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Horse Riding Jacket Buying Guide

Posted on 08 February 2017 by Kim

Horse riding jacket buying guide

Every rider would no doubt agree that a jacket is an essential part of an equestrian wardrobe.

But the sheer amount of choices for riders is bewildering. Whether it's style, length, colour, or brand, how do you make a choice suitable for your type of riding?

Take waterproof jackets, for example. How do you know a jacket actually is waterproof?

And what about softshell fabrics? Are they really worth their salt?

Our riding jacket buying attempts to answer these questions, and more.

To start with, get yourself up to speed with the different types of jacket there are. Use the links below in the table 'Types of Riding Jackets'. After each section, you can return here by clicking 'Back to Top'.

Once you're familiar with the types, read our guidance on how to choose a jacket. Click the links in the 'How to choose a riding jacket' table to find out. We'll cover what you need to think about in terms of weather, style, fit and colour.

After all that you'll probably need a breather before you jump in and start looking at our selection of riding jackets. We've divided them by sex and age, so simply click on women's, men's or children's jackets in the table below.

Finally, we'll be adding more information to this guide so do bookmark it and check back regularly.

And if there's something you'd like us to add to the guide, get in touch and let us know. That way we can give you the information you need to get the most out of your riding.

Now, on to the guide!

TYPES OF RIDING JACKET
Waterproof Riding Jackets Down Riding Jackets
3-in-1 Riding Jackets Synthetic Padded Riding Jackets
Softshell Riding Jackets Lightweight Riding Jackets
Fleece Riding Jackets
HOW TO CHOOSE A RIDING JACKET
Consider the weather Select a suitable style
Check the fit Pick a colour
Closing thoughts
SHOP RIDING JACKETS
Shop women's riding jackets Shop men's riding jackets
Shop children's riding jackets

TYPES OF RIDING JACKET


WATERPROOF RIDING JACKETS

There are two main things to look for in a waterproof jacket: firstly, it needs to be waterproof, obviously! Secondly it needs to be breathable, which simply means it lets air escape. The reason why being breathable is so important is because there’s no point keeping the rain out only to overheat on the inside and end up soaked in sweat.

Key features to look for

Taped seams: As well as the waterproofing technology, a jacket must also have sealed seams to fully ensure no water enters the jacket.

Adjustable cuffs: These will help adjust the fit of the jacket and trap in warmth.

Storm flap: A key feature of a decent jacket. This ensures no water will enter through the zip

Detachable and adjustable hood: Hoods are my non-negotiable essential on an autumn jacket. Paramount for that it delivers good visibility and comfort.

Care

If you’ve invested in a waterproof riding jacket or you’re thinking about it, you’ll probably have a lot of questions about how to look after it. So here are some frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Can I wash a waterproof jacket?

A Yes you can, just make sure you read the care label inside the jacket and follow the instructions accordingly.

Q2: What should I wash my waterproof jacket with?

A: Use a non-biological detergent. It’s advisable not to use biological detergents or fabric softener as the chemicals in them can break down the composition of the fibres with each wash and strip the fabric of its waterproof coating. You may wish to run your washing machine on a hot wash with nothing in it to clear any residues from biological detergent or fabric softeners.

Q3: What if I have washed it incorrectly?

A: If you’ve used a biological detergent or fabric softener all may not be lost! If you’ve only done it once, the damage will probably be minimal than if you’ve done it several times where you’ll have to work hard to restore it to its former glory! Start by washing it again using the correct agent.  

Q4: Do I need to iron my waterproof jacket?

A: No, even if you turn the jacket inside out. The heat from the iron could reduce the performance of the outer shell of the jacket which will mean that the jacket will not be as waterproof as it was.

Q5: Do I need to reproof my waterproof jacket at any stage?

A: Possibly! You’ll know if your jacket needs to be reproofed by watching what happens when water falls on the outer shell. It’s still fully waterproof, for example, when beads of rain fall off it but when the outer shell starts to absorb them, you’ll know it needs to be reproofed.

Q6: How many times can I wash my waterproof jacket?

A: As many as you like! Do remember though, unfortunately nothing lasts for ever. The more you wash it, the more it will affect its performance. So the real answer is, only wash it when you need to, don’t wash it every time you wear it.

Q7: Can I tumble dry my waterproof riding jacket?

A: Again, check the jacket’s care instructions. Look for the tumble dry symbol which is a circle inside a square. This means that you can tumble dry it. Dots inside the circle indicate temperature, i.e. one is for lower heat and two is for higher heat. If there are no dots inside the circle, tumble dry it on a low heat. If there is a cross over through the symbol or care instructions don’t include this symbol, it’s probably safest not to tumble dry it.

