Equestrian Clothing: Essentials for Western Riders

Traditional western equestrian clothing offers a distinctive look. Here's how to dress the part.

Whether you’re setting out to enjoy time on the trail or compete in the show ring, you need the right equestrian clothing. These essentials for western riding will help keep you comfortable, protect you from the elements, and help keep you looking your best in the saddle. We hope you enjoy this quick head to toe guide!

Hat or Helmet?

Yes, you might need a snazzy hat for the show ring, but for trail riding – especially in areas where you’re far away from help, a helmet is better. Pick one that fits well, and you’ll be a whole lot safer in the saddle. Once you start shopping you’ll find that there are plenty of cool designs to choose from!


Pick a shirt that’s right for the weather, keeping in mind that long sleeves afford protection from the sun and prevent painful scratches in the event your horse takes off into the brush. Of course many trail riders choose to wear a t-shirt or tank top!  


Most western riders elect to wear boot-cut jeans instead of traditional English equestrian clothing; these are available at stores that carry western wear, along with some other shopping venues. Pick a pair that feels good on; not too tight and not too loose! Both tight and baggy jeans can cause problems while you’re riding, either cutting off the circulation behind your knees and in your groin area or bunching up and leading to discomfort.


If you’re showing, you almost certainly want to wear a pair of chaps! These leather leggings also come in handy for riding through brush, riding in inclement weather, and working cattle. Chaps protect your legs and help keep you at the right temperature while contributing to a cool cowboy or cowgirl look. Be sure to take your measurements before shopping so that you select the right size.

Cowboy Boots

The last essential western equestrian clothing item is a pair of cowboy boots (or cowgirl boots, if you prefer!) Not too long ago, there was just one basic style to choose from – pointy toed, fairly high heeled, and available in a variety of colors and décor options. The style options have multiplied over the last few decades; now western riders have more boot options than ever.

Most western riders who are showing opt for traditional equestrian clothing, and this includes the boots they wear! Crystals, flashy stitching, and fun colors and patterns are typically welcome in the show ring, and a complete coordinated ensemble is almost sure to wow the judges.

For trail riding and working, leave the fancy boots home where they’ll be safe from scuffing, scratches, moisture, and other “stuff” that can cause damage. A rounder toe offers a bit more comfort to your feet, and in the event you’ll be doing any walking, consider picking up a pair of boots that bridges the gap between the traditional cowboy look and a hiking boot. Be sure to break your boots in before riding in them, and choose some comfortable socks to wear underneath.

That’s it! Of course you’ll need a coat or jacket in cold or very wet weather. If you want to stick to a purely equestrian clothing choice, consider an oilskin duster coat. It’ll protect you from the elements and help keep the rest of your outfit free of moisture and dirt while keeping you comfortable in the saddle.