Whether you’re a year-round competitor on the horse-show circuit or a weekend trail rider, it’s easier than ever to find a pair of breeches that suits your particular body type, discipline, weather climate and level of riding intensity. While everyone has their own needs and tastes when it comes to selecting a new pair of riding pants, all breeches also need to be functional. They shouldn’t slip, pinch, bunch or move around.
Cut is also important, but some are more flattering and some fabrics more forgiving of body imperfections than others. Finally, although we didn’t evaluate breeches on their actual color, we did consider tailoring, stylistic details and attention to current trends.
Our Trial.The breeches in our trial consisted of all knee-patch breeches, but we noted in the chart styles also available in full-seat. Some of the styles are appropriate for showing, while others are strictly schooling pants or riding tights, and we’ve categorized them in our chart based on our evaluations and suggestions from the manufacturers.
Our single criterion was that the breeches needed to be machine washable. Our testers first tried the pants on for comfort and then evaluated them on horseback at the walk, trot, sitting trot, two-point position, and seated canter. Breeches were then machine-washed and then line or machine-dried in accordance with their care label; finally, the breeches worn again to test their durability and to check for shrinkage after washing.
Material.The breeches we tried came in a variety of different materials, some of them surprising. As a general rule, we loved the cotton blend fabric in breeches such as those made by Ariat, Thornhill Equine Athletics and Dover Riding Sport, as well as Perri’s Front-Zip Breech with Knee Patches and Devon-Aire’s Versailles breeches. A classic combination of cotton’s comfort combined with the stretch of a synthetic material, such as spandex, these breeches were durable, breathable and felt great.
One of the newer materials on the market is a bamboo-blend fabric such as the material in JPC Equestrian’s Eco Green by Tuff Rider Bamboo Knee Patch Low Rise breech and Kerrits’ Grass Synergy breech.
The Tuff Rider breech incorporates an impressive 66% bamboo into its pants and, though thinner than similar cotton blends, the material is remarkably soft and comfortable and offers more grip in the saddle than some of its cotton counterparts (see sidebar p. 9).
Finally, we were impressed by the more high-tech abilities of several of the synthetic pants we tried. Fun in the Saddle’s (FITS) Sahara All Season Extended Patch breech is thoroughly constructed to suit the rider’s every needs. It’s both lightweight and breathable while offering just the right amount of grip to the rider in the saddle and flattering the figure. It also features a comfortable, long leg patch for added grip, rather than the traditional lower thigh grip.
We also loved the smooth feeling of the Kerrits’ Flow Performance Tight’s micropoly blend, which felt comfortable enough to sleep in, as well as the uniqueness of the Kerrits’ Breathe Tight, which employed fabric technology originally designed for mountaineering.
Right out of the bag, the Devon-Aire Hipster II breeches were an immediate favorite. They were lightweight, breathable and comfortable. However, they initially felt slippery in the saddle. Most testers adjusted to the feel quickly, while a few weren’t happy with them when galloping or jumping.
We also loved the nylon blend of English Riding Supply’s Ovation Ultra DX breech, which offers tremendous support and fits like it has been tailor-made for a rider’s frame.
These synthetic breeches and tights employ varying degrees of advanced and effective wicking technology, which pulls moisture away from the skin and keeps the rider dry. This ability is especially important with synthetic materials, which lack the inherently breathable qualities of natural-fiber materials like cotton.
Rise.Rise, or where on the waistline a pair of riding pants hit, is an important consideration when choosing a pair of breeches. For those of us with less than model-perfect bodies, choosing a pant with the right rise for our bodies can make all the difference in obtaining the correct fit.
Low rise is perhaps the most widely used breech today, and typically sits two fingers below the waist. This fit, used widely in the Ariat, Dover Riding Sport, Tuff Rider and Kerrits models in our trial, is a flattering choice for the shorter individual and offers a wide range of motion and recovery for the rider.
For those riders looking for some additional ”help” in the tummy area, several of the low-rise breeches in our trial such as Ariat and FITS offer patented support systems in the waist band to aid in this effort. Pants with an even lower rise or ”hipster” fit sit about four-fingers below the waist and offer an even greater amount of flexibility, but their support is limited and they may be better for young riders.
Individuals that require additional support through the waist or thighs may prefer a more classic, higher rise fit. Though not the style rage at the moment, a high-rise cut like Devon-Aire’s Versailles Breech or Perri’s Front-Zip and Micro Fiber breeches can offer additional coverage and support for the tummy. Because of its ability to fit so many different body types, a higher rise is likely to never disappear from the rack.
Closure.The closure on a pair of breeches, be it a front zipper and snaps, a side zipper and clasps, a pull-on drawstring or a combination of these, can impact that pants’ fit, durability and style.
Zippers may be found in both front and side-zip styles, and although side-zip looks tailored for the show ring, for schooling, front-zip closure is comfortable and convenient. Though many of the pants we tried used a zipper and snap closure method, our preference was for a zipper and single or double hook and clasp closure. Pants with this mechanism, such as Dover Riding Sport’s Competitor breech and English Riding Supply’s Ovation Ultra DX breech, offer maximum security, since snaps have a tendency to wear over time and may open accidentally.
Pull-on schooling breeches, as seen in the Kerrits tights in our trial as well as Devon-Aire’s Sensation Performance Tights and Thornhill’s Equine Athletics Pull On Breech are the ultimate in convenience in pants closure. For schooling, we especially liked the flattering, comfortable waistband technology em ployed by Kerrits.
Calf Closure.One of the most important features in a pair of breeches is calf-closure, since chaffing under boots has the ability to quickly ruin a ride. In general, under half chaps, the breeches we tried were comfortable, though half chaps and paddock boots allow for a certain amount of leeway when it comes to fit. In general, we have always been a fan of adjustable Velcro-type calf-closure, which gives the rider the ability to customize the fit around their ankle and reduces tugging. In this regard, we appreciated the breeches from Thornhill Equine Athletics, which have a thoughtfully designed closure system that lays especially flat against the skin.
Our favorite calf closure, though, was English Riding Supply’s Ovation Ultra DX Breech. Utilizing new technology in their wicking, mesh-tube bottoms, the breech offers exceptional comfort under tall boots, keeping the rider dry while eliminating the rubs.
Bottom Line.The Ariat Cavalry Breech took the blue ribbon for its thoughtful stylistic detailing. It’s our overall favorite.
Our best-buy breech is the Devon-Aire Versailles Breech. At just $58, you can probably buy a couple of pairs in different colors.
If you’re in search of the ideal riding tight, start with the supremely comfortable Kerrits Flow Performance tight.
Article by Contributing Editor Nina Fedrizzi.