Negotiating the Legwear Minefield

Legwear can be a minefield, with literally thousands of options to choose from.  There are a couple of questions that you need to ask yourself when choosing your next pair.

Breeches, Riding Tights, Jodhpurs, what’s the difference?

There are three options with regards to legwear for horse riders.  These are Jodhpurs, Breeches and Riding Tights.

Jodhpurs were created around 1890, in Jodhpur, India. They were based on a traditional style worn across southern Asia, with a snug cuff to the ankle and protective padding to the knee.  People who don’t wear long riding boots most of the time, wear jodhpurs, as they are longer in the leg than breeches.  Furthermore, they tend to have a large size range more so than styled breeches, most ladies jodhpurs range from a 24” waist up to a 38”.

Juniors, especially for Showing, primarily use jodhpurs. They are normally made from a knitted fabric and have a rolled cuff at the bottom.  

Breeches are slightly shorter than Jodhpurs, traditionally with Velcro cuff closings, but nowadays they tend to be with Lycra to the ankle.  Because they sit slightly higher than Jodhpurs they need to be able to accommodate differing calf widths, hence the adjustable cuff.

With regards to competition, especially dressage, most people will wear breeches.  This is primarily due to the snug fit of long boots and wanting as little bulk as possible on the lower leg.  This is even more important when training at the higher levels.

Breeches are available in a variety of styles from plain; silicone gripped and also denim.  The majority tend to range in size from ladies 24” to 34”.   Moreover, the general rule of thumb is that a breech will be a slightly ‘neater’ fit than Jodhpurs.  This normally comes down to the fabrics that are used.

Riding Tights are a relatively new invention to the world of horses and they are perfect for somebody wanting to feel comfortable above all else.  
With wide waistbands and stretchy technical fabrics they provide the ultimate feel and movability in the saddle.  They range in styles from those that have silicone across the whole of the seat, silicone to just the knee or just fabric ones.  This means that you can pick which suits your needs the best.

The next question is what are you going to be doing in your legwear?

Your needs with regard to legwear can vary greatly depending on the job.  It is also important to make sure that you are conforming to the rules and standards for your selected discipline.

Showing, for example, tend to like the more traditional look in Canary or Beige breeches or jodhpurs.  Most showing classes will have an outline of what dress is expected and what is against the rules, the best rule of thumb is to abide by the Stud Book.  But most traditional Showing people tend to steer clear of silicone seats and high waists.

Whereas in Dressage performance and elegance are the top priority and white breeches are the norm for most people with variations of bling and silicone grip.   They also tend to like the thinner fabrics as this allows for more ‘feel’ of the horse especially through the seat.

People who just want to go hacking tend to have comfort as a top priority hence the rise in popularity of the riding tight.  Wide comfort waistbands and 4 way stretch fabrics are the way forward and this is definitely something to look for. Also pockets, it sounds like it shouldn’t be high on the priority list but having somewhere to put, money, phones, hoof picks etc. is actually really important.

The draw back with riding tights is that they tend to be less supportive than other types of legwear due to their stretchy-ness.

What material do you prefer, knitted or woven?

All legwear can be either made from a knitted fabric or a woven one.  The general rule of thumb is that Jodhpurs are made from the slightly ‘thicker’ knitted fabric and breeches made from ‘woven’ fabrics, although there are exceptions to this rule.

The benefits of the Knitted fabric is that they tend to not be see through and cover a multitude of sins and give a more flattering appearance. Being slightly thicker they can warmer, and more robust than their woven counterparts.
Whereas, with a woven fabric the fact they are lighter weight means that they are brilliant at competitions, when performance is key.  Woven fabric especially lighter colours like white can be slightly see through so some riders will steer clear of them for that reason.

However, a newer more robust woven fabric has started to emerge that solves the see though problem. They are thicker than the traditional version but because of this they tend to ‘hold’ and ‘shape' the body more.

Waistline – which would you choose?

There tends to be only two options with regards to waistline, either a high waist up to the belly button or a more traditional standard waistline that sits on the hips.  Some people prefer the higher waistline as they feel more held in and secure, as it gives more structure to the legwear.

And of course the biggest fact of all price!

You need to keep to your budget, when deciding on what you want and work out whether you would prefer two cheaper pairs or one more expensive.  As a general rule knitted fabrics are cheaper than woven ones.   

It is important to remember about the economies of scale when buying as sometimes buying cheap can result in having to buy twice, therefore negating any savings you’ve made.

Of course the most important factor of all is that you have to love them.  I was always told that you will always love them most in the shop, so make sure that you love them there before you buy.

Happy Hunting!