What does one wear when riding aside?

For everyday pleasure riding or schooling, one may wear what they usually wear when riding astride. Some riders like to add the apron, but it is not necessary unless you are showing or giving a demonstration. So what is an apron? Woman throughout the ages wore long, voluminous skirts when they rode. The rider sat on a lot of extra fabric and the skirts hung very low off of the side of the horse. This attire could easily become tangled in the pommels when mounting or dismounting or in the event of a fall. The apron was developed for a woman to ride more safely. The apron looks like a skirt when mounted. However, it is backless so the rider is not sitting on excess fabric. It goes over the rider’s breeches and is usually made of a heavy material. Melton wool is a favorite fabric for the English rider as it has a nice weave and weight and so hangs correctly. If a lighter material is used, the hem will need to be weighted or heavily interfaced so it does not blow around in the wind or when riding at faster gaits. With the rider mounted, the apron should hang level from left front to back. The hem should be 2-4 inches above the riders left ankle. The fabric should completely cover the rider’s right foot when mounted.

For showing, foxhunting and demonstrations a rider may choose a sidesaddle habit. A habit consists of a matching jacket and apron. The rider will wear breeches that closely match the color of the habit. Navy, blue and black are the most common colors.

Informal Hunt Seat

The rider will wear a habit. The jacket and the apron can be a matching or coordinating fabric. To this she will add a hunt shirt with a choker, a riding helmet, field boots or dress boots and gloves. She can carry a whip or a sidesaddle cane. A note on boots, some riders like to wear a tall boot on the left leg and a paddock boot on the right, or buy a shorter pair of tall boots than they would normally wear. This prevents a very tall boot from rubbing behind the right leg as it is bent more on an angle than the left. If wearing the paddock boot, or a regular tall boot it is essential that the right foot be completely covered by the apron.

Formal Hunt Attire/Appointments

This attire is worn for formal hunt occasions such as the Ladies Hunter Under Saddle class or in the hunt field. Not only must what you wear be perfectly correct according to the rules, so must your appointments and your horse’s tack. The rider must wear a wool habit of a conservative color, a canary, buff or white vest, a white shirt with a white stock tie and a plain gold stock pin and brown gloves. She must wear dress boots on both feet.

The rider’s appointments are judged 25%. They consist of a top hat at least four inches tall with a black veil, a hunting whip with a lash and thong, rain gloves and a hunt canteen. She will also carry a hunt canteen on the offside of the saddle that contains a flask and a sandwich tin. Tea or sherry will fill the flask and a ham salad or a cress sandwich will be found in the tin. On the offside of her saddle under the billets she will place a pair of rain gloves with the fingers facing forward.

The horse’s tack includes an English sidesaddle without a saddle pad, a triple fold leather girth without elastic, a flat double bridle or a Pelham bit. For more information on sidesaddle formal hunt attire, appointments and proper tack for the horse, visit the United States Equestrian Federation’s rule book at


In dressage, the habit is a conservative navy or black in color. Breeches must closely match the habit. No white breeches peeking out here! A white shirt is worn with a white stock tie and pin. Recent rule changes in dressage state that a helmet must be worn in dressage competitions and while schooling on the show grounds.  However, at the FEI level one can wear a top hat. For more information see the rulebooks at and Don’t forget your gloves and dress boots!

Saddle Seat

The saddle seat rider will wear her usual day coat, shirt, vest, jodhpurs, tie, derby and gloves. She will add an apron in either a matching or complimentary color. Her apron is usually longer than the hunt or dressage apron. It should completely cover the right foot. Riders may wear a short paddock boot or a taller boot. During the day one can use a wider variety of colors with the saddle seat attire than with the hunt or dressage attire. In formal classes after 6 PM the rider will add a matching black apron to her black tuxedo style jacket and grab her top hat.


The western rider will wear the usual attire for riding western astride but substitute the chaps for an apron. Her apron may be made of leather, suede, ultra suede, denim or wool. Aprons can be decorated with fringe, or silver accents like chaps. Western fashions change more frequently than the other disciplines. A recent trend is bright colors with lots of crystals on the shirts and belts.

Linda Bowlby and Quarter Horse Macaroni And Cheese (aka Noodle) at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Side Saddle Weekend.
Photo courtesy of Sporthorse One Photography, Amy Brachthauser

Trail/Endurance Riding

For trail riding competitively or for pleasure the attire will be the same as riding astride. Riding breeches, or tights are comfortable for long days in the saddle. Jeans are not a good option as they have large seams that can cause chafing. Many riders wear t-shirts or long sleeved shirts depending on the weather. Some pleasure trail riders like to add an apron to their usual attire. Wearing a helmet is always a wise choice. A well-fitted saddle is a must for riding great distances.

Historical Costume

Before riding in the historical costume class, the rider must carefully research the era she is riding in. This will ensure that the fabric and style of her costume are correct for that era. Did you know in the past a lady did not wear black gloves with her riding habit unless she was in mourning? Another reason a lady did not wear black gloves was because the dye would come off on her hands. Remember that ladies did not and do not wear lacy bloomers under their skirts!

Historical costumes can also be worn for an elegant look in a parade. There are many beautiful and unusual styles of historical costumes/habits and hats. If one can sew, the possibilities are endless. Various places online sell historical patterns. Several are listed on our Favorites page.

Fun Costume/Parades

No rules here! Use your sidesaddle and your imagination and be anything you want to be. There are frequently competitions to show this way. You can also ride in a parade in a fun costume!

Please visit our Gallery page for more sidesaddle photos.
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