Horses are flight animals that run from perceived danger. Constant awareness of your surroundings will prevent most accidents, but safe clothing is also important. Most riding gear is easy to find at local department stores. One specialty piece of equipment is a safe riding helmet, which may need a little more research and shopping in reputable sports retailers.
Blue jeans are common with horseman for a reason. The heavier denim fabric protects legs from bushes and trees that scrape a rider going through them. The fit of your pants should be loose enough to provide easy movement without binding. A pant that does not pinch at the waist, hips or knees is essential. Additionally avoid jeans that have a wide inseam. A flat inseam prevents abrasion and blisters.
Riders that ride English style favor a pant called a Jodhpur, which fits snug at the lower leg and flares in the thigh. Most jodhpurs also include some type of pad inside the leg to protect the inner thigh and knee from constant friction.
A well-fitted shirt or T-shirt that allows free movement, but does not billow in the wind eliminates the risk of spooking your horse. Long coats, especially ankle length dusters, work better in movies. Ideally, a shirt or jacket protects the rider from the elements and provides additional padding if the rider gets thrown.
Avid horsemen prefer boots. Boot style depends on the type of riding. A boot also provides more protection for the foot than a tennis shoe in the event the horse steps on your foot or if you ride in more rural settings. English riders most often choose a long boot, one that fits knee high to protect their lower legs. Western riders prefer calf high boots. Protecting the ankle and foot is the goal. Support around the ankle will help a novice rider.
Boots should allow movement in the heel, but fit close in the toe and arch. This makes sure the rider has sufficient range of movement to step up and down from the saddle without pinching the ankle. Most Western and English style boots have one inch heels that prevent the foot from slipping through the stirrup and getting stuck.
While most of the above items can be found easily in any department store, one necessary tool for safe riding requires a sports store. Safety helmets are necessary in all English classes and on racetracks, but not in western sports. Helmets worn on a bicycle are not sufficient for equestrians.
Look for a tag in the helmet that states it is ASTM/SEI certified. The American Society for Testing and Materials mandates equipment safety standards. The Safety Equipment Institute tests sports equipment to ensure manufacturers meet safety standards.
A good protective helmet provides a strong outer shell of acrylic or plastic material that protects the rider’s head in case of a fall. It must also be strong enough to protect the head in case a rider is hit by a horse’s hoof. Inner padding helps with comfort. Some helmets have removable liners that allow laundering. The helmet should fit comfortably, but provide equal protection completely around the head. Equestrian helmets fit close to the head. There should also be a chinstrap that cinches the helmet to the head without pinching under the chin. Chinstraps can be made of nylon or leather, but are not removable. A helmet should also have good ventilation. Usually slits in the outer shell provide enough ventilation, preventing a rider from overheating.
Horseback riding is a fun way to enjoy the outdoors and interact with animals. It requires clothing that provides easy movement and protection against natural environments, as well as, the unexpected fall. Horses are quick to react and require that a rider be prepared for the unexpected. Consequently, riders need clothing and helmets that do not bind, pinch or cause them discomfort during their ride. While most retail stores carry clothing sufficient for the beginning rider, a good helmet needs to come from specialty stores equipped with ASTM/SEI certified brands.