Our tips

A good jacket is an investment. Put simply the more you invest, the more you’ll gain. However, there’s no point breaking the bank if you only need a basic shell for the odd shower, but if you’re using the jacket regularly out hacking, for example, you’ll really see the benefit of the higher end products like the Mountain Horse Amber Jacket.

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DOWN RIDING JACKETS

So you think you need a down jacket? But are you really sure you definitely need one? Down jackets offer a light layer of seriously warm insulation for the coldest individuals. They are ideal for low-intensity activities in cold weather, like dog-walking. The moment you up the physical intensity of what you’re doing, like mucking out, you may get too hot in a down jacket. So think carefully about what it is you really need because most probably need to wear cooler layers, such as fleeces, as this is more versatile and easier to adapt to the conditions as they change.

A rough guide to down ratios is:

  • 50/50 – this is used mainly for fashionable jackets for light protection in cool conditions
  • 70/30 – this is a high ratio found in premium jackets for cold conditions. Anything around this ratio will easily be warm enough for the coldest UK conditions
  • 90/10 – provides incredible insulation for extreme cold and artic expeditions. Pretty much the highest ratio you'll see as any higher and it becomes incredibly expensive
  • 100% down doesn't exist as it's not possible to separate it in this way.

Key features to look for

High percentage of down: “Down” is the light, powdery feathers plucked from next to the bird's skin, and this is combined with the outer “feathers” to provide the insulating fill. The higher the ratio of down to feathers, the warmer the jacket will be

Layered construction: Most down jackets are designed to be as light as possible and are consequently made of superlight, super-thin fabrics. So you do have to look after them. A well designed layered construction prevents down leakage.

Ethnically sourced: With down being essentially an animal product, there are obvious ethical concerns. Particularly with the live-plucking process, and the issue of birds being force fed prior to plucking. So looked for jackets whose down and feathers are ethnically sourced.

There are some disadvantages to down jackets that do need to be called out:

  • They don't work in the rain – moisture makes the down clump together and lose virtually all of its insulating properties. A serious soaking can damage the jacket for good
  • The need good care – specialist or very careful cleaning is required in order not to damage the feathers
  • They can be prohibitively expensive.

Care

If you’ve invested in a down riding jacket or you’re thinking about it, you’ll probably have a lot of questions about how to look after it. So here are some frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Can I wash a down jacket?

A: Yes, you can, just make sure you read the care label inside the jacket and follow the instructions accordingly.

Q2: What should I wash my down jacket with?

A: Use a non-biological detergent. It’s advisable not to use biological detergents or fabric softener as the chemicals in them can affect the jacket’s performance. You may wish to run your washing machine on a hot wash with nothing in it to clear any residues from biological detergent or fabric softeners.

Q3: What if I have washed it incorrectly?

A: If you’ve used a biological detergent or fabric softener all may not be lost! If you’ve only done it once, the damage will probably be minimal than if you’ve done it several times. Just wash it again using the correct agent.

Q4: How do I dry my down riding jacket?

A: A down jacket is best tumble dried as air drying it will not only take a very long time, there is more risk of the feathers clumping together and the jacket may start to smell if takes a while to dry. Down jackets need to be tumble dried on a low heat. Even if you’re in a hurry, don’t be tempted to dry it at a higher heat as you’ll risk melting the seams and outer shell fabric of a very expensive jacket. After removing from dryer, shake your jacket to “re-loft” the down and air for several hours before using or storing.

Q5: Is it true that I should put a tennis ball in the tumble dryer with the jacket?

A: Yes! Adding tennis balls or similar in the tumble drier stops the feathers from clumping together and helps to “re-loft” the down filling. 

Q6: Do I need to iron my down jacket?

A: No. If you iron it, you will flatten the down filling.

Q7: How many times can I wash my down jacket?

A: As many as you like! Do remember though, unfortunately nothing lasts for ever. The more you wash it, the more it will affect its performance. So the real answer is, only wash it when you need to, don’t wash it every time you wear it.

Q8: What’s the best way to store a down jacket?

A: Never store a down jacket in a compressed state, i.e. folded up or squashed in a bag, as this will crush the feathers in the filling.

Our tips

Don’t be deceived by the weight of a down jacket – although it’s light, it will be warm! Also don’t be tempted to go up a size so that you can put extra layers underneath it to keep you warm. Believe me, you’ll be warm enough with just the jacket!

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3-IN-1 RIDING JACKETS

If you need a coat for every season but only have room in the wardrobe for one, then a 3-in-1 jacket is for you. Unparalleled versatility and offering maximum protection from the elements, it’s the best all year round jacket.

