Jodhpurs vs Breeches – what’s the difference and which should you be wearing? And what about riding tights and leggings? Of course, you can ride in a pair of jeans – but trousers specifically designed for riding are going to be more comfortable in the saddle. As such, they often have built-in reinforcement at the pressure points and no seam down the inside of the leg to prevent rubbing. Modern riding trousers are made of a stretchy fabric, to allow give as you move with the horse, and minimise chafing because the fabric stays still.
But which of the three options to choose? Riders often use the words interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between each type.
Why choose breeches
Breeches (often pronounced britches, which refers to the same item of clothing) are the shortest of riding trousers, finishing around mid-calf and certainly above the ankle. Traditionally they have velcro fastenings at the ankle so they don’t rise up the leg, although now it is more common to have elasticated inserts that do the same job, as well as reinforced knee patches to protect the skin from abrasion.
They are designed to be worn with a long riding boot, but you can use half-chaps with long riding socks and a short riding boot. They are considered the most formal of the three options. They would be the choice of the competitive rider – competition breeches are typically white, beige or canary, depending on your discipline and jacket.
Breeches originated in the cavalry for soldiers spending many hours in the saddle. The tight lower leg enabled a boot to go over the top of the trousers, while the puffed thigh of yesteryear has almost entirely given way to a more fitted design – modern fabrics allow freedom of movement even when they are close-fitting. Breeches with a pleated front are often popular with male riders as the less close fit proves additional comfort around the crotch.
Smart and considered more formal. Although they were “invented” centuries ago, modern breeches are made from stretchy fabric, so they are designed to allow freedom of movement, while giving the rider a traditional look.
Although not essential, breeches ideally need to be accompanied by a long riding boot, otherwise there is a gap between the top of the short boot and the bottom of the leg of the breeches. This makes for a more expensive outfit. Even wearing long socks and chaps, the various different lengths of materials can cause chafing.
The preferred choice for adult competition riders and on the hunting field, as well as leisure riders who prefer to wear long riding boots.
Reasons to choose jodhpurs
Jodhpurs are very similar to breeches – with a long riding boot on, it’s hard to discern which is which. The chief difference is that jodhpurs are full-length riding trousers, extending to the ankle. They are designed to be worn with a short jodhpur boot and chaps if required. They are often worn by children, who are more likely to wear short riding boots, as they allow more flexibility in the ankle. This makes it easier to feel what they are doing with their lower leg, and to learn the correct lower-leg position.
Jodhpurs’ origins lie in India, taking their name from the city of Jodhpur. In the 19th century, Sir Pratap Singh, the son of the Maharajah of Jodhpur, played a lot of polo and developed what we know as jodhpurs based on an ancient style of Indian trousers called the churidar, which is tight round the calf and loose at the hips, to allow freedom of movement while preventing rubbing.
Like breeches, today’s jodhpurs are no longer made from a heavy cotton twill, so the rider will look the part as well as be able to stay agile on their horse, without being rubbed.
Jodhpurs usually have reinforced knee patches, which is particularly good for preventing rubs on children.
Because of the material around the ankle, jodhpurs can be uncomfortable with a long riding boot on, and are better suited to chaps or paddock boots, which have more give around the ankle.
The ideal choice for younger riders, giving additional protection down the lower leg for those who don’t wear long riding boots.
Why leggings or riding tights may suit you best
An alternative to jodhpurs and breeches, riding tights are more similar in design to a pair of leggings you might wear at the gym. They are made from a thinner fabric than breeches or jodhpurs, which means they give the rider a closer feel with the horse. They should be lightweight, very comfortable and offer great freedom of movement. They are usually a pull-on style, and made of a four-way stretch material, making them easy to change into.
They tend to be made from technical fabrics, so are generally breathable, comfortable and offer good grip. They are also available with various trims, such as reflective panelling, mesh, seamless or flat seams.
There is a huge range of colours and patterns.
They often have an in-built phone pocket.
A less traditional look, so not the choice if you are going for a formal style. Rarely seen in the competition arena – typically a more casual option.
Ideal for a comfortable, technical and a smart modern look. You can go from the gym straight to your horse!
Jodhpurs vs breeches vs leggings: Horse & Hound’s verdict
If you prefer to wear long riding boots in the saddle, then breeches are the way to go. For younger riders, or those who prefer a short boot for riding, jodhpurs are likely to be a better bet. And if you’re looking for a comfortable, technical and a smart modern look, then check out riding leggings and tights. Whatever your needs, there is sure to be a type of riding trouser to suit you.
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