should be measured for correct fit prior to purchasing all of these items.

Stable Supplies

Horse care

is one of the major components of being a responsible equestrian, but the amount of stable tasks you’ll do depends on whether you’re keeping horses at home, boarding, or leasing someone else’s horse.

Here are some essential stable supplies to keep your horse comfortable.

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Halter and lead line (Depends on Situation)

Every horse should have a well-fitted halter and lead rope.

Click to browse rope halters at Amazon

Consider a breakaway halter — or try these durable rope halters like we prefer for our horses.

Rope halters feature a series of knots that help guide and correct your horse while leading it, and they’re very popular among English and Western equestrians.

Pro Tip: Keep a spare halter and lead line around in case you lose or break one.

Feeding equipment (Depends on Situation)

Do you have water buckets, a water tank in the pasture, and grain buckets or dishes? If not, you’ll need to acquire these before bringing a horse home. You may also need to supply your own feeding supplies in some boarding situations.

Most horses can eat their hay off the ground. That said, a slow hay feeder might be a nice addition to your stable supplies to help your horse have a more natural eating pattern (i.e. continuous grazing).

Nets also waste less hay!

Cleaning equipment (Depends on Situation)

A wheelbarrow, pitchfork, and broom are must-haves for any barn.

Grooming equipment (Depends on Situation)

Part of keeping your horse healthy and happy is routine grooming. Removing dust and debris is essential anywhere your tack touches your horse, but the best part of grooming is building your human/horse bond.

We often take an hour or more to groom and hang out before riding. It’s good for the horses… and us.

Click to see this Weaver Leather grooming kit at Amazon

Grooming essentials include a curry comb, hoof pick, stiff brush, soft brush, and comb for the mane and tail.

Pro tip: Don’t use the stiff brush on sensitive areas, such as the face.

Blankets, fly sheets, and fly masks (Depends on Situation)

Some of these items depend on your geographic location and the living arrangements of your horse. Horses in warmer climates generally don’t need heavyweight blankets, but they may find a fly sheet and mask essential.

A quick discussion with other local equestrians or your riding instructor can help you decide which of these items are must-haves for your horse.

If you’re embarking on a fly-free mission, check out our other articles: 

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Tack box (Nice to Have)

As you acquire more supplies for your horse, gear storage can be challenging.

Tack trunks typically include built-in grooming totes for your brushes and various compartments to help keep you organized. Tack boxes also protect your investments by keeping gear clean and dry.

Learn more from our article Equestrian Storage Wars: Comping the 6 Best Tack Trunks.

Horse Riding Safety Infographic

You’re welcome to use this infographic on your own website *as long as you link back to horse-rookie.local.*

Feel free to share on Pinterest, as well by hovering over it and clicking the Pinterest icon. #knowledgeishorsepower

Horse Riding Safety Equipment Infographic

Learn about some of the most important safety equipment for horse riders

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you wear horseback riding for the first time?Short answer:

Wear long pants, boots with a heel, and a helmet.

Long answer: We wrote an entire article on the subject, so trot on over to What to Wear Horseback Riding.

What kind of boots should you wear for horse riding?

Always wear boots with a heel and ensure they fit properly.

Check out our other boot articles: 

How should you dress for a riding lesson?

Your attire will depend on your barn and selected discipline. For example, if your lesson is in dressage or jumping, it may be expected that you wear breeches, field or dress boots, and a shirt with a collar.

Other barns may be okay with you wearing jeans and a t-shirt, as long as you have proper boots and a helmet.

Ask the riding instructor what the standard dress is for their barn prior to your first lesson, or observe some of the other riders when you visit the barn before signing up for lessons.

Check out these other Horse Rookie articles:

Can I learn to ride horses in my 20s?

Learn more in our article Learning to ride a horse in your 20s: Why it’s not too late.

Can I learn to ride horses in my 30s?

Learn more in our article Learning to ride a horse in your 30s: Why it’s not too late.

Can I learn to ride horses in my 40s?

Learn more in our article Learning to ride a horse in your 40s: Why it’s not too late.

Can I learn to ride horses in my 50s?

Learn more in our article Learning to ride a horse in your 50s: Why it’s not too late.

Can I learn to ride horses in my 60s?
Learn more in our article Learning to ride a horse in your 60s: Why it’s not too late.

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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!