Half chaps is a protective gear that cover from the ankle to just below the knee. Half chaps are made of either leather or fabrics, and have a zipper or hook and loop closure on the outside. The purpose of wearing a half chaps is to prevent the stirrup leathers from rubbing and pinching your legs. It also save your breech (riding pants) from being dirty quickly. I find half chaps a great choice over full chaps for a few reasons. First, Malaysia whether is HOT, half chaps allows better air circulation. Second, if you are new into horse riding you want to get the basic with minimal cost to keep you going, see if you really like horse riding before investing into better gears. Half chaps is cheaper than full chaps. An entry level pair of half chaps I bought cost RM105 (in 2015). When trying out your chaps, ensure you get your chaps fit perfectly to your leg. If you can’t find one that fit “perfectly”, get the one slightly tighter. Best if you wear your breech (riding pants) while trying out the chaps.
Gloves protect your palm and finger from directly rubbing with reins. It could make your palms or fingers red and painful when you are new and still learning how hard you should hold and pull the reins. A pair of entry level horse riding fabric gloves will cost below RM50. I got one pair for RM35 (in 2015). You can opt for the higher end leather glove. Leather grade will last longer however price will be more expensive and hotter compared to fabric gloves. Again, while choosing gloves do choose a pair that fit your palm comfortably (not too tight and not too loose).
Breech which is more commonly known as riding pants. Breech is a tough yet comfortable wear. I wear my breech for leisure hiking sometimes. Although a lot of people (including the experienced riders) wear a pair of jeans to ride horses, it never hurts to wear the proper attire for riding. It fact it looks much better in breech than in jeans. Breech is slightly tighter than your usual pants but the material is flexible and expandable. Breech has extra padding around the knee level (inner facing). The extra padding serves as an additional layer to prevent your breech from worn out quickly, as riding will be using that part for gripping while riding. An entry level of breech will cost around RM200-RM300.
A whip is an aiding tool to help you to communicate with your horse. The main purpose for using your whip is to ask your horse go faster. The image above is a short whip. You use this type of whip to tap on the horse shoulder. You can also use it to tap at the back but that will require you to put your hand slightly behind. Personally, I prefer use such whip to tap on the back instead of shoulder because it is more effective in asking to ask the horse to go forward. A basic whip will cost around RM30 (in 2016). There is another type of whip which is longer. Riders use it for Polo. It cost slightly more but it is more comfortable to use because it can reach to the back of the horse effortlessly. I personally use a short whip because it cost less and it is easier for storage.
Of all the gears, helmet is the most important because a helmet might just save your life. Needless to say, the helmet is for your head protection. It is to spread the impact of your head on any hard object (for example a rock) if you happen to fall from horse. Touch wood! An entry level helmet cost around RM300-RM400 (in 2015). If you are buying a helmet for your child, consider one that the size is adjustable because your child head is going to grow over years. If you an adult and you are buying one for yourself, buy one that fits your head perfectly. When you are choosing a helmet, be sure to put it on and shake your head a little to test out how firm does it fit into your head. If you buckle up and shake your head yet the helmet moves around even slightly, it’s a sign that the helmet is too loose for you. You should choose one that does not move around even when you shake your head. The degree of “bumpiness” on a horse is much greater than shaking your head yourselves. If the helmet did not survive your shaking, be sure that it will not able to handle the “bumpiness” while you are riding. It will be really uncomfortable if you have to adjust your helmet every 100m while you ride. Having said that, also be sure not to get a super tight helmet as it will feel like your head being squeezed all time during riding that might lead to headache.
Camera (nice to have but not necessary)
A camera that can mount on your helmet is a really great addition to your riding experience. It is not a necessity but definitely something nice to have. Personally I did not get a camera until 1 year into my riding. I like to use the camera to record my outride session to keep it as record for every unique route or place I visit. Click here to look at some of the videos I created from my camera.
A pair of riding boot is essential for riders. It serves 3 main purposes. First, it has a heel which will stop your leg moving too inside into stirrup. If you wear sport shoes which does not have a heel and your leg move way into the stirrup, it is extremely dangerous if you fall from horse at this point because you leg will be hooked inside the stirrup. Your body will be on the ground, your one leg (or maybe both) inside hanging on the horse. It is a really ugly scene you wouldn’t want to imagine. Second, it is water proof. It does not look dirty easily when going through muddy path. It is easy to clean the surface. Third, the back of the boot is pretty high which allow your chaps to wrap your boots tightly. When you are buying boots, be sure to try it on with the socks that you will be wearing while riding. It is alright to buy boots that is slightly tight. As you wear them for a few more times the boots will expand slightly to fit your feet. For beginning, you can consider getting rubber boots rather than leather boots as the price difference is significant. A pair of rubber boot cost around RM200 (in 2015).
While buying your gears, be sure to try it out yourselves personally physically. Remember, you do not want anything that is too loose or too tight. Horse riding is not a “gentle” sport, you need to have your gears tough and fit perfectly well to you. As you probably notice, the upfront investment for gears is slightly on the high side compare to other sports. It might be a good idea to get the minimal basic to keep you going. Once you are in the game and your gears started to get worn out, it’s never too late to upgrade your gear one by one. Have fun!