What to wear for a dressage test

what to wear for a dressage test

Kim's tips on what to wear for a dressage test

Equestrian sports generally, are heavily based on tradition, including the kind of dress allowed. No other group of sports have such strict rules on dress and turnout. Although you are not marked for your dressage attire, it is still important to project the right image when competing. This is partly because dressage is an elegant sport and the competitor’s attire should reflect this. You should also project the impression that you are serious about your sport as this will build mutual respect and help increase your confidence.

You and your riding jacket

Your black or navy jacket should fit you well and be slightly fitted at the waist to flatter your form.  Ensure that it allows you to move freely and is suitable for weight for the weather.  Softshell competition jackets are the norm nowadays as they come with so many great features, too many in fact to list here!  Make sure that the sleeves cover your wrist ever so slightly when your arms are bent. If it is baggy around the back you could look as if you are slouching or moving around in the saddle.  Try to ensure that your hat and jacket match in colour.

White, cream or beige?

White breeches look smart only if they are clean! Cream or beige breeches are perfectly acceptable and can be more flattering.  Choose breeches with front pleats if you have a curvy figure.

Always be prepared

Buy a show shirt that fits well and allows you to move freely.  If it is very warm the organizer may allow you to compete without a jacket and you will also want the warm up without a jacket. So ensure the shirt is a flattering fit and is well ironed as a well worn, creased look doesn't really sit well on a beautifully groomed horse. Especially if the grooming was done with your jacket off and your shirt was exposed to the dirt!  

Don’t forget to ensure that your show shirt has a small loop at the back of the neck for your stock.

Belt up

If your breeches have belt-loops, pair them with a belt.  A belt will give you a polished appearance as you walk around the competition venue or you have to ride without a jacket in extremely hot weather.

Riding boots are not made for walking

Dressage riders typically wear the cut of their boots high as this visually elongates the length of the leg.  So wear your long riding boots for as long as you can possibly bear.  Remember you do have the option to wear paddock boots and plain leather chaps if you prefer.  Some riders feel chaps aren't as smart as long boots but they can be cooler to wear in the summer 

The eye is quicker than the hand

Try to ensure your riding gloves match your breeches.  Remember white gloves can draw attention to jiggling hands.  

Eau Naturelle!

Wear a small amount of makeup on the eyes and lips, but keep it light and natural.  And finally also wear a smile!   On the wrong canter lead? Smile, it's counter-canter. Can't remember the test? Smile, it's freestyle. Keep smiling no matter what - it will endear you to the judges and the crowd. 

Looking for inspiration?

If you need some ideas to get you going, start with our collection of equestrian clothing for competition riders. And if you have any further questions or need any further advice, for example on what to buy or on sizing, do get in touch.  You can use our contact page if you wish to email us or if you need some quick advice, give us a call on 01438 940561 between 8am and 10pm, 7 days a week. We're here to help.




Kim Horton

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


  • Charles Marsh posted on June 24 2014 at 05:06 PM

    This is a great article, love it!

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