As a brand new riding student, there isn't a whole lot of gear you need to buy. Most lesson programs require boots with a 1" heel, long pants, and a helmet approved for equestrian use. Many facilities provide helmets and some will even have a few sizes of riding boots available for students to use until they are sure of their commitment. Eventually, most students who choose to take riding lessons longer than a few months will want to buy their own helmet and boots at the very least, and many will want a pair of riding breeches, gloves, and more. So we've put together a list of items that are popular among students who are ready to get started.
A helmet is usually the first item a student purchases. It's super nice to have your own. No more adjusting straps every time you ride, not to mention it's much more sanitary, even if your barn is good about disinfecting student helmets.
The Troxel Spirit is probably the most popular helmet at Redbird Farm. It comes in quite a few colors and even some cool prints, but most students who plan to start showing prefer to get black. This is a very affordable helmet from a reputable company that has been around a long time. Lightweight and low profile, it's a great helmet for every day riding and it looks good enough for the show ring!
The Ovation Deluxe Schooler is another choice that a lot of students really like. Ovation makes quality equestrian gear. This is a lightweight helmet that is low profile and comfortable, and like the Troxel above, is nicely priced and works just fine for showing, lessons, and every day rides.
You're going to want a sturdy pair of paddock boots to ride in. Most students start out with an inexpensive pair of cowboy boots or equestrian inspired fall fashion boots, but eventually you'll want the look and the support of a boot designed for riding. There are so many options when it comes to riding boots it can be a bit overwhelming. The first thing to decide is if you want leather or a synthetic boot. Leather is more breathable, soft and flexible, and generally lasts longer. Synthetic is easy to clean, and is considerably cheaper, but can crack and peel.
Tuffrider is a great brand for starting out. These paddock boots come in ladies or children's sizes, and they are comfortable and easy care. Lots of our students have these and most have liked them really well. One student did have a problem with hers coming apart and went through a few pairs in a short amount of time, but that was not the experience of most.
If you prefer leather, still at an amazing price, then these are the way to go. These held up to daily riding of multiple horses, plus doing barn chores every day. I had a pair that lasted over a year with all of that, and my daughter's lasted three years. She didn't do stalls in hers, nor did she ride as many horses as I did. So these are a great buy, and should be good for lots of lessons.
Tall boots aren't really necessary at this stage of the game, so that item doesn't make it into this post, but if you want a little more leg stability and protection from stirrups pinching, half chaps are a great idea. They have an elastic strap that goes under your paddock boot, then they zip up your leg. These should fit fairly snug to prevent shifting, twisting, and bunching.
Ah, yes, the item we've all been waiting for! Breeches are the thing the girls at the barn get the most excited over! There are so many choices: color, fabric, full seat or knee patch. How does one know what to get? At the beginning, you just need a basic inexpensive breech. Full seat breeches have leather covering the seat and insides of the thighs. Some full seats are made with a synthetic suede, and the latest thing is silicone patterns for grip. We suggest a simple knee patch breech, which just has the leather, silicone, or suede on the inside of the knee.
Again, Tuffrider's got the goods. These are a nice weight, not too hot, not too cold, so will work in almost all weather. The sock bottoms fit nicely around your ankles so they aren't bulky under boots and half chaps. They are super stretchy and comfortable. This is truly the best value for the money. Similar breeches are priced at two or three times the cost of these! These will look great for lessons, clinics, and even schooling shows.
For younger kids, jodphurs, or jods, are more traditional. Some riding instructors prefer them over breeches for kids under 12, especially if they will be doing any shows. Some disciplines, like hunt seat, are more strict than others about jods vs. breeches. Check with your riding instructor to make sure. The difference between jods and breeches is that jods have a cuff at the bottom and are intended to be worn over the top of the paddock boots. Generally they also have an elastic stirrup that buttons in place and goes under the sole of the boot to hold them down.
You can also get breeches in kids sizes, and this is what a lot of kids prefer. These are exactly like the ladies Tuffriders above. The sock bottom goes on the inside of boots, and is ideal if your child is going to be wearing half chaps or tall boots. Most teenagers do end up wanting tall boots, especially if they start showing, but half chaps are absolutely fine to get started with. These breeches will work great either way.
Gloves are highly recommended for all students, and something that most riding instructors don't provide. Some lesson horses have a habit of pulling on the reins and gloves can really help prevent blisters on the fingers. Ponies have a habit of suddenly diving down after some grass and can yank those reins right out of a child's hands. And it's very common for riders to loosen their grip a little too much and before you know it the reins are too long. Gloves can provide grip that is helpful in preventing some of these mishaps.
Heritage Performance Gloves are some of the grippiest and they are stretchy and comfortable. Not too heavy or bulky on the reins, and they work well even in wet conditions. They aren't the coolest gloves available in hot weather, but they grip much better than some of the lighter, cooler gloves. Heritage also makes a similar glove for winter riding. These gloves come in a very wide range of sizes, children to adult.
The SSG gripper glove is a very economical choice. Super lightweight cotton is cool and absorbent in hot weather, and grippy dots on the palms help keep your hands on the reins. They are reinforced with extra fabric where the reins go between your fingers also. These are super inexpensive but don't hold up as long as the higher priced ones. It's worth buying a couple extra pairs though, because they are cool and comfortable in the summer!