Horseback Riding in Shorts? Good or Bad Idea

Jessica McDaniel
Written by
Last update:

Wearing Shorts Riding

While wearing shorts or pants is often up to your personal preference when horseback riding, the answer may not always be so cut and dry.

In fact, the rule of thumb is pretty clear here. Trousers are the always the safer option.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when deciding whether you want to wear shorts riding a horse:

Practice safe riding habits when wearing shorts.

Even if you choose to wear shorts, make sure to always wear long socks, gloves, and protective helmets. It’s also a good idea to wear a shirt in case you do fall and want to protect your forearms. If you wear pants, there would be no need for these extra layers.

Make sure you have control of your horse when wearing shorts.

In an emergency, you want to be able to quickly and easily be able to fall right off your horse. Wearing shorts gives you a little more control than wearing trousers. In an emergency situation, if you fall, you’ll have more time to right yourself.

Completely aware of your environment.

Choose to wear shorts when you are only riding in a familiar environment with people close by. If you find yourself in unfamiliar territory or somewhere you may be more easily startled, choose to wear pants.

Wear boots with non skid soles when wearing shorts.

Why to Avoid Wearing Shorts Riding

As much as some would like to push shorts as appropriate riding attire for women, the truth is they should never be worn on the back of a horse.

Shorts are permeable and allow the saddle to come in direct contact with your skin. YUCK!

Your horse's saddle fenders should extend to at least cover your crotch. If you're wearing shorts, this is not possible.

It is a simple fact that a saddle must fit both horse and rider for safety. If it’s not your saddle, it is a saddle fitter’s job to test your horse's saddle fit to ensure the best possible general and riding fit. And, if necessary adjust the saddle fit to alleviate pressure points and pain.


Because riders must have freedom of movement, freedom from pain and saddle safety from direct contact with the saddle throughout a ride. Riding in shorts is simply a bad idea.

When it is Alright to Wear Shorts Riding

When temperatures start rising on the thermometer, you’re going to want to start wearing shorts. While you may consider wearing shorts while riding as a great fashion choice, there are many factors to consider.

Different Types of Riding

Depending on the type of riding you do, you’re going to be more or less restricted. For example, if you’re doing Western riding or trail riding, it’s fair game. However, if you’re riding at a show or going through permanent schooling, you'd want to stick with pants. Otherwise, you could be penalized or prohibited from riding.


There are no hard and fast rules about when it is and isn’t appropriate to wear shorts while horseback riding, but it’s important to remember that weather conditions will dictate what is appropriate.

Advantages of Wearing Long Pants Horseback Riding

A long pants can solve several problems…

A) Heat and Chafing ………………

Riding in the hot sun can be really uncomfortable especially if you are wearing long sleeves. Long sleeves tend to catch on items in the barn causing you to be dragged or pulled in different directions. Either way, it’s not comfortable.

Long pants are much cooler and provide more protection against any barn incidents.

Tucking your pant legs into your boots can prevent chafing.

B) Protection ………………

Depending on the discipline you do, you may have to jump off the horse or accidentally get kicked, while ridding. Longer pants can protect you from scrapes and being kicked in sensitive areas.

Riding Pants

Vs. Shorts

Shorts are definitely not suitable for riding a horse for safety reasons. The first reason is shorts give no protection against the saddle, which will increase your chance of getting sores and blisters.

The saddle itself is padded and made with sheepskin so it is quite soft for a horse to sit on. However, it tends to distribute the pressure in a manner that can be uncomfortable to the rider. Riding pants are designed to prevent a horseback rider from slipping but yet not interfering with the movements of the rider.

Also, you lose a lot of the skimming effect when riding in shorts, thus allowing the horse to move a lot more freely than if you were wearing a pair of pants. This movement coupled with the lack of saddle protection can result in the horse getting tired easier which could ultimately lead to serious consequences.

Riding pants are possibly the oldest equestrian clothing tradition. The first real riding pants appeared in the medieval times, when knights needed to wear armor and leather on their legs. One of the advantages of riding pants is that they can be made with combination of different materials: a thick lining of wool next to the skin to keep it warm and a pair of leather pants on the outside to protect the rider from being kicked or spitted on by a bucking horse.


Vs Rodeo Pant – Which is Best During a Horseback Riding Trip?

The ideal choice of clothing for horseback riding is a mix of function and fashion. On one hand, jeans look better than pants with rips or tears and your riding instructor is going to prefer to see you in second-skin-tight jeans over and above torn or stained chaps. On the other hand, jeans carry the same potential risks as torn pants, and looking good doesn’t make you immune to saddle sores and injuries.

So, what should you choose to wear?

Whether you go with jeans or pants it’s important that they are very, very tight. Loose pants can hit the saddle wrong and can cause sores. They can also get in the way of the horse or your instructor. How tight should your pants be?

As tight as your skin. The best material is 100% cotton. Synthetic fabric doesn’t breathe or dry as quickly as cotton and can make you susceptible to chills and saddle sores.

Riding in What is Suitable for You

First, the most important point, is to wear what makes you comfortable! It doesn’t matter if that’s chaps, jeans or riding pants…or nothing at all! A good riding instructor will never disapprove of you wearing more to be safer or more comfy. However, it is important that you cover up as to not distract other riders or the horses.

If you’re borrowing a horse and not sure what to wear, it’d be best to ask the owner, the instructor, or an experienced rider for advice. Also, let the instructor know if you have any medical issues, like securing an oxygen tank to your back, that may be able to be worked into the lesson.

Although I’ve worn jeans while riding a horse with no ill effects, some horses might not be up for it. Some horses can be spooked by sounds, sights and very different smells, so make sure to ask. I can’t say what will work for every horse, but I know if I’m getting on a new horse that I’ll need to talk it over beforehand.