Some casual English riders today often wear breeches and a t-shirt. The dress of most English riders, however, has changed very little over the past 100 years Although a careful observer might notice subtle differences in color and styling, the name of the game in English apparel is still conservative, especially in the show ring. Let me introduce you to the basics of English schooling and show clothes.
English Schooling and Trail Clothes
English riders who are schooling their horses or riding out on the trail dress much more casually than when they are in the show ring. Schooling apparel for English riders includes the following:
Helmets: English riders who are schooling their horses usually wear lightweight schooling helmets that come in a variety of colors.
Shirts: Today everything from long-sleeve shirts to t-shirts to tank tops are a go for schooling in English apparel.
Breeches or tights: Breeches are the traditional riding pants of the English discipline. They need to be stretchy and sometimes have a padded seat and knee patches. Some riders prefer riding tights to breeches for schooling, however. Riding tights are usually less expensive and more comfortable. The tights usually have pads on the insides of the knees.
Boots and chaps: English riders who are schooling wear tall boots or paddock boots (boots that come just above the ankle). If they wear paddock boots, they will also need something to protect their legs from rubbing on the stirrup leathers, which is the strap that attaches the stirrup to the saddle. This protection comes in the style of full chaps, which cover the leg from the hip to the ankle, or half chaps, which cover the leg from just below the knee to the ankle. The preferred and longer lasting chaps are made of premium split suede or cowhide.
English Show Clothes
English show apparel is much more formal than schooling apparel. Although elements such as the color and style of the helmet in hunt seat and lower-level dressage may change slightly, the basics always remain the same.
Head wear: Hunt seat and lower-level dressage riders wear black velvet-covered helmets. Upper-level dressage riders wear a derby.
Shirts: English riders wear show shirts under a jacket. These tailored shirts are designed to allow extra motion needed in the shoulders for jumping. They button down the front, have a collar, and are usually white or, if colored, are a very light pink or blue. Some shirts are short sleeved while others are sleeveless.
Jackets: All English show riders wear jackets. Hunt seat and lower-level dressage riders wear tailored jackets in solids or pinstripes. Upper-level dressage riders wear a black shadbelly which is a tailored, short-waisted jacket, often double-breasted, with tails. These days, however, the cheat is that it is often made in 100% polyester.
Breeches: All English riders wear breeches for the show ring. These breeches, too, are form-fitting, and they extend just below the calf. In hunt seat and lower-level dressage, the color is admittedly prone to trends, including everything from rust to hunter green. Tan is usually a staple, although some among the rather self-conscious believe it's a good idea to go to a show and scope it out to see what's fashionable in their region. Upper-level dressage riders, however, reliably wear white breeches.
Boots: Hunt seat and dressage riders will always wear tall, black boots for shows.
Gloves: In the show ring, English riders usually wear black gloves, although upper-level dressage riders wear white gloves.
English horse schooling and show clothes do not change much through the years. That may account for the abiding place they hold in the popular imagination of the sport of English hunting and formal dressage.