The biggest hurdle to starting any new sport is getting the necessary equipment. What do you need to just try the sport? What can you borrow? What would be nice to have? What should I wait to buy until I am fully committed to the sport?
Thankfully, horseback riding requires little to no equipment when you are just getting started. Here is what you will need before your first riding lesson, along with what isn’t necessary but would be nice to have while you are taking riding lessons.
These items are necessary to begin horseback riding. They are needed for safety reasons and without them, you will not be able to ride.
You must have a closed-toe boot with a heel. This will ensure that your feet are protected while working around horses. The heel is also a major safety feature while you are riding to ensure that your foot does not go all the way through the stirrups. Examples of the perfect boots to wear are Blundstones, Rubber Boots, and Paddock Boots.
Even in the heat of the summer, riders need to wear pants while on the horse. This will protect their legs from being pinched between the leather saddle and stirrups leathers. The pants should be stretchy and breathable. Jeans and splash pants are not recommended. Please avoid pants with buttons or buckles on the backside as that can scratch the saddle. Examples of perfect pants to wear are Yoga Pants or Leggings.
All riders regardless of age must wear a helmet when riding. It is also strongly recommended to wear a helmet when working around horses, even when you aren’t riding. Not all helmets work the same, so you must be wearing an industry-approved (ASTM/SEI) helmet. No bicycle or hockey helmets please. There are a variety of shared helmets available in our School Tack room for use if you do not have your own.
These items are horseback riding-specific equipment that can be found at a local tack store called Greenhawk. These items are nice to own when riding but are not necessary. Perhaps take a few lessons and then invest in the items below if you think you will be sticking with the sport.
Paddock boots are the perfect boot to learn to ride in. Available in a variety of price ranges, this boot has the required heel height that is needed for rider safety. They are also made with thicker material to provide the most protection to your toes and can withstand rough wear and tear.
Owning your own helmet can be beneficial. You can get it properly fitted in-store and have the straps adjusted to fit your head. No more playing around with school helmets to find the right size and adjusting straps before your lesson. Owning your own helmet can be more sanitary, safer, and convenient.
Breeches are the equestrian version of leggings. They are thicker and reinforced in high-friction areas so they last longer. They come in a variety of styles and colours. You could also buy insulated/lined breeches for winter riding. Owning your own pair of breeches will ensure that you have the pants that can withstand your riding lessons.
Half-chaps are leather sleeves that zip up around your calves and over your paddock boots. They can provide additional protection to your leg and provide more grip to the saddle. They are recommended if you are starting to get serious about your riding and are having issues with your pants or leg getting pinched by the stirrup leathers.
You will need a lead rope to lead your horses from place to place. Sometimes they can be hard to find in the barn so it can be handy to have your own to use when you are riding. Just ensure that your name is on it and that you take it home after each ride or it will get borrowed. It also doubles as a dog leash and can be handy to leave in your car for any rope needs.
These items are really nice to have after you have been riding for a while and know that you are going to stick to the sport long term. They may seem expensive, but consider them an investment in your riding and they will pay off in the long run.
Buying your own saddle can be one of the best investments in your riding. Having a saddle that fits your leg and body can help improve your position and in turn make you a better rider. They are an investment, so ensure that the saddle you want to purchase fits you, as there are lots of sizes and models available to fit every rider. Ask your coach what size they think you will fit best in as a starting point and try a friend’s saddle in the size you are looking for to ensure that it’s the size you need.
Falling off is part of riding. Every rider has fallen off at least once during their career. Getting back on the horse is the most crucial step to your rider journey. If you are safety conscious or a nervous rider, consider purchasing a blow-up vest. They act similarly to a blow-up life jacket, where it inflates when connecting to water. In the rider version, there is a cord that attaches to your saddle. If you fall off, the cord is pulled inflating the vest before you hit the ground and protects your body. They can be expensive but are a great investment for younger riders or riders nervous about falling.
We hope that this equipment guide will help you navigate your journey with horses and set you up for success in this amazing sport. Please feel free to check out the other blogs in our My First Riding Lesson series: