Horse riding is an adventurous and fashionable sport, not only will you be riding a horse but you’ll also be riding it in style, however, before you grab your Sunday’s best and your Louboutins, ask yourself the following questions: Where are you riding? Why are you riding- are you going out to practice or are you joining a competition? Do you prefer casual over formal clothes? What’s the weather like today? Is it raining or is it a sunny day?
Will you be going somewhere far or will you just be somewhere near?
Although horse riding may look simple, there are many factors riders and enthusiasts alike must consider, for this article, we will be discussing the importance of breeches and their importance to make horse riding the enjoyable sport that it is.
What are Breeches?
Riding breeches, or most commonly called breeches, are a pair of trousers worn by horse riders. Breeches can be made from a variety of materials however, many prefer those that are made of cotton as it doesn’t absorb moisture thus making it very comfortable for the wearer, breeches can also be made from a mixture of cotton and other materials including microfibers that provide breathability which can be very convenient on hot days, especially during the summer season or those intense training sessions with your horse and trainer.
Most breeches come with two (2) front pockets, a side zip, and are made with the 2-way stretch material.
Thick and rough materials were often used to make breeches before however, with the availability of cotton, people shifted to softer but durable materials thus giving riders more comfort without sacrificing functionality.and style.
Breeches are designed to fit the wearer snugly and do not rub against the horse or obstacles, however, it is designed to stretch thus allowing riders to move freely and without fear of snagging onto your horse, shoes, and obstacles such as fences.
Unlike denim jeans or formal slacks, breeches can easily be fit inside tall riding boots, and they come in many styles too, including side-zips, pull-on, and fly-fronts. Each of these styles has their own uses, for example, riders are very familiar with the fly-zip style where these breeches have belt loops into them while the pull-on style has elastic loops and doesn’t have belt loops.
Leather and other fabrics can also be used to make breeches although this will give them a different feel.
Breeches also come in several different sizes that can fit men and women. Breeches are measured in inches according to the wearer’s size.
For example, if a woman is a size 4 when wearing regular pants, the suggested size for breeches would be around 24 inches, the same also applies to men.
In terms of in-seam length, breeches come in regular and long, both types of breeches have their own uses: long breeches are recommended for tall riders, riders who are 5’7 and taller while regular breeches are for riders of average height.
Bear with us as this may be confusing, besides colors and styles, breeches also come in styles that accommodate the rider whether he or she plans on using it for hunting or riding. Breeches were also designed to accommodate the rider’s own habits, so whether you’ll be going out for a short ride, a grueling practice session or for that much-anticipated show, whatever kind of breeches you pick, there’s bound to be one that will fit you comfortably.
But which type of breeches should you pick to match your riding style?
Let’s find out more below:
Generally, full seat breeches are worn for most events and dressage, the full seat style is known for its gripping and contrasting fabrics that can be found in the inner thighs, this type of breeches creates a sticky grip which helps riders stay on their seats firmly. This gives the rider more confidence in doing their stunts without the fear of falling off their horse. Trail riders should opt for comfort rather than style, while recreational or casual riders should choose softness over style.
Most modern breeches are designed to withstand different weather conditions so whether you’re a casual or professional rider, you will definitely be comfortable and safe in the breeches you pick regardless of your riding style.
Types of Riding Breeches
Breeches aren’t just limited to riding, in fact, they were used part of daily life for many people during the last century, they were also found in formal events such as the livery or the Royal Guards of the Royal Family in the United Kingdom and other countries in the west, including in some colonies. Breeches also found their way in courts and ballroom halls, however, as time progressed and with the innovations coming from the fashion industry, these fancy breeches have fallen out of favor as people opted to dress for function rather than style.
Here are some riding breeches you may encounter on your journey:
- Jockey Breeches: also known as silks, are made from lightweight materials and have an elasticized leg. Some event organizers or authorities require riders to have their names placed along the thighs of the riders.
- Knee Patch Breeches: are the most common breeches you will be seeing and wearing. Knee patch breeches are paired with tall riding boots or sometimes with chaps (sturdy coverings for the legs) or paddock boots. This kind of breeches is worn by show jumpers, hunt riders, endurance riders and also casual riders.
