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Riding Pants: Why You Need Them When Horseback Riding

Last updated: October 27, 2022

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

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It’s hot and humid in south Louisiana, and people frequently come to visit us wearing shorts and ask if they can ride our horses. But I have a rule that anyone who rides my horses has to wear suitable riding pants and boots. When they hear this, they usually ask me why not shorts.

Riding pants protect your legs from saddle chafing and bruising your thighs or ankles from brushing up against the horse’s side. They also reduce the risk of tangling with tack or brush, encourage leg contact and control, and protect your knees from scrapes.

Many people think horse-riding outfits are just a fashion statement, but they are wrong because, without the proper attire, you might put yourself in real danger or at least be very uncomfortable.

Picture of a woman riding a horse in riding pants,

Why it’s important to wear horse riding pants.

In this guide, I’ll do my best to explain the different types of riding pants so you can choose which works best for you. Before we move to that, here’s a quick summary of reasons why you need to wear pants when horseback riding:

FeaturesRiding PantsOrdinary Pants/Shorts
SafetyIt prevents getting caught on tack It can be very dangerous – the flaps might get caught, or your foot or lower leg could get stuck in the stirrup.     Flapping pants could scare a horse, and it could even throw you off.
ComfortPrevents chafing and soreness. High-quality riding pants are designed to protect your skin from the unforgiving leather of the saddle.It could lead to serious chaffing and red or sore skin. Sometimes, chaffing can even cause pus-filled blisters that may require antibiotics for treatment.
ProtectionRiding pants protect your knees from scrapes and serious injuries should you fall while riding.  They also protect your thighs and private areas.These pants could tear in case of a fall and do a great deal of damage to your knees. These do not offer much in the way of protection for your groin or thighs. 
Grip and balanceEnsure close contact with the horse’s skin which offers better control. Full-seat styles also let you grip the saddle better.Do not offer close contact. The improper grip could result in imbalance and lack of stability while riding.
Flexibility and range of motionMade of flexible material that gives you better control and flexibility of movement. They encourage a full range of motion.Restrict motion.
Sizes and stylesAvailable in a wide range of styles, sizes, and fabrics suitable for summer and winter riding. Synthetic pants wick moisture and dry faster, too.Not moisture-wicking and could be too hot and sweaty for summer months or too cold and uncomfortable for winters.
Compatibility with riding bootsIt can be worn with long or short riding bootsCould restrict the style of boots you choose. It may not be suitable for long boots.

How to Select Riding Pants?

The right pair of riding pants can be hard to find, but there are some things you need to look for when choosing the perfect style. In this article, I will share my tips on what features you should consider in a good pair of riding pants and also include: What types of styles are available and other considerations that may come into play, like proper length or sizing needs.

The best riding pants are the ones that protect your legs, thighs, and knees fully. Some riding pants even come with groin protection, but simple riding pants are perfect for amateurs or occasional riders.

Here are tips to help you select a suitable pair of riding pants:

Types of riding pants

Pants that fit the ‘suitable for horse riding’ category can be of various types: yoga pants, breeches, jodhpurs, and even jeans. Any of these options are suitable for horse riding.

Most competitive English riders wear jodhpurs or breeches or britches. These are the best recommendations because they are incredibly comfortable and come with features that jeans and other pants do not.

Breeches are the choice of the English riders. These pants are form-fitting; some come only up to the knees or calves. They are super-stretchy and come with padded seats and knees – these features help protect your groin and knees from injuries.

Jodhpurs extend below the legs and are suitable for short-riding boots.  (I have a comparison between these two riding pant styles later on in this guide).

You can always select a reliable pair of jeans, and most of us have at least one pair in our closets. The advantage of choosing riding jeans is that you can also wear them on other occasions. Most Western riders wear jeans. (I discuss later in the guide how to select riding jeans).

Yoga pants or leggings are also a good riding apparel choice – they are stretchable and comfortable. They also let your skin breathe, which is a considerable advantage over jeans – especially in the warmer months.

Riding tights are another option. They are highly stretchable, and that makes them great for maneuvering yourself over the horseback while climbing or dismounting. Many riding tights come with padding on the inner side of the knees.

Picture of a woman mounting a horse with flexible riding pants,

Must-have Features for Horse Riding Pants

Getting caught up in the excitement of picking out a new pair of riding pants is easy. But, there are some features you should always have on your radar before purchasing.

