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Why Do Horse Riders Wear White Pants? (Dressage to Jockeys)

Last updated: March 20, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

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White pants and horses, what a match. While not the most practical color to wear around horses, it is a favored hue for competitions in most disciplines. The actual origin of why horse riders wear white pants is unknown. However, several myths may have contributed to the popularity of this color choice.

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.

I think that if riders had a choice, we would all wear dark-colored riding pants. The contrasting color of white against your black boots and jacket at shows may look elegant, but trying to stay clean for the duration of the show is a feat of its own. So when, where, and why do we wear white pants? Read on to find out.

How Come People Who Ride Horses Wear White Pants?

From all the time researching why horse riders wear white pants, the most logical reason I have come across is that in the 1800s, people wore white pants as a status symbol.

Parading on a horse with white breeches allowed them to show off their affluent status to those around them. The formal dress was also made famous by George Bryan “Beau” Brummell, the epitome of men’s fashion, and began the dandyism movement in men’s attire for many years.

In addition to this, riding horses wearing white pants indicated that you could afford hired help and did not need to get dirty caring for their horses; they could afford the luxury of wearing a light color in a sport that is notoriously known for getting dirty and muddy.

In India, nobles of that region introduced polo to British army officers, who later brought the game back to England. The light-colored pants were worn because they tried to escape the sun’s heat.

The color white reflects the hot rays from the sun and helps riders stay much more comfortable during tournaments. For these reasons, the custom of wearing white breeches and pants came to be, and it has since persisted.

Having to dress in white causes equestrians to be hypercritical of how they look, especially when they parade alone in the arena with all eyes focused on them, the horse, and every little bit of dirt that accumulates throughout the day.

Picture of a horse rider wearing white pants.
A horseman wearing white pants with his white horse is jumping.

When Should Horse Riders Wear White Pants?

White pants are a typical sight at equestrian events and competitions. However, I was always confused as to why my teacher required me to wear white pants to training sessions while he was there. I think it helped him to see if my leg was positioned correctly on the saddle, and he would question me more if it shifted.

As any horse rider knows, white pants can be tricky to keep clean. Even the slightest smudge can stand out, and they can be difficult to clean. For these reasons, I only ever wore white pants when I was required to.

Otherwise, I opted for a more forgiving color. This simple rule saved me a lot of time and effort in keeping my pants clean. And it meant that I could enjoy my rides and work around the horses without worrying about getting my pants stained or dirty.

For some people, white pants may look stunning, but for most of us, constantly looking over our shoulders in the mirror, wondering if it’s not see-through or smudged with dirt, is a constant battle every time we get into white pants for competitions.

So, white is not a color you will see for equestrians who work with their horses at home, tacking them up, riding them, and turning them out themselves. Competing in white pants for a whole day is a lengthy task.

In competitions, the unspoken rule of light-colored jodhpurs or breeches has existed for a long time. My research has been futile, apart from some theories that logically explain why and when this started.

Picture of a rider wearing white pants at a dressage show.
Dressage show

What Do You Wear For A Horse Show?

A specific dress code must be adhered to when competing, but this often varies according to the level and age group of the competition, so it’s imperative you check the rules.

Unaffiliated shows may permit more casual attire than affiliated displays. Children’s classes will have jodhpurs and short boots, compared to the junior and adult categories that will wear long-riding boots or short jodhpur boots with gaiters.

The simplest method to determine what to wear to the competition is to ask the show officials or your instructor about the dress code for unaffiliated competitions. For affiliated shows, it’s always best to follow the rules of the FEI, USEF, or EC associations.

Even though the rules can be changed by the judges or show officials, this is how most people dress at a show:

  1. Protective headgear helmets that conform to ASTM or SEI safety standards
  2. Wearing coats and jackets of plain solid colors for showing and dressage or tweed and checked for hunters and offering classes is permitted.
  3. Pants can be jodhpurs or breeches in white, tan, crème, or canary color.
  4. Wear Light-colored shirts with short or long sleeves with ties, chokers, stock ties, or integrated stand-up collars.
  5. Riding boots depend on the class level but range from jodhpur boots with or without gaiters to long dress or field boots for level four dressage and below.
Infograph of the items that many horse shows require riders to wear during competition.
Standard clothing, tack, and safety equipment used in horse shows.

Can You Wear White Jodhpurs For Showing?

Horse riding rules can be very tricky and confusing, with so many rules and regulations for each discipline. Just when you thought you had to get accustomed to wearing white for competitions, the showing classes come and tell you otherwise.

Some shows may allow it, but some judges may frown on it; while the judges cannot disqualify you for wearing white, they are there to judge the horse, not your jodhpur color choice.

As a general rule, and in most showing class regulations, the preferred color of jodhpurs and breeches is fawn, beige, or tan.

Picture of a Jockey wearing traditional white pants for a race.
Picture of a Jockey riding our horse and wearing white pants.

Why Jockeys Wear White Pants.

Jockeys are not exempt from the tradition of wearing white riding pants. The Jockey Club sets the rules for thoroughbred horse racing, and they are steeped in tradition and require jockeys to wear white pants. regulate

Standard Jockey pants are lightweight and typically made of stretchy nylon white fabric that helps to repel stains or smears of horse drool.

Horse racing is fast; keeping track of horses racing next to each other can prove challenging. That is why jockeys will wear silks that represent the owners’ colors. Typically, silks combine white with coordinated colors that match the skullcap silk.

As jockeys race other people’s horses and may have several horses to ride on one day, they need to change the silks to represent that owner’s horse and color. Wearing white pants prevents the confusion of many different colors on the track and allows the rider to only change his shirt according to the horse he is racing.

Can you imagine having to race a few horses a day and having to change your outfit every time from head to toe?

Picture of a rider wearing white pants at a horse show.
Dressage competition


White jodhpurs have become a traditional attire worn at shows that projects a formal look that we can trace back to legends of why white pants became so popular. Although not a practical color to wear around a horse daily, white jodhpurs can also be worn for training, but this is not a common practice. White is generally reserved for the competition ring.

Below is a YouTube video that discusses horse riding equipment and clothing.

What did you learn from this article? Comment down below!