- Full Seat Breeches: are the breeches you will be seeing mostly in dressage competitions, the term full seat refers to the stickiness of the seat which helps the rider stay on their horses even if they were doing tricks. Tall riding boots or half chaps are usually paired with full seat breeches.
- Jodhpur Breeches: also called jodhpurs, are also a type of breeches, however, unlike most breeches that end just above the rider’s calves, jodhpurs extend to the rider's ankles and it has a small loop that can be put inside a riding boot; although similar, jodhpurs have their own category during competitions, this is because of their additional length. Jodhpurs are commonly seen in children, however, in some countries, jodhpurs are also worn by adults. Unlike breeches, tall riding boots aren’t usually paired with jodhpurs, this can help riders who are short on budget. However, before you run outside or hop on to a website, make sure your local riding club allows the use of jodhpurs.
- Kentucky Jodhpurs: or also known as Kentucky jods, are a lot like breeches, however, unlike regular jodhpurs, Kentucky jodhpurs are full length riding pants, but unlike riding breeches, Kentucky jodhpurs are flared and long at the bottom compared to riding breeches where it’s tightly cuffed. Kentucky jodhpurs give the impression that riders have longer legs. Jodhpur boots (a cousin of the paddock boot) are usually worn with Kentucky jodhpurs and for jodhpurs, they also share similarities with paddock boots.
While riding leggings have been making some noise recently, they may not be accepted by many especially in formal riding events, you may still buy them, however, you may not be able to use them much outside of your training grounds.
There are also breeches for fencing, however, they are very different from riding breeches, one major difference in fencing breeches is that they include straps (also called as suspenders or braces) that are to be worn on the shoulders of the fencers.
Fencing breeches are also much shorter than riding breeches, they end just above the knee, this allows fencers to move more freely, jogging bottoms or socks are usually paired worn underneath fencing breeches.
Breeches or Jodhpurs? What Should I Wear?
Now here comes the slightly confusing part… Breeches or jodhpurs?
Are they the same thing or are these two completely different?
Now before you panic and send your order back to the post office or store, let’s explore further:
Breeches are usually worn with tall riding boots, they usually end below the calf, jodhpurs are usually worn by younger riders, this also gives parents some sigh of relief as paddock boots are less expensive than riding boots especially since children grow up fast.
Jodhpurs are also made of comfortable yet durable materials that allow riders to be confident yet still be at ease wherever they may be riding.
Jodhpurs are also recommended for those who are still new and taking lessons about horse riding as they provide comfort, however, jodhpurs have also been making a comeback recently and is tailored for most adults.
Unlike skinny jeans or pants, breeches and jodhpurs have this stretchiness in them that gives the rider a lot of room for movement, these fabrics are usually made up of Spandex and its other forms such as Lycra, this ensures that no matter how much you move around, whether by simply walking or riding your horse, you won’t have anything to worry about falling off your horse.
Breeches and jodhpurs are also designed to fit any body types and by catering to a wide range of riding discipline regardless of whether one prefers to be professional or as casual as possible. Unlike skinny jeans, slacks, and or pants… Breeches were designed to withstand different weather conditions and protect the rider too, this means that you don’t need to grab a coat or other clothing to protect you from the ever-changing weather.
However, all is not lost as breeches have found their glory once again in the horse riding scene, like normal breeches, riding breeches also went through several changes before settling down to its current design.
Some of the more vintage breeches do still make an appearance especially when it comes to historical reenactments in museums or for enthusiasts in the LARP community (also known as interactive roleplaying or live action role-playing, although they look similar, live-action role-playing or LARPing is not the same as cosplaying.
Although you are free to choose on what you’d like to wear, the final decision is still up to your instructor or where your training will be taking place, this also includes clinics and events here and even abroad.
So, How Does One Find the Perfect Pair of Breeches?
Compared to your pair of jeans, leggings (while there are riding leggings, many people don’t officially recognize them, especially during major events), breeches are quite expensive.
One can find breeches, jodhpurs, and much other riding equipment in equestrian stores or also known as tack shops, you can also purchase breeches at online stores although they may cost a bit more because of shipping and handling fees.
