We all know that riding horses requires a certain attire. Specialized horse riding equipment wasn’t invented just for fashion’s sake but in order to keep us and the horse safe while we’re in the saddle. That being said, not all of us ride professionally. Some of us do it recreationally or in order to bond with our horses. The common consensus is that a horse rider should wear breeches – tight-fitting trousers that reach down to the ankle.
But can you ride a horse in a dress or skirt? Some women believe they would certainly look more feminine, more graceful, and more dignifying while wearing a dress on horseback.
To answer this question quickly, yes you can ride a horse in a dress or skirt, but you need to take some extra precautions if you do. For instance, make sure that your horse won’t get spooked by the cloth waving around its body while running. Also, it’s always a good idea to ride side-saddle while wearing a dress. It never hurts to be familiar with this technique as well.
Riding a horse in a dress: the challenges.
If you just want to hop on and ride your horse while wearing a dress or a skirt, nothing’s stopping you. Actually, riding a horse in this kind of attire is not as uncommon as you might believe. In the modern world, up until about 80 years ago it was completely acceptable and expected of women to wear dresses on any occasion, even while on horseback.
The idea that women could wear trousers became mainstream in the second half of the 20th century. That’s not too long ago if you think about it. Considering we’ve been riding horses for thousands of years, it’s safe to assume that women have been riding them in dresses for a very long time.
Today, it’s definitely more practical to wear breeches, but not mandatory. The main challenge with riding in a dress is the extra cloth waving around the horse’s body and the fact that you need to be aware of the position of the dress at all times. If you’re riding on a field with nobody else around, you don’t have to worry about it that last part too much.
Not all dresses are large and wavy, though. A form-fitting one would be much easier to ride in, for instance. The same can be said for skirts. On a long ride, you might also experience some chafing in the thigh area, which would normally be prevented by breeches.
Common reasons why someone would ride a horse in a dress.
Apart from doing it just because they feel like it, women can ride horses while wearing dresses for a variety of other reasons. For instance, they might do it for a wedding photoshoot. Getting your picture taken while on horseback on your wedding day is incredibly popular nowadays.
Furthermore, women wear dresses on horseback for parades and exhibitions. Some horse riding instructors ride in dresses or skirts in order to demonstrate the effectiveness and grace of side saddle riding. If you do plan to ride in a dress often, you should probably learn how to ride sideways as well.
Some women wear skirts all the time because their religion dictates it. Many women choose to ride horses in skirts because of this. For many of them, riding a horse in a skirt has become second nature.
How to make things easier.
Riding a horse in a dress doesn’t have to be stressful or challenging. There are certain steps you can take to make things easier for yourself. For instance, you can ride the horse sideways provided you own a side-saddle. Or you can simply wear the dress with your breeches underneath.
In the past, North American women came up with a very good solution for keeping their feminine looks while on horseback. They invented the divided skirt (split skirt/culottes), which eventually caused side saddles to become obsolete. Since not as many women wear divided skirts for horseback riding nowadays, side saddles have gained quite a bit of popularity once again.
You can also keep an eye on the weather. Strong winds in particular can ruin your day even without being on horseback. Best to choose a nice, calm day for it, especially if you’re riding out with friends or family members.
If you’re going for a skirt, best to choose one that has a bit of “give” such as a wool skirt or a denim one. This way, your legs will feel less restricted and you’ll have more freedom of movement while on horseback. Also, this will make it easier for you to give aids to your horse.
Should you ride English or Western while wearing a dress?
We know that Western saddles have horns, and this could potentially make them dangerous if you’re riding in a skirt or dress. If you’re very careful and you know what you’re doing though, you can ride western in big skirts without too many issues. Personally, I’d prefer to do it in an English saddle, as it just seems easier to me.
There’s no definitive rule for this. Ideally, if you only know how to ride Western, stick with that style even if you’re wearing a dress or skirt. If you know how to ride English and you need to choose between the two, better to go with English just to be on the safe side.
You can definitely ride a horse in a dress or skirt, as long as you take some precautions beforehand. It doesn’t hurt to practice a bit on shorter runs before going on longer rides, and as long as you and your horse are both comfortable, you shouldn’t face any serious problems.
I don’t make a habit of riding my horses this way, but if I happen to wear a dress and get the sudden urge to get on horseback, I just do it. Wearing the proper shoes is more important if you ask me, but we’ll touch on that subject in another article.
Have you ever ridden a horse while wearing a dress? Let me know about your experiences, and don’t hesitate to get in touch!