What to wear on a ranch experience holiday: tips from a traveller

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  • Heading on a horse riding ranch experience holiday? Lucky you – it will feature high up on many a horsey bucket list! I was lucky enough to spend a week in Wyoming on a ranch experience for Horse & Hound last year – and as soon as I found out I was going on a ranch holiday, one my first questions was what to wear.

    Here’s essentials you’ll need to pack for the riding parts of your ranch holiday. I’ve included some specific suggestions of items I was grateful I took with me, plus some things I wish I’d had before I went.

    What to wear on a horse riding ranch holiday

    You could, of course, go in your everyday riding gear that you wear at home, but for ultimate comfort and the real cowboy experience, here are some things you’ll want to consider packing for the riding parts. Think, too, about what time of year and where in the States you’re travelling – there is a lot of variety here.


    The most important thing you’ll need to wear on a horseback safari is a correctly fitted riding hat. To ensure that you’re covered by your insurance you’ll need one that’s up to standard – and most ranches recommend you wear one.

    However, having a cowboy hat is part of the experience and if you decide you want to wear one for riding, find one with a stampede string so that it doesn’t fly off the moment you pick up the pace. While a real cowboy might be able to spin around and swoop the hat from the floor without getting off, chances are you’ll need to dismount to retrieve a lost hat.

    You might also want a cowboy hat for visiting the rodeo or relaxing on the ranch. Check out these Stetson cowboy hats (available on Amazon), which are the most famous brand when it comes to cowboy headwear.


    You don’t have to wear cowboy boots – your favourite pair of riding boots will be absolutely fine – but if you‘re looking to blend in with real western riders then a pair of cowboy boots is a must. Ariat have a very wide range of western boots (which you can view here) that are available in half sizes and are designed for comfort and performance rather than just look.

    Ariat Heritage R Toe Western Boots
    These are the boots I wore and I found them to be more comfortable and supportive than I expected.

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    Real cowboys wear jeans – in fact, I didn’t see a cowboy in anything other than jeans, boots, shirt and hat in the whole time I was there. If you’d like to ride in jeans, Wranglers are a good choice as they’re designed with cowboys in mind and they don’t have the double-sewn inside leg seam, which makes them more comfortable in the saddle.

    Wrangler Women’s Western Stretch Jeans
    Described as “the ultimate riding jeans” these jeans are available in a range of colours and fits.

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    Wrangler Men’s Original Cowboy Cut Jeans
    These jeans were designed and made for authentic cowboys, so you can’t go wrong here.

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    If you’d prefer to wear breeches, I would suggest considering a pair of the best denim breeches – this was my compromise between wannabe cowgirl and home comforts.

    Ariat Halo Breeches
    These breeches are made of four-way stretch denim, have targeted core support and have a full grip seat.

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    Pikeur Candela Breeches
    These breeches have a wide waistband, a full grip seat and are available in in regular or long.

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    Shires Aubrion Putney Breeches
    These lightweight jean-style breeches are a good option if you’re on a budget.

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    All cowboys wear shirts and I found myself to be cooler in a shirt (with the sun kept off my skin) than in a T-shirt. Even when we were riding out in 33°C, I never really felt uncomfortable so I would definitely recommend getting your hands on a couple.

    Ariat VentTek Stretch Shirt
    This was my favourite shirt of those that I wore on the trip. It kept me cool, offers UV protection, wicks away sweat and has a hidden sunglasses wipe in the hem.

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    Ariat Kirby Stretch Shirt
    This is an updated version of Ariat’s best-selling performance shirt, which gives you more room to move.

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    Ariat Pro Series Team Luca Fitted Shirt
    This shirt is packed with technical features, but still gives you the crisp, clean, cowboy look.

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    The weather can be really changeable in some areas, so a rain jacket is worth packing – and one that packs away neatly or can be tied to your saddle is ideal. If you’re heading out on early rides or in cooler parts of the year, a warmer layer is also worth taking. The western saddles have lots of ties so that you can secure any layers you shed to your saddle.

    Regatta Women’s Pack It III
    Available in a wide range of colours, this waterproof jacket packs into its own little pouch.

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    Mountain Warehouse Men’s Pakka
    This lightweight and breathable jacket packs into a little bag for easy storage.

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    I found that holding the reins in one hand meant that the pressure was in a slightly different place that my hands were used to, so I did get a small blister on the first day that I didn’t wear my gloves. The time of year you’re going will have an effect of what type of gloves you take – in the summer you’ll want something light (check out our guide to the best summer riding gloves), but you’ll be better with something more standard in weight for spring and autumn.

    Uvex Summair Gloves
    These touchscreen compatible gloves are designed for high-intensity conditions with non-slip on the palm and breathable mesh on the topside.

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    Roeckl Laila Gloves
    The back of these gloves is made of a special lightweight, cool fabric that allows tanning to take place through it, so your hands can tan at the same rate as your wrists and arms.

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    There will likely be breaks for lunch and other refreshments and if you’ve been wearing a proper riding hat you’ll want to give your head a moment to breathe. If you’re like me, you’ll want to hide your hat hair, so a cap that can attach to your saddle is the perfect solution.

    Ariat Tri Factor Cap
    This cap has cooling fabric in the headband and perforated rear panels for breathability. The strap at the back also undoes so you can easily hook or tie it to your saddle when riding.

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    Sunglasses are a must, but it’s best to opt for a pair that are safe ride in and won’t shatter and cause you injury in a fall. Glasses designed for sport will also fit nicely under your helmet or cowboy hat.

    Beacool Sport Glasses
    Available in a wide range of colours, these sport-specific glasses are made of a shatterproof material.

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    A bandana or Buff will help protect you from the sun (or keep you warm if it’s chilly), but you can also pull it up over your mouth and nose if it’s particularly dry and dusty.

    Buff Coolnet UV
    This lightweight and comfortable tube scarf is 95% recycled, offers UPF 50 protection helps with sweat management.

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    Riding hat camera

    You can, of course, take a phone or digital camera with you to document your trip – and you’ll only need one hand on the reins, so this is very doable. But if you’d rather not be fiddling about and would like to record at speed, it would be worth checking out one of the best riding hat cameras. The Cambox V4 Pro is super-lightweight, discreet so won’t stand out in your photos, and it will attach to a cowboy hat, too.

    Cambox V4 Pro
    This camera attaches under the peak of your helmet or cowboy hat or above your brow line on the underside of a jockey skull. You can hardly feel it’s there and is easy to use.

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    Bum bag

    They might look pretty retro, but you can’t deny how handy a bumbag will be on a riding holiday. You’ll have easy access to your phone or camera, a power pack, some sun cream and I highly recommend packing a lip balm with SPF (like this one on Amazon).

    This water-resistant bumbag has three separate compartments and an adjustable strap. And it’s available in a wide range of colours.

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