A general rule it seems is that by categorising almost any product enough, there is justification for a pretty sharp price increase – the more niche the better – see cycling, sailing and evidently anything at all to do with weddings.
Horse riding seems to work in much the same way when it comes to kit and sadly there’s little getting away from the fact that it can be a very expensive pastime, but there are a few ways to lower the spend on equestrian equipment be that by shopping around, re-purposing other equipment or splurging only on the essentials. Below we’ve compiled the essential kit list for any horse riding expedition with a few tips to help you select the best items for you and hopefully save you a little along the way.
Helmet or riding hat
If there’s one area in which you should look to avoid compromise, it’s head protection. You might be the most talented rider out there but especially during long days on horseback in an unfamiliar environment, accidents can and do happen. Top of our essentials list is a lightweight, well ventilated helmet which fits well and is comfortable for all day use. International standards offer guidance on what to look for in terms of maximum protection however these vary between different countries and may not be clearly displayed. Whilst there are a wide-range of hats available at all different price points, this is one area where we’d always recommend buying new so you know the helmet hasn’t been involved in any falls or crashes.
In the same vein as hiking boots, not all helmets are made equal and not all manufacturers make a hat which will fit your head and we’d always recommend professional fitting advice, but the Champion, Uvex and Gatehouse ranges are a great starting point as you begin your research. With a peak or without it’s entirely up to you – wearing a peak can cause additional pressure and rotation if you fall face down but also that same peak can offer great protection for your face (and nose!), not to mention keeping the sun out of your eyes. If you want to go the whole jockey route, there are plenty of companies out there who make hat silks in all colours or patterns should you wish to be particularly distinctive.
Riding or Hiking Boots?
Short riding boots are great whilst you’re riding, but they don’t necessarily double up terribly well as a boot for general use or to hike in as they offer less grip than walking boots and may not support your foot as well as you’re used to. If you do opt to ride in hiking boots you’ll need to ensure they have very well-defined heel to prevent your foot slipping through the stirrup and it’s worth just bearing in mind that you may need to be able to fit short chaps over them to help prevent chafing it’s so best not to have something too chunky.
Generally, in contrast to much of the outdoor industry, riding kit for women is in greater supply in terms of styles, colours and availability, but there are a few manufacturers out there who make good quality kit for men – you may just need to shop around a little more. For those with larger than average feet – expect this to take a little patience, however you may also be rewarded with a bargain during sales season or at an equestrian event.
Riding specific gloves can be hugely expensive if you want a pair that’ll last you hours in the saddle, but whether or not you acquire a pair is really down to personal preference. We recommend them for our riding expeditions for two main reasons; offer additional warmth, as your hands will be quite still whilst you are riding, and to protect your hands if they’re unused to long consecutive days in the saddle. A pair of gloves with some sort of grip is key if you do decide to buy riding specific gloves and synthetic options will be considerably cheaper than more traditional leather gloves, any gloves should also be close fitting to allow good rein feedback and prevent rubbing.
Designed to protect your legs from excessive contact with the horse and also any contact with brush in the terrain you’ll ride through, these come in two different styles – full chaps or half chaps. A pair of full chaps worn over trekking trousers will prevent rubbing all the way to your thighs and could be a cost-effective way of being able to spend long hours in the saddle without needing to buy ride-specific trousers but even then, in our experience, you’ll be more comfortable in a pair of jodhpurs. Full chaps can also serve to keep you fairly warm as an additional layer and pair well with short boots. The second option are half chaps which are cut more like a close-fitting walking gaiter. These only offer protection to your knee but are a lighter-weight and cooler alternative whilst still providing friction-less contact with the horse through your calf.
Jodhpurs or Breeches
These are the ideal and recommended options for riding trousers during the expedition as they are specifically designed for all-day comfort and to relieve saddle-specific pressure points. The key difference between the two styles is length and it’s often personal preference which option is more comfortable. While a pair of jodhpurs finish at the ankle, breeches stop towards the middle of your calf and are designed to be worn either with long boots with long socks underneath or short chaps and boots.
Breeches tend to be a little looser fitting than jodhpurs and come in a range of fabrics however each brand and style can vary widely in their sizing so if possible order a cross-section to try on. Most independent equestrian shops in the UK have a selection of second hand items which can be an absolute gold mine for bargain hunters. Otherwise, there are a vast number of online retailers with some good deals to be had or more informal gear exchange groups based at local pony clubs, riding schools or online forums.
In September 2019 a Secret Compass team will be exploring the heart of the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park of western Mongolia by horseback in the company of Kazakh Eagle Hunters.
In this iconic landscape this is a fantastic opportunity to further develop your horse riding skills exploring the mountain meadows, woodland trails and untracked steppe in the shadow of Mongolia’s tallest mountains. Discovering the joys of a nomadic way of life, the evenings will see the team wild camping under the stars and trading stories around a cosy ger before the expedition culminates at a local Eagle Festival.
For more details about the expedition and to apply to join the 2019 team, click here.