Snug fit

The most crucial aspect of any riding pants is that they should fit you well. Make sure the pants fit snugly at the waist. You can get the length altered if needed.

Ensure that the pants are neither too tight nor too loose. A snug fit is what you should aim for. This way, you won’t be uncomfortable when you are on the horse.

They are made with a suitable material.

The trousers should be made from tough, durable material that will last and stand up to constant wear and rubbing against the saddle. They should also have protective padding in important areas such as in the knees and seat.

There is ample choice available in riding pant materials. You can select one according to the season you are riding in. Make sure the material offers a full range of motion. Look for synthetic or moisture-wicking pants if you expect to ride in wet weather because they dry faster.

What is the difference between Jodhpurs and Breeches?

The difference between Jodhpurs and Breeches is hard to spot, and the terms are often used interchangeably. Let’s explore what makes these two equestrian items different from each other and how they are used!


Jodhpurs are riding pants primarily designed for wearing with short riding boots. They extend beyond the ankles and are made to be pulled over the top of short riding boots. Many riders wear these riding pants with cuffs and zip at the bottom of the leg.

Some riders do not prefer Jodhpurs since they are bulky and uncomfortable around the ankles. However, they are the preferred choice for riders who like short boots.


Breeches or britches are traditional British riding pants. These short pants come down to your shin and have Velcro attachments that can be fastened over the top of the riding boots.

You cannot wear breeches with short boots –they are designed to be worn with long riding boots. An advantage of breeches over jodhpurs is that they are more comfortable around the ankles.

Picture of a person riding western style in jeans,

What are the best Jeans for horse riding?

Jeans are the most popular choice of riding pants worn in western riding activities, such as trail riding, barrel racing, and roping.

Jeans made just for horseback riders differ slightly from ordinary denim. Regular jeans have heavier seams on the inside and smoother seams on the outside; a good pair of riding jeans has a flat inseam.

Riding jeans should have the following features:

  • Little too long when you’re on the ground and sag a little under the calf. This makes them ideal length when you get in the saddle.
  • Avoid fashionable, low-rise jeans. They are totally impractical (not to mention uncomfortable) in the saddle.
  • Also, avoid jeans with heavy seams on the inside and a lot of fabric in the upper calf and knee area. These get wrinkled while riding and could cause really uncomfortable sores and chaffing.
  • Cowboy cut and boot-legged jeans styles are the best.
  • Wrangler® jeans with high pockets and heavy seams on the outside of the legs are a great choice as they cause less discomfort/chaffing while riding.

Can you wear sweatpants for horseback riding?

I don’t object to people riding in sweatpants for short periods. However, sweatpants are not ideal riding pants. Most sweatpants are made of light material that won’t protect your legs and are slippery in a saddle.

I know of many novice riders that wear sweatpants when riding, but you’ll never see an experienced person riding in sweatpants, and there is a reason. If you intend to ride regularly, buy proper riding pants.

Can you wear tights for horse riding?

Riding tights are perfect for mixing comfort, safety, and fashion. There are many designs available, so it should be easy to find a pair that fits your style.

Riding tights are super-stretchy and keep you comfortable. Tights also help keep you cool, and synthetic is usually moisture-wicking, so they dry quickly.

Conclusion – Best Riding Pants

Riding pants are very important when you’re riding a horse. They protect your groin and legs from discomfort and make it safer for the rider and their mount.

They prevent chafing and allow your skin to breathe. High-quality riding pants like breeches or Jodhpurs match well with a reliable pair of riding boots.

Bootcut jeans can also work well as long as they’re designed for horseback riders; they will have enough leg room so that you can wear them over your boot shaft comfortably.

Hopefully, you won’t ever have to test the durability of your pants, but if you fall from a horse or are in an accident, some padding on them should cushion against injuries.

Hopefully, this guide helps you find some reliable pants!

Below is a YouTube video that reviews riding breeches.

YouTube video


What are horse riding pants called?

Pants for horse riding are called ‘Jodhpurs.’ They are tight-fitting trousers that go to your ankle and have a cuff. They are made specifically to wear riding a horse and with paddock boots.

Why do horse riders wear jodhpurs?

The snug lower leg design of Jodhpurs provides protection to a rider’s lower legs without the need to wear expensive long leather boots.

Why Do Horse Riders Wear White Pants?

Wearing white pants when riding horses was a way to show off your status in the 1800s, which became formal attire associated with affluent riders and fox hunting. This practice is still going strong today- it’s even written into regulations for horse contests.