If you’re on a tight budget or if you’re still learning the ropes of horse riding, many second-hand stores offer slightly used breeches in reasonable prices, this is perfect for those who are learning or for those who are saving up for their equipment.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed at first as many of these things may seem strange to you, however, one shouldn’t rush in buying their equipment even though they are already taking their riding lessons.
It’s important for one to have a budget before you browse online or go on a shopping spree downtown or in tack shops, take advantage and keep a look out for discounts that may pop out of your favorite sites or shops, ask help from your friends to also keep a lookout for sales.
Color is an important factor when it comes to choosing breeches, however, one shouldn’t stress out you can even play around or mix colors and styles around during your training lessons, as long as your riding instructor doesn’t mind too, try to experiment and see what styles and colors will suit you, this phase also allows you to try out different styles from different brands; find one that suits you best. You can be mild with natural colors or be outspoken with bright, bold and even neon colors with your breeches.
In many official events, many organizers opt for a more polished look rather than an experimental look, this includes everything from your helmet to your boots, don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to prepare for an event.
White breeches are common among dressage competitions while grays and other similar natural colors are used in hunt-seat competitions, this also applies to jodhpurs.
For some events, organizers may recommend what color your breeches should be for the event, this is because some organizers want the breeches to match the rider’s stable colors (most stables follow a standard color scheme, however, you may also choose different colors however some stable companies may charge you extra if you decide to pick less conventional colors).
Darker colors such as navy blue and black or any shade that is close to it are used by saddle seat riders.
Some designers mix and match different colors and patterns for some breeches, this can also include coming up with crazy designs and colors such as mixing two different patterns for one breech, however, they are often limited in the inner thighs and the sides of the legs.
These breeches also offer the same comfort and function as regular breeches, but remember that they aren’t usually worn during formal events so we recommend that you invest on regular riding breeches, however you can still show off your fashionable breeches during practice or if they are allowed in small-scale events.
Tips on How to Pick Breeches
Regardless of what level you are in, any breeches can be worn, and while colors aren’t usually specified, whites, grays, and light colored breeches are preferred.
Tall black boots are usually paired with breeches during dressage competitions.
Depending on the kind of event you plan on joining, the color and type of breeches may differ, however, light-colored breeches are preferred for formal events. You can opt for bold colors and styles for cross-country events.
Children who join hunting or hunter classes are often required to wear jodhpurs and jodhpur boots since children grow up fast, it’s recommended to wear jodhpurs with garter straps so you can easily adjust when needed. Beige, khaki and similar colors are often worn. Taller children may wear breeches and tall boots, don’t worry, many designers offer breeches for children too.
Earth tones such as beige, khaki, gray and other similar tones are recommended for adults and are paired with tall riding boots.
The same rules can also be applied to jumper classes with white being the popular choice, especially in higher levels.
Clinics and Classes
Calls for more conservative options, however, one doesn’t have to sacrifice style, dress as if you were joining a real event or show. White or light colored breeches are recommended.
While breeches are almost always worn at every class and or clinic, that isn’t always the case when it comes to small events, especially during your training, this is your time to shine and show off your personality by wearing bright and colorful breeches.
How to Take Care of Your Breeches
Breeches are an expensive investment, however keeping a pair in top shape isn’t that hard, it’s important to know what material your breeches are to prolong their life.
Here are some tips on how to wash your breeches :
- Empty the pockets and turn your breeches inside out before washing.
- Secure the Velcro straps or straps (if there are any) so that it won’t get mangled and to prolong the life of these straps.
- If this is the first time you will be washing your breeches, we recommend that you add a teaspoon of white vinegar, this will help the dye stay set.
- Most breeches don’t really require any special washing instructions, most breeches can simply be machine and hand-washed. No need for dry cleaning. We recommend using a mild detergent if you have breeches that are made of synthetic leather.
- After washing, remove your breeches immediately from the washing machine or basin to prevent damaging the leather.
- Remove the excess water in your breeches by putting it on a towel and rolling it to squeeze out any water trapped in your breeches.
- Air dry your breeches, however, do not expose them to full sunlight. Do not put your breeches into the dryer or iron them.
- If your breeches has hardened, apply some leather conditioner on it