Key features to look for

Effectively it consists of 3 jackets or layers if you like:

  • Usually a waterproof, outer shell for when it’s wet and mild
  • A padded or quilted jacket that’s suitable for cooler, dry days
  • The outer shell and the jacket combined for complete winter warmth and waterproof protection

When worn with a base layer underneath, it's also the complete layering system in one, allowing you trap warmth between the layers and still allow moisture to escape, keeping you warm and dry. You can also add or peel off the layers as the weather changes and means that you’re fully prepared for all weathers!

Care

Most 3-in-1s are actually washable but make sure you check the instructions before you buy as it’s really essential that it’s washable. Some are also suitable for the tumble dryer but this is a requirement you can probably compromise on. 

Our tips

On the face of it, 3-in1 jackets seem expensive but if you spend a lot of time outdoors with horses or you live in an area with heavy rainfall and/or snow, anything less than this jacket will not be fit for purpose.

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SYNTHETIC PADDED RIDING JACKETS

Whilst a synthetic padded jacket can’t match the warmth of a down jacket, it makes up for this in so many other ways. It offers a good level of warmth and is ideal for putting layers underneath it that you can peel off as you heat up. They offer great value to their down counterparts and often there is more of a range to choose from which makes it easier to find a style that suits your budget.

Key features to look for

Tailored fit: if you want to look vaguely stylish on the yard, you’ll have more chance with a synthetic padded jacket.

Little finishing touches: often these jackets have attractive finishing touches, for example faux fur trim on the hood, fancy pullers on the zips, which give an added appearance of luxury and quality.  

Care

Usually all synthetic jackets are machine washable and can go in the same wash as all your other riding clothes. Plus, many can be tumble dried too. As always, check the care label in the jacket and follow the instructions accordingly.

Our tips

A good quality padded jacket should keep you snug all winter in the UK and it’ll be a bit easier to look after as well. There’s a great range available but we like this Harcour Alaska Padded Jacket.

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SOFTSHELL RIDING JACKETS

If you’re looking for an autumn jacket to school in, you probably want just a lightweight layer to protect that you can take off once you’ve got going. The reason why they're perfect for riding in is because the stretchy fabric they’re made from, allows a full range of movement.

So what is “‘softshell?” “Soft shell” is a term that is used to describe a new kind of outdoor wear. As its name suggests it’s primarily a ‘shell’ that combines many of the benefits of waterproof “Hard Shells” with more comfortable garments like fleece. Yet Soft Shells are neither.

“Hard Shells” are those stiff, often noisy riding jackets of old, that most of us have worn at some stage. Here’s a reminder of what they were like: you’d be outside in wet and/or cold, wintry conditions, working up a sweat and the moisture remained trapped inside your Hard Shell jacket. This left you with an unpleasant clamminess that chilled you to the bone when you stopped to rest. Besides this moisture problem, riders have just got sick of the noise from hard shell fabrics, the constant zipping/unzipping, and simply wanted more comfortable jackets that you didn’t have to constantly take on and off all day. Sound familiar?

“Soft Shells” are made from fabrics with a tight layered weaves and durable water repellent, they shield you from the wind, rain and snow. In other words, a Soft Shell keeps weather out like a Hard Shell, but breathes like fleece. Besides great breathability, they have amazing flexibility in comparison to hard shells fitting your body without constricting it and stretching naturally when you move.

Soft Shell is perfect for riders as it’s specifically designed to be used physical exertion in conditions that do not require full wet weather protection or significant insulation. This highly versatile garment can be worn on its own or with other layers. A ‘must have’ for any rider’s wardrobe. If this hasn’t convinced you to buy one, the following will!

When comparing soft shell against soft fleece, a soft shell jacket does not:

  • pill like a fleece
  • look like a terry cloth rag after it’s been washed
  • absorb water like a sponge in rain and snow
  • allow the wind to cut through in the way that fleeces do
  • And the big one – horse hair, hay, straw etc. doesn’t stick to it!

Key features to look for:

  • Stretchy, non-crease fabric
  • Water resistant: Not many riders have the luxury of an indoor school, so a water resistant jacket is a must for autumn.

Care

Machine washable and often able to be tumble dried as well.

Our tips

Softshell jackets can be worn alone or as a mid-layer, so they’re great value for money.

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LIGHTWEIGHT RIDING JACKETS

Lightweight jackets work best in Spring and Autumn as they can be used in conjunction with other layers, such as fleeces and soft shells. Often they’re waterproof and as their title suggests, they’re light in weight which makes them most suitable for mild weather only.

Key features to look for

  • Waterproof
  • As lightweight jackets are best suited for mild weather when you’re inclined to warm up quickly after a bit of activity, it’s advisable to go for a breathable one otherwise it means that perspiration will be trapped inside the jacket making you and your clothes wet.

