Guide to Appropriate Barn Attire

Photo by ES Equine Photography/Evelyn Szczepanek

By Tatum Mitchell

“You have to look the part to be the part.”

That was one of the first lessons I learned as a horse person. Knowing the most appropriate attire for barn activities is a vital skill. It wasn’t until one of my trainers told me I “looked like an unmade bed” that I realized I had some wardrobe reevaluating to do. 

From working at the barn to riding in a lesson, here is a guide for appropriate barn attire:

What to wear for a lesson

  • Top: An appropriate, tucked in shirt
    • Be conscious of your climate and choose accordingly:
      • Long-sleeved sun shirt
      • Athletic short-sleeved shirt 
      • Collared shirt
      • *Technical fabrics will help in warm climates
  • Bottom: Breeches/riding pants
  • Feet: Clean boots, with *clean* being the operative word
  • Accessories: Belt

What to wear for barn work

  • Top: Long- or short-sleeved shirt
  • Bottom: Jeans, long work pants or mid-thigh-length shorts
  • Feet: 
    • Mud/rain boots or sneakers
    • Long socks (to avoid blisters or dirt from getting into shoes)

What to wear at the horse show: 

As a working student, I had never put much thought into how I looked at horse shows. I only had just enough time before my classes to throw on my show coat, wipe off my boots, and pray the stains on my pants weren’t too obvious. But over the years, I learned to arrive at the show not in show clothes, but in appropriate working/riding attire. I’d bring my show clothes in a hanging bag—and bring an extra change of working clothes and show clothes with me, just in case (most likely will be used). While show attire is more obvious and outlined in the USEF Rule Book (HU107), below is what you should wear to the show if you plan to work before heading in the ring:

  • Top: 
    • Sun shirt
    • Dry fit/athletic long or short sleeved shirt
    • Bonus points for any team apparel with your barn’s logo, as if you are in uniform
  • Bottom:
    • Comfortable, appropriate shorts
    • Riding pants 
  • Feet:
    • Sneakers
    • Rain/mud boots
    • Paddock boots
    • Long socks (to keep out shavings/dirt and prevent blisters)
  • Accessories
    • Hat
    • Working gloves

What not to wear

Whenever you’re working with horses, avoid the following:

  • Tank tops
  • Anything revealing
  • Anything distracting
  • Open-toed shoes  
  • Short-shorts
  • Leggings
  • Sweatpants

NEVER forget your helmet. You never know when you might need to saddle up!

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