What is the best top for horse riding on cooler days?

What's the best top for cooler weather riding

You might think that the answer to this question is: it depends on the time of year. To some degree it does, but now there is a type of top that is the best top all year round. Do you know what it is? It's the Base Layer. Read on to find out about this increasingly popular item for the equestrian wardrobe and why everybody wants one.

What is a Base Layer?

A Base Layer, as its name suggests, is the first layer of clothing you wear against your skin before you put on any other layers. It is the “base” of your outfit. Sometimes known as inner or first layer.

What is the purpose of a base layer?

Like it or not, all of us riders perspire, to some degree, when riding and doing chores. This is a fact of life. However, if perspiration stays close to the skin, it will make you damp and uncomfortable.

The purpose of this "next-to-the-skin" layer is to help regulate your body temperature by wicking away, or put simply, moving perspiration away from the skin to the next layers, which makes the wearer feel warmer and more comfortable. The transfer of moisture happens due to capillary action, sometimes called wicking. The used materials are called wicking materials.

Do base layers keep you warm?

By wicking sweat away from the body, a base layer keeps you dry, comfortable and warm.

What are base layers made of?

The most common type of base layer is synthetic. These are comparatively cheap, hard wearing and give by far the best wicking performance, i.e. they retain the least sweat. Usually made using polyester mixed with another material like polypropylene.

When should I wear one?

They’re suitable to wear all year round. In winter, it performs the function its name suggests, i.e. a base layer under other layers; in spring, summer and autumn, it can be worn as a top layer. What other equestrian item of clothing is as versatile as this? It makes it great value for money.

So why should I wear one?

In the cold weather, a base layer keeps you warm. In hot weather, they can block the suns ultraviolet rays, like this one from Noble Equestrian, the Athena Quarter Zip, that comes in a range of great colours and blocks out 98% of the sun's rays.

                                                    Noble Outfitters Athena Quarter Zip Riding TopNoble Outfitters Athena Quarter Zip Base Layer

You may find that some riding schools insist that a long-sleeved top is worn when riding, as it provides some degree of protection in the event of a fall. The base layer is a good choice in this scenario.


To do its job, a base layer should be snug against your skin. A loose fit base layer will just bunch up, making it uncomfortable and unable to function very well.

So, most are a no-nonsense, figure-hugging style that makes you feel secure when you’ve got it on. Consequently, they’re highly shaped and more often than you might think, they complement practically all body shapes. If, like me, you’re worried about wearing a tight-fitting top, simply pop a gilet over the top of it to create a layered look.

Are base layers supposed to be tight?

One of the most common questions is how tight should a base layer be. The simple answer is it depends on your definition of “tight”. “Tight” shouldn’t mean that the layer is restrictive and uncomfortable, as this would obviously be a hindrance and a distraction when riding. So, try to avoid thinking of a base layer as “tight”. Instead think about it being “snug” without feeling too restrictive.

So why can’t I wear a baggy base layer?

Base layers don't have to be too tight. Some base layers have a more relaxed body fit that are deliberately designed to sit more loosely on the body.  Such garments are still efficient in their own way, and their structure will create creases and ripples in the garment for a more "relaxed" body fit result. However, heat loss will be greater for obvious reasons and wicking rates will be lower with this fit.

How should a base layer fit?

When trying on a base layer, you need to understand that the fabric has been designed to be stretchy so it will naturally adjust to most body shapes. What you should be looking for is the correct length in the arms, i.e. it should finish just over the wrist, and the length of the body should rest on the top of your bottom.

A good way to check if the base layer is too tight is to see if you can pinch any of the fabric and pull it away from your body. If this is difficult to do, then you more than likely have a size too small. Another area to check is under the armpits. If you cannot get the full rolling movement of your arms and shoulders, then you need to try the next size up.

So what about the “Neck Line”

Base layers come in two types of neck line: the crew or the turtle neck. A crew neck fits along the base of the neckline and is collarless. So, everyone with a long and thin or regular neck has a winner here, as do women with smaller busts. This neckline is not a good choice for women with a short, wide neck or women with a bigger chest.

The turtle neck has a high collar and usually has a 6" or 30cm zip. This style is not great for a short, wide neck, but should be worn instead by women with a long, thin, or regular neck. It’s also great for women with a small chest, whether you have a long or short décolleté.

Noble Outfitters Hailey Long Sleeved Crew Riding Top Noble Outfitters Ashley Long Sleeved Riding Top

Add a Touch of Colour

Team colour with navy, grey or black breeches by adding a bright base layer. This season, we’ve got a stunning range of colours that’ll give you a cheerful, happy, and fresh look. Some have even got a touch of a floral pattern on them which is perfect for spring.

 LeMieux Base Layer  Dublin Moonstone Long Sleeve Technical TopEquetech Power Mesh Riding Base Layer

Stock up on neutrals

Colour's great, isn't it? But you still need a good stock of neutrals to match things with. Neutral tops also carry over well into other seasons and this makes them a worthwhile investment. Neutral colours include grey, navy, black and white.

Noble Outfitters Lindsey Performance Riding Shirt Woof Wear Performance Riding Shirt

 What’s the take-home message?

Base layers are great value and now they come in a great range of colours and neutrals so that you can team them with any existing riding clothes that you’ve already got. If you haven’t tried one yet, treat yourself to one from our Base Layer Riding Tops Collection and let me know what you think of it. 

Shop horse riding base layers


Kim Horton

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


  • Penny Lock posted on November 20 2018 at 05:11 PM

    So what would you suggest for the unfortunate people who have a wide short neck if the crew neck and turtle neck aren’t suitable?

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