Picture this: you’re mounted on a magnificent steed, ready to embark on an adventure. But hold your horses! Before you hit the trail, let’s talk about the secret to feeling secure – and stylish – in the saddle: proper equipment and the right outfit.
And at the heart of every equestrian’s wardrobe, there’s one mighty essential: riding chaps!
Both chaps and gaiters play a significant role in protecting your legs from potential pinching and providing support while riding. Plus, they look pretty stylish thanks to the wide array of sizes, materials, and styles available.
In this article, we’ve got you covered with all the essential information you need to know about riding chaps.
What Are Riding Chaps?
Riding is primarily performed using one’s legs. By giving the horse signals and encouragement while in the saddle, we can ask them to speed up, change direction, or move their bodies in certain ways.
Because of this, riders need to ensure their legs are well-protected and supported. This will help to effectively convey these signals.
This is where chaps and gaiters come in!
Chaps are one of the most common rider leg gear seen in the UK. Chaps are an important piece of equipment that wraps around the rider’s lower leg and calf. They can be either full or half chaps and can be an extension of the riding boots.
Chaps and gaiters combined with riding boots give the illusion of long-riding boots, especially if they’re made of leather.
Chaps can be worn in the following ways:
- Professionally – wear your leather chaps over your short-riding boots ie. Jodhpur boots.
- Everyday riding in the yard – slip your chaps over any pair of sports shoes you may be wearing. These can be boots, hiking shoes or even school shoes. Just make sure there is a sturdy, thick heel to give your foot support in the stirrup. We don’t need you slipping out of the saddle!
Chaps need to be made out of durable, breathable materials. The most common materials are suede or nubuck, grain leather and even plastic. The material influences the price of the chaps.
What Are Gaiters?
Gaiters are like half-chaps in both their appearance and uses. The main difference is that gaiters are made from smooth leather which gives off a brilliant, elegant shine. This looks a lot smarter and is commonly used when competing (so, usually not in the yard).
Gaiters also have a small difference in their design. Gaiters have a zip that runs down the back of the leg, creating a neat look, whereas half chaps have a zip running down the outside of the calf. There is also an elastic panel behind the zip, allowing you to fasten it securely and easily.
Leather gaiters combined with short boots will make it seem as though you are wearing long boots. This is a very elegant, professional look.
What Are Riding Chaps Used For?
Chaps wrap around your calf and provide a close feel when you’re sitting in the saddle. The chaps’ durable and breathable fabric will hold your leg in place. This makes it easier for you to find contact with the horse’s side and be able to give the correct signal.
Chaps also enhance our ability to ride by offering support and protection. They’re designed to keep your leg stable while riding. They’ll also protect your leg from possible bruising and pinching, allowing you to enjoy your ride.
Chaps prevent uncomfortable chaffing (rubbing) during your ride. They can also stop your breeches from rising or twisting. Being comfortable in your riding position is vital for a successful, happy ride not only for yourself but also for your equine companion!
Full Chaps Vs. Half Chaps
The main difference between half and full chaps is that the half option fits from below the knee to the ankle.
Full chaps attach at the waist and protect your legs from chaffing. Both provide comfortable contact. Full-length chaps are typically made out of leather or suede. Half chaps can also be made from leather or suede or they can be made from neoprene.
Both English and Western riders can wear full chaps. Western-styled chaps often have defining features such as fringes. They can also be worn during shows.
Which Riding Chaps Should I Choose?
Your age (or the person’s age you may be buying for) is the biggest criterion here when selecting chaps.
For younger children, their feet are still growing and their height can change drastically. Because of this, young riders would be better suited with chaps made from a soft and flexible material such as suede or nubuck. This type of chap often comes at a lower price.
For older riders who have stopped growing or their growth has slowed, you can invest in grain leather chaps or thick, straight suede ones. Grain leather chaps can either be made from synthetic leather or real leather. It’s best to get chaps that have a thicker, added layer of protection on the inside of the calf.
Choose chaps that will suit the rider and their current riding ability. It will also help if they’re durable enough to last a while.
There are many different brands of gaiters and chaps. Here are some popular brands and styles:
- Ariat Ascent Half Chaps (Black only. Sizes: XXS–XL calf, with four different height options)
- Just Chaps Saltos Premium Half Chaps (Black or brown. Sizes: XS-XL and many height combinations)
- Tredstep Medici Air Half Chaps (Black or brown. Comes in a wide combination of sizes)
- Brogini Vicenza Leather Gaiters (Black or brown. Sizes: XS-XL)
- Dublin Suede Half Chaps II (Black or brown. Sizes: XS-XL)
- Ariat Concord Chaps (Smooth black or light brown. Sizes: XXS–XL and four different heights)
How To Get The Perfect Fit
It’s important to find chaps/gaiters that fit you properly. This will ensure your lower leg makes proper contact with the horse’s side. Whether you are riding in the yard or out on the trail, you’ll want your short boots to fit perfectly together with your chaps.
Here is a simple guide to help you find your perfect pair:
- Sit in a chair. Place your foot flat on the ground so that your knee is at a right angle (90 degrees).
- Have someone measure the width around your calf with a measuring tape. Measure around the thickest part of your calf.
- Measure your entire lower leg. This will be from the floor to your tendon which is behind your knee.
- Now you can compare your measurements with that on a sizing chart. Most brands come with their own features and sizes. So make sure you have an idea of which “look” you’re going for before you measure.
- Try on your half chaps or gaiters and fasten them. Walk around a bit to make sure your movement isn’t restricted.
Make sure you are happy with your buy. This will ensure that you enjoy wearing them and will make the price worth it!
Do I need half chaps for riding?
Half chaps are there to provide support and protection to the rider’s lower leg. Half chaps are a common piece of equestrian attire and it is best to ride with them. You can ride without half chaps but your leg or pants may then get caught in the stirrup leathers. This can cause pinching and a bit of discomfort.
Why are chaps so expensive?
Chaps of all sizes can be expensive because of their material. Chaps are there for protection. So, the material needs to be durable and thick enough to not break down easily. Leather is a more expensive option. You can also look at second-hand options which will be at a lower price.
What shoes do you wear with half chaps?
You can wear half chaps with sneakers, short boots or hiking boots. The best shoe is a shoe with a thick heel. This will help with grip and security in the stirrup.
What do you wear under chaps?
Riding is all about being comfortable and clothes are the starting point. Under chaps, you need to wear tight pants. But not too tight that your legs go numb! Chaps are designed to fit snuggly around the leg, so if your pants are too baggy, they won’t fit properly.