Hi Jessica, I love horse sense, keep up the good work.
I ride at a barn here in Portland Oregon where almost everybody rides English and does jumping. A lot of the students wear english style full chaps. Some people instead of full chaps have half chaps, those things that only come up to your knees. My understanding was that chaps were mainly to protect your legs, like cowboys wore chaps to protect their legs from the brush, or to protect your lower legs from getting piched by the stirrup leather. A girl at our barn who used to not have chaps recently showed up with new chaps. People at the barn, including one of the instructors made comments like that the person will not be falling off as much anymore. Do chaps help people stay on better? Do you recommend chaps? Do you prefer half chaps to full chaps? Thanks for everything. Alyss
Chaps are very practical for trail riders and for cowboys who ride through brush -- that's who they were intended for, after all.
Chaps are part of the "uniform" for Western show riders -- although those tend to be special chaps that are used ONLY for showing.
Chaps are VERY popular with hunter/jumper riders, which is why you're seeing them at this barn. Riders don't wear them in the show ring, where they wouldn't be allowed, but they DO tend to wear them for schooling.
I normally won't let my students wear them. ;-)
This is why:
Most of my students are dressage riders and eventers, and I don't want these riders schooling in chaps; I want them to learn real riding skills, for the sake of their safety and of their riding education. Chaps can give riders an incorrect idea of their own abilities -- the suede sticks to the saddle and makes the riders feel more secure in the saddle than they really are.
I want show riders to school in clothing that is as near as possible to their show clothing, so that they won't get a horrible surprise when they get to the show and realize that they are slip-sliding all over their saddles without those nice suede chaps to stick them in place. ;-)
I want riders who DON'T show to ride to the same good standards as the show riders, and that means being safe and secure in their saddles, NOT because their legs stick to the leather, but because they have good balance and good riding skills.
Having said that, though, I'll admit that if the weather is horribly cold and windy, and a pair of chaps will cut the wind for a rider with cold legs, that's fine. ;-)
So -- no, I don't recommend them, and as I explained, the "not falling off as much" idea is, to my mind, a DISadvantage rather than an advantage. Riders can get too dependent on chaps.
Half-chaps, on the other hand, can be very useful if a rider is schooling in jods and paddock boots -- a good pair of half-chaps like the Ariat ones will give the rider almost the same support and "feel" of the horse's side that tall boots provide. So they're a useful option for riders who don't want to ruin their one good pair of tall boots by wearing them for everyday barn chores and schooling.
You're basically dealing with a fashion issue, so if you have no deep personal desire to own chaps, and you don't plan to ride through any brush, relax -- you don't actually NEED them. ;-)
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