Riding pants come in all different sizes, shapes, technical features and colors! Shopping online or in a well-stocked tack shop can be overwhelming. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from a customer service rep or a tack shop assistant, they know how different brands fit and the rules for each discipline.
Breeches are a type of riding pant that provides comfort, sustains flexibility and decreases bulk under your seat bones and around your thighs. English disciplines often require the rider to change seat types and positions during a ride such as two-point and light seat (and more!).
Breeches provide the needed stretch to achieve comfortable and correct positioning in the saddle. Regular jeans in the saddle can be bulky, stiff, uncomfortable and could cause soft saddle leather to wear much quicker and irregularly than breeches.
Riding breeches are available in several different grip options: full seat breeches or knee patch breeches and traditional suede/leather or silicone patch material. Full seat breeches offer total grip coverage from the knees to the seat and the thighs in between. Knee patches offer grip at the knees. Extended knee patches (right) are a less popular option- but are gaining popularity. Offering grip at the knees and inner thighs without incorporating the seat, extended knee patch breeches are a middle ground between knee patch and full seat options.
Breeches come in many different fabric types and blends as well. These range in price, stretchiness, technical features and comfort. Cotton is a popularly used material in breech manufacturing because of its comfort and soft handfeel. Dry cotton breeches are naturally moisture-wicking and breathable. Once saturated though, cotton breeches droop and lose their breathability, which can happen quickly especially for riders in humid climates.
Cotton is often mixed with spandex, nylon, microfiber and others to offer more stretchiness, durability and technical aspects to the fabric for breathability and water-resistancy. Cotton- mix fiber breeches tend to hold their shape better and often give a more polished appearance in the saddle. Breeches that are 100% cotton are a sensible option for riders that aren’t interested in showing and can be found on riders in the schooling ring or hitting the trails.
Just as a dressage rider uses a long, straight, deep seat saddle, breeches need to compliment that riding style as well. Dressage riders tend to appreciate the maximum surface area of grip in order to maintain contact in the dressage saddle. Disciplines that require the horse and rider to have a more forward center of gravity such as hunter/jumpers and eventers on the cross country course ride in saddles that have forward flaps and more shallow seats.
The knee patch breech is a good choice for these disciplines as it does not offer so much grip that it becomes more difficult to get out of the saddle when necessary, but it does provide friction at the constant leg-saddle contact point over an obstacle. There aren’t rules for having knee patch or full seat breeches in any discipline, but you may prefer one style over another.
Each discipline dresses in certain colored breeches along with certain patch styles. Dressage, jumpers and eventers on the cross country course all are most commonly seen in white breeches. Beige, sea sand, khaki and any other variation of tan are seen in the hunter and equitation rings.
Breeches are largely available with zippers and hooks. There used to be a trend a few years ago that side zip breeches were the “in thing”. Now, most breeches are available in front zip and hook. Schooling breeches are available in drawstring as well or pull-on style for quick and easy on/off and no pinching buckles when riding.
With all of this information on just riding breeches, there is a lot to think about.
But which ones are the right ones for you?
You obviously know what discipline you ride, so start there. If you’re a dressage queen, you might want to try a white, full seat, technical breech with stain-resistant fabric. If you ride in the hunter ring, try out a pair of breeches that are a shade of tan with a simple suede knee patch.
Just to throw a wrench in this whole thing-- rises! The “rise” of breeches are just like any other pant, the distance (amount of fabric) between the crotch and the top of the waistband. Breeches come in low, mid or high rise. They are not dependent on which discipline you ride, it is all about preference and how a certain breech falls on your body and what you’re comfortable in.
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re a rider with a shorter torso, you may gravitate towards a shorter rise, as a high rise may feel like a strapless romper (at least you wouldn’t have to wear a bra!).
If you have a long torso, you may want to consider a higher rise because you have more distance to make up between the crotch and your belly button. It has also been claimed that high rise breeches can help remind you to keep your posture. These, of course, are only suggestions to work off of, choosing a rise is all up to you as the rider!
No style or brand of breeches will make you ride better or pin higher in the ribbons, but the perfect pair will certainly make you feel better! When you feel better riding, you’ll have more confidence in the saddle-- plus what’s a few extra style points going to hurt?
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