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Riders: Class attire

Here's what you should wear for Dressage classes, and when free riding. Thanks to Jacki Moore (left) and Amanda Cunningham for modeling!

For day-to-day work, it's fine to wear t-shirts and work breeches. Save your show stuff for shows and clinics!

On colder days, long-sleeved shirts, vests, and sweaters are fine. Avoid pull-over jackets and hoodies: if you need to take them off as you warm up, you'll be asked to dismount first -- pulling things off over your head can be quite dangerous!

As for helmets, it's "every time, every ride." A brain is a terrible thing to waste, after all.

Dressage class attire

Your ASTM-SEI approved helmet must fit correctly. If you shake your head rapidly, and the helmet shifts or jiggles, it's too loose. Good helmets have padded inserts that you can use to adjust the fit. In addition, the chin strap must be snug.

A properly fitting helmet sits on the rider's forehead, with the rim parallel to the ground. Hair should be tied back or put up, or ideally contained in a hairnet. Don't let bangs show under the brim of your hat!

The image to the right shows a hat that's tipped too far back off the rider's forehead. In addition, her bangs are showing, which is kind of cute if you're 8 years old. . .

Improperly fitted
                              helmet with bangs showing -- argh!


Half-chaps and paddock boots are a great option for daily riding. They're usually less expensive than tall boots, and hold up well to the rigors of work in the barn, horse baths, mud and -- inevitably -- horse slobber and poop.

If your half chaps are smooth leather (the ones in the photo are sueded), and they match your paddock boots (black or dark brown), they're even legal in USEF/USDF competition up through First Level. For shows, of course, your boots would be polished to a high shine!

When you're riding with a dressage whip, the photo to the right shows a good way to carry it: tucked under your left arm.

This methods leaves both your hands free for more important things, like controlling your horse. In addition, the whip won't swing and frighten your horse.

When mounting, keep the whip in your left hand, and shift it back to your left hand before dismounting. Unless you're an experienced trick rider, you don't want to swing the whip across the horse's croup and possibly frighten him while mounting or dismounting!

Handling your
                              dressage whip

If you have a dressage whip and spurs, feel free to bring them to the riding arena with you. But don't carry a whip or wear spurs without checking with Karen before you mount. If you need to use a whip or spurs, and don't have them with you, it's not a big deal. You can borrow temporarily from the dressage department collection.

A dressage whip is properly 120 cm (47.2 inches) long. Avoid whips shorter than about 44 inches, and keep the color conservative. Sure, a pink whip might be less likely to be misplaced, but Karen will cringe every time you come in the ring with it.

Here's an example of a perfectly useful dressage whip for only $17 from SmarkPak. Then, um, there are these.

"Soft Touch" spurs -- with a smooth, rounded, freely rotating ball at the end -- are particularly nice, and they're quite reasonably priced: here's a pair for $26. The larger the ball, and the shorter the neck of the spur, the more gentle they are (and we want gentle).

Prince of Wales spurs are acceptable as well. Here's a nice pair. The rubber-covering on the arms of the spur are designed to prevent slipping and protect the leather of your boots.

Spur straps can be either leather or nylon. Either type works, so it really comes down to personal preference.

(All links to outside websites provided above were operational as of August 14, 2015. Please let Karen know if you run across dead links!)

Handy hint! Because most dressage whips look the same, use a piece of masking (or other) tape to label yours with your name. Put the tape just below the knob at the top of the whip handle. A labeled whip is more likely to be returned to its owner. Otherwise, it joins the whip collection in Karen's office.

Label your spurs, as well. And your helmet. And your gloves. And your Dressage Club attire. Heck, just label everything!

Dressage rider info

MW mounting list

TR mounting list

Free ride schedule/rules

Dressage tests

Karen's schedule and office hours