Can You Wear Shorts for Horseback Riding?

Can You Wear Shorts for Horseback Riding?

If summer is approaching for you or you live somewhere that’s permanently warm, you may be hoping for a bit of respite from your jodhpurs. Venturing out with your horse in the heat certainly calls for a bit of adaptation in the clothing department — but can you wear shorts for horseback riding? 

You can — but there’s still lots to consider when deciding what to wear for riding in summer. Whether or not you choose to wear shorts comes down to your personal experience with them. Shorts aren’t always the most practical garments for riding, and some riders choose never to wear them for reasons of comfort and safety. Read on to find out more. 

Shorts for Horseback Riding: A Good Idea? 

horseback riding shorts people riding

Shorts might be better for short, gentle rides rather than lengthy, strenuous ones. The reason for this is that you could experience rubbing from the saddle against your thighs and end up with something called saddle sores. These can be pretty painful and can ruin an otherwise great day out riding in the sun. 

Additionally, if you’re riding in woodland or overgrown areas, your legs become vulnerable to scratches and scrapes. Ouch! If we add to all of these possibilities the fact that the saddle heats up in the summer sun, you might want to carefully consider whether shorts are the best option for you. 

Some riders wear shorts frequently and don’t experience any issues. It’s possible that the rider’s skill level plays a big part in this, though. An experienced rider will know how to comfortably carry themselves atop a horse, so this may make a difference in their experience wearing shorts when riding. 

How Can I Stay Cool When Riding? 

horseback riding shorts riding in sea

If the thought of brambles, sunburn and saddle sores is enough to put you off riding in shorts, don’t worry. There are plenty of other options for replenishing your summer riding wardrobe. A lot of these clothes are specially ventilated for hot weather riding. Let’s take a look at some. 

For more information on what to wear for riding lessons, check out our guide on the topic! 

Sun Shirts

Equestrian sun shirts are specially designed to keep you protected from the sun. Many sun shirts are made with cooling technology and UPF or SPF protection. This helps you to stay safe from the sun’s harmful UV rays and is more effective than a standard long-sleeved t-shirt. They are also lightweight and airy. 

Sun shirts come in a variety of lengths, styles and colors. Whether long or short sleeves are more your thing, you’re sure to find something you like. Just bear in mind that if you’re going for short sleeves, you’ll need to make sure you use sunscreen on your lower arms. 

Sun shirts can give you an added layer of reassurance because not all regular t-shirts can fully protect you from the sun, even if they’re long-sleeved. This is because some materials, especially standard lightweight t-shirts, allow more light to pass through and therefore leave you vulnerable to skin damage. 

Ventilated Helmets

Your regular helmet might not be a great idea for riding in the heat. This is because, much like a hat, the heat from your head has nowhere to go so it becomes trapped under the helmet. In the summer, this can be pretty uncomfortable and even dangerous if you become light-headed from the excessive heat. 

Ventilated horse riding helmets work by passing heat through small windows (vents) to prevent it from getting trapped under the helmet. This helps keep you comfortable when riding in the sun. Some ventilated helmets come with useful bits and bobs like sweatbands and built-in cooling technology, just like sun shirts. 

Riding Tights

Riding tights or leggings are an alternative for more traditional legwear like breeches or jodhpurs in the summer. This is because they’re made with stretchy, lightweight material that gives a more “airy” feel. They are very close-fitting — this is important as they fit perfectly into your riding boots. 

Many horse riders are singing riding tight’s praises for their comfort and flexibility. They can be a great alternative to shorts in summer, especially if you can find a pair with UPF/SPF protection. 

Summer Jodhpurs

For riders who prefer not to break with tradition, summer jodhpurs are also very much a thing. Like riding tights, they’re made of lightweight fabric and some even come with a cool silicone grip in the bottom area. The silicone grip is useful for preventing you from sliding around in the saddle and can give a little extra reassurance to novice riders. 

Ventilated Gloves

Even though it’s hot out, protecting your hands is still really important. Some riders experience rubbing from holding the reins, something gloves can help prevent. Another bonus is that they give you more grip on the reins. Ventilated gloves are specially made for summer wear and keep that air flowing to keep your hands as dry as possible. 

Short Riding Boots

Riding boots are a must for riders. They’re critical in helping to prevent injuries like broken bones and they are a crucial part of riding. Wearing sneakers, tennis shoes or — god-forbid — flip-flops don’t give you much control. Proper riding boots help you stay steady in the stirrups and give you more confidence. 

This doesn’t mean you have to suffer all summer. There are plenty of riding boots designed for warmer climes. Short riding boots come up to your ankles instead of to your knee to help you avoid sweaty legs. Horse-riding boots are traditionally made from leather, but there are plenty of less expensive synthetic options available, too. 

For more information, check out our article on horse riding boots for beginners! 

Cooling Vest

Cooling vests come in a few different varieties. There are vests that you can dunk in water, wring out and wear while others are kept in the freezer. Some brands report being able to keep you cool for between 5 and 10 hours at a time. 

Summer Tips for Horseback Riders

horseback riding shorts summer

In addition to appropriate summer wear, there are some other factors to consider when riding in the summer. 

For you:

  • Stock up on sunscreen. Really, we can’t stress this enough. It’s so important to protect your skin even if you’re only going on a short ride. Don’t forget those easy-to-miss areas like the back of your neck, either. 
  • Wear light colors. Dark colors absorb more heat, so try to go for lighter shades when picking out your summer riding wardrobe. 
  • Wear your hi-viz jacket, no matter which season it is. 
  • Stay hydrated. This one is pretty obvious, but dehydration can cause dizziness and impaired concentration, and this is very dangerous for riders. 

For Your Horse:

Heat stress in horses is no joke, so if you plan on riding in the summer, be sure to watch out for the symptoms. 

The American Quarter Horse Association lists the symptoms of heat stress as: profuse sweating, skin hot to the touch, muscle weakness, stumbling, rapid breathing, rapid heart and pulse rate that doesn’t go back to normal after exercise, increased body temperature (98-101 degrees F is normal) and dehydration. Check out the list in the link for full information on symptoms. 

  • Try to exercise your horse in the morning or evening to avoid the full glare of the afternoon sun. 
  • Keep your horse hydrated. 
  • Invest in cooling gear for your horse as well as yourself. There are special summer vests and coats made with cooling technology to help keep your horse safe. 

Can You Wear Shorts for Horseback Riding?: Sum Up

  • If you’re happy to wear shorts for horseback riding, there’s nothing to stop you! Just be careful not to develop saddle burns or sunburn. 
  • If you choose to ride in shorts, steer clear of bushy, overgrown areas or risk coming out with legs covered in cuts and scratches. 
  • There’s plenty of options for hot weather riding apparel, including ventilated helmets, riding tights and sun shirts. These are all specially designed to keep you safe and cool in the summer sun. 
  • Light colors are best for riding in the sun. 
  • Riding in the morning or evening is the best option to avoid the dangers of the sun for both you and your horse. 

Can You Wear Shorts for Horseback Riding?: Final Thoughts

There’s nothing at all to say you can’t or shouldn’t wear shorts for horseback riding — if you’re comfortable with it, why not?! Just be aware that longer rides might become somewhat painful, so it’s always best to keep rides in shorts — well, short. 

In addition, riding in the sun can be an absolute pleasure, or it can be a complete disaster. Avoid the latter by being sensible in your choice of how and when you ride and check on your horse consistently to see how he’s doing. Know when enough is enough or when to avoid riding at all. 

Keep cool in high-quality summer riding apparel to ensure you get the best possible protection from the sun. You could even get a cute matching cooling vest for your horse! 

Be safe and have fun!