Getting Started: Basic Equipment for Beginning Kids

Girl Leading Horse

Ready for a Riding Lesson

Today I taught two sisters, ages 5 and 7, their second riding lesson. At the end of the lesson their mother asked, “What equipment do my kids need to continue riding?” They had come to their first two lessons wearing jeans and sneakers, and I provided each child with a well fitting, approved helmet from my collection. I have created a list to give their mother. If they can purchase everything right away, that is great. If they need to spread the purchases out over a few months, especially with two girls to buy for, I made the list in order of importance.

As an instructor, I understand that riding is an expensive sport and parents may be unable to purchase all the necessary equipment before starting the first lesson. This is especially true if you are not sure your child will continue riding. If you cannot afford to purchase everything at the same time, here is my advice. Buy a helmet first. Then, once you know your child wants to continue, start saving for the paddock boots. Until that time, have your child wear a pair of shoes that come above the ankle and have at least a small heel. Hiking shoes, fashion boots, rain boots, or a pair of cheap cowboy boots are some examples. I would say that once your child begins to posting trot, they need proper paddock boots to continue. Remember, paddock boots start at $26.95, so don’t spend more than that if you are buying something to use until you can afford boots. After Paddock Boots are purchased, start thinking about a pair of riding pants.

A Fun Schooling Helmet


Your child should NEVER mount a horse or pony without an approved riding helmet. Before the first riding lesson, ask the instructor if your child will be able to borrow an approved helmet. If not, you need to purchase one right away. The good news is, you don’t have to spend a fortune! If the instructor tries to tell you that a helmet is not necessary, I suggest you find a new instructor!

What to look for in a helmet

ASTM/SEI Certification – Never purchase a helmet that is not certified!
Correct Fit – Check size charts for helmets. Each helmet manufacturer sizes differently, and head shape can be as important as measurements. An adjustable fit helmet is a good choice for children. When your child has the helmet on, the chin strap should fit snugly, but not tight, and the helmet should not wobble around when they nod their head.
Price – Your child’s first helmet need not be expensive! You can purchase an approved schooling helmet for as little as $29.95. For less than the cost of one riding lesson, you can feel sure that your child will be safe as possible.

Paddock Boots

Paddock boots are short leather or imitation leather riding boots that come just above the ankle, giving your young rider ankle support. They have a small heel and a flat sole to stop the foot from either slipping through or getting trapped in the stirrup during a fall. They are traditionally brown or black and fasten either with a zipper or laces. As an instructor, I believe this is the second most important piece of equipment you need to purchase.

Paddock Boot

A Traditional Laced Paddock Boot

What to look for in a Paddock Boot

Fit: You want the fit to have some ankle support, but you also want some growing room if you are buying for kids. Paddock Boots come in lace, zip, or pull on styles, which will affect how they fit. All are appropriate, but which you choose depends on what you need. Lace boots have the most flexibility in fit. Zip Boots are easy on and off, but can’t be adjusted for fit around the ankle. Pull-on (typically called “Jodhpur Boots”) are the easiest to get on and off, which kids love, but are generally the loosest and you can’t tighten them at all. If you want the ease of a zippered boot with the adjustability of a lace paddock, some manufacturers
make combination paddocks.

Price: Boot price is largely based on materials. Leather is the most expensive, and synthetics are the cheapest. While leather is nice, it is certainly not necessary for a beginning rider! A good fitting synthetic boot is fine for beginners, and if they stick with the sport they can move up to a more expensive leather boot.

Riding Pants

I always advise my first time riders to wear jeans or leggings for their first lesson. As long as their legs are covered, and therefore protected from the leather of the saddle, this is a perfectly acceptable way to get started. However, as your child progresses, a pair of riding pants will be necessary to prevent rubbing and to give your child a little bit of grip in the saddle.

Either jodhpurs or riding tights are appropriate attire for riding lessons. Both are form fitting and have a knee patch for added protection and grip. The difference is that Jodhpurs are folded at the bottom to go over the paddock boot and, as long as they are beige, are appropriate for horse shows. Riding tights tend to have thin elastic bottoms that can be worn inside a pair of socks and paddock boots. They can also be worn with taller boots like rain/muck boots, rubber boots, or tall riding boots.

Girl in Riding Breeches

Fun Riding Breeches for Schooling

What to look for in riding pants:

Non Chafing Seams: Kids won’t like riding if they are uncomfortable, and rubbing seams hurt! Most riding pants are designed so that there are no interior seams to chafe and rub.
Not Too Big: A bit of growing room is fine. However, most riding pants are made of stretch fabric and are meant to be form fitting. Overly large pants fold and buckle at the knees and thighs, and thus can cause chafing.
Easy Care: Kids get dirty! Barns are dirty! The last thing you want is dry clean only riding pants for lessons.
Color: Kids schooling tights come in a variety of fun colors. Kids love this. Some instructors do not.

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