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FLEECE RIDING JACKETS

Fleeces have provided cosy warmth for many years from casual designs that match your breeches to serious breathable versions aimed at riders who want technical pieces and performance. The perfect mid-layer underneath any jacket, they’re both comfortable and affordable.  

Fleece jackets have a full length zip and should not be confused with fleece tops that have a much shorter zip in the neck area only.

Key features to look for

  • Stretch panels: Some fleeces have stretch panels on the side which are a welcome addition for those riders who like a bit of room in a fleece or who have a fuller figure
  • Windproof: Some fleeces feature a windproof membrane within the inner lining. This will stop wind getting through and means that you’ll stay warmer with the use of fewer layers.

Tips

A fleece jacket is a better layer to ride in than a fleece top as it means that you can unzip the jacket and take it off if you get too hot whereas with a fleece top, you have to take your hat off to get it over your head!

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HOW TO CHOOSE A RIDING JACKET


Consider the weather

Whether we like it or not, the weather is probably the single most important consideration for us equestrian riders. The weather varies massively around the UK and for that matter around the world.  So consider the type of winter weather that you usually face in your area. For the best part most horse riders want a riding jacket that is waterproof or at the very least, water resistant.  Admittedly these jackets tend to be at the upper end of the price bracket but often have a huge number of other features besides just being waterproof! 

I think we all have to deal with wet weather but think about what the most extreme weather conditions you’re likely to face. For bitterly cold weather and freezing winds, you need to look for other features that the jacket needs to offer.  For example, although elasticated cuffs might not be the height of fashion, they do actually stop the cold from getting in.  Equally a hood can protect your head from biting winds. 

Those who live in snowy areas will probably need something that is waterproof and incorporates materials specifically designed to hold in body heat and keep out the cold. 

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Select a Suitable Style

Since buying a jacket is often a significant investment, you want it to be flattering as well as functional. Even if you feel that they’re ‘only’ at the stables, you’ll probably still want a style that presents you in your most favourable light.  So consider the shape of your body when you select your jacket.  We all know that fashion gurus love to pigeon hole us (!), the following reminder of the  basic body types will help you select a jacket that will be most flattering to their shape.

Body Shape Description Recommended Style
Apple The apple shape carries weight at the waistline. A jacket that fits snugly around the bust and is long for a slimming effect.  Avoid puffed jackets as they add bulk.
Pear The pear shape carries weight on the hips and thighs. A jacket should come to mid-thigh for pear shapes.  Fur or a large collar at the neck draws attention up toward the rider’s face.
Strawberry The strawberry shape has a wide chest and bust, broad shoulders, and a slender waist and legs. A jacket that hugs the rider’s upper body and is A-line will provide the necessary balance.
Hourglass The curvy or hourglass shape has a fairly slender waist with wider hips and a larger bust. A cropped or fitted style, possibly with a belt that accentuates their slender waist.  Avoid baggy or loose fitting styles.
Rectangle The rectangle shape has a flatter chest, narrower hips, and a slim waist. A fitted or tailored style will complement their athletic and feminine shape.

 

Even if you don’t fit perfectly in to one of these categories, you can probably relate to the style that we’ve recommended.

Check the Fit

Besides meeting the weather requirements, a jacket also needs to fit well.  Check possible pressure points to avoid discomfort, i.e. pulling uncomfortably across the chest or across the back when the arms are moved, or even ripping, i.e. when it’s too tight at the back of the arms.

When you’re buying your jacket, remember that what you wear underneath it is likely to be much thicker and bulkier. So the jacket needs to allow room for this. 

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Picking a Colour

As well as all of the considerations above, choosing a colour is also important.  Navy and black are hugely practical and will coordinate with most of your equestrian wardrobe.  However, adding a jacket in this season’s colour, i.e. plum, can add a much needed injection to a conservative selection of riding attire!    You’ll need to be sure though, that you’ll get enough wear out of this and work out which different outfits it will co-ordinate with.

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Closing thoughts

Theoretically, any jacket that keeps you warm and dry is fine.  Lots of riders wear brands and styles of coats that were not designed specifically for riding.  However, an equestrian riding jacket that is, are generally much more hardwearing than street wear, offer more comfort and a better range of movement.  Try not to be tempted by the first jacket you see in the Clearance section.  It’s far better to give some careful thought before making a purchase.  With some perseverance, you should be able to find a good quality jacket at a fair price that should see you through one if not the next couple of seasons.

If you look after these type of jackets properly you'll get years of use.

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SHOP RIDING JACKETS


Shop women's riding jackets online

 

Shop men's riding jackets online

 

Shop children's riding jackets online

 

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Author

Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.

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