Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, knowing how to wear riding chaps is important.
And if you’re here, that means that you probably already know what chaps do.
If you don’t, they offered protection for the legs of cowboys from any hazards you may face when riding outdoors, and they are instrumental today.
Everyone has their way of wearing horse riding chaps, but there are some best practices that will get you looking like a classic American cowboy in no time!
Related: What Do Chaps Do?
How to Wear Chaps for Riding
Wearing a pair of chaps isn’t as easy as pulling them up like regular pants. If you do it the wrong way, they may not serve their intended purpose.
Follow these steps carefully, and you’ll appreciate how helpful these protective clothes can be.
P.S. – This is a step-by-step process for wearing both shotgun chaps (full-length chaps) and chinks (often referred to as half chaps) that cover up to a few inches below the knee and provide more freedom of movement.
It also applies to non-equestrian chaps, such as the modern motorcycle chaps or chainsaw chaps.
But there are half chaps worn over paddock boots in English riding, and I will cover how to wear them later in the article.
# Step 1 – Get the Right Pants
Start by wearing suitable protective pants, which are often well-fitting jeans. But any other comfortable pants are still acceptable as long as they aren’t too baggy.
# Step 2 – Choose Your Chaps
The next step is to choose the right chaps. The appropriate ranch chaps should be made of leather or durable synthetic materials. And they should fit snugly around your things.
Once they fit your thighs, the waist will most likely be of the appropriate size, as well as the length.
# Step 3 – Preparing the Chaps
Unbuckle the waist belt and unzip the pant legs so that everything is open.
# Step 4 -Wearing the Chaps
Now it’s time to put them one. And there are two ways to do this.
- Start with the belt
The easiest way to put on leather chaps is to start by putting the fringed belt on. The belt can be over your pants’ belt, or below it, depending on how tall you are and personal preference.
Don’t tighten the chaps’ belt too much. Let them have some allowance to move around your waist.
Once you have buckled the belt, hold one leg’s piece of leather and run it through your legs so that the zipper is on the side, and run the zip all the way down. Do the same for the other leg.
- Start with the legs
In this method, start by wrapping the right leg. When the chaps are open, they have a lot of loose material. So, make sure the inside section is facing you.
Then, grab the center, and run it between your legs until it circles the leg. Make sure the zipper ends up on the side of your leg.
Next, hold the zipper with one hand and feed the other side of the zipper with the other hand.
Do the same for the other leg, then pull the chaps up and buckle the integrated belt.
This method would be appropriate when wearing western chaps for women since their pants may be more tight-fitting, and they won’t be cramped up when you pull the chaps up.
Once you’re done setting them up, squat and hop a bit to make sure they fit.
# Step 5 -Sizing the Chaps
By now, you should have fit the leather chaps around your legs. So, the next step is to make sure they are the correct size.
To know if they are the right fit, fit your hand between the chaps and your thigh. If it feels like you’re fitting your palm in your tight-fit jeans, then you’re good to go. You also need to check the length.
If some material goes past your boots after you’ve run the zipper to the bottom, you may need to size them.
And it’s not that hard. You can do it as bikers do it, where you mount the horse and have a partner mark any excess material on the chaps.
Then, mark a straight line with a straight edge, and cut the excess material with regular household shears.
Getting the right length is crucial since if they are too short, they may cause more air into the pants and will not provide warmth when it’s too cold.
If they are too long, they may get stuck in the stirrup leathers, which may be quite dangerous if you fall off your horse.
READ MORE: How to Size Half Chaps Correctly
Below are two helpful ‘how to put on chaps” videos.
How to Wear Half Chaps
The term half chaps can be pretty confusing since it can refer to the half-length chaps I mentioned earlier and the protective gear style of chaps over paddock boots.
They protect your lower legs, as well as provide an extra grip for comfortable and secure riding.
This step-by-step process is for the latter.
# Step 1
Wear appropriate protective pants, be it jeans or breaches. According to Farm House Stack, even a quarter an inch can offset a proper fitting half chap, so make sure you put on the gear first.
# Step 2
Next, you need to measure your legs to get a proper fit. Farm House Stack advises that you should sit straight, with your feet make a 90 degrees angle at the knee section.
Then, measure from the inner area of the knee to the bottom. And measure the thickest section of the calf to get the actual leg shape. Get measurements for both legs since they may differ a bit.
# Step 3
Next, put on the boot on one leg, starting with the elastic stirrup that goes under the boot. This elastic ensures a secure grip on the stirrup irons, so make sure it goes up to the heel.
Also, make sure you shift your weight towards the leg you’re putting it on to make fitting easier.
# Step 4
Make sure the chaps fit tightly around the leg, with no air gaps left within. You don’t need a lot of air circulation in this section.
Then, hold the zipper on one side with one hand, and feed the other part with the other hand. Here, your partner can help you by pulling the zipper down as you pull the chaps slightly upwards.
Always ensure a tight grip as you pull the zipper down to the bottom and complete the button snaps or any other fasteners the chaps may have.
# Step 5
Repeat the above process for the left leg.
Below are some helpful videos;
When Should You Wear Chaps?
Chaps provide protection from cuts, animal kicks, rope burns, and any other hazards you may face when working with livestock. So, it’s best to wear chaps over your protective pants every time you’re working with horses, cattle, and any other livestock. Chaps are also essential attire when participating in western riding disciplines.
Do You Have to Wear Half Chaps with Paddock Boots?
It’s not a must, but it helps a great deal if you wear them. Leather half chaps are designed to work with a pair of paddock boots and offer protection and extra grip to the leather saddle during day-to-day activities. However, you can’t wear them with tall boots, neither can you wear them with cowboy boots.
Can You Show in Half Chaps?
No. In most horse shows, half chaps are not allowed. You should wear well-polished tall riding boots (field boots, dress boots, or dressage boots). Half chaps are meant for daily riding, practice riding, and informal events.
While the cowboy culture may be slowly fading away, we have a lot to learn from it. Some people claim that they don’t have to wear ranch chaps, but it’s better to have them on for a better riding experience.
There are different types of chaps. Full-length chaps are great if you’re riding in areas with lots of dangers and need maximum protection.
If you’re looking for a protective apron, or horse-shoeing chaps (chinks without fringe), chinks will be fine.
And if you want to preserve your tall boots for special occasions, you can wear the half chaps with paddock boots. And as we’ve established, wearing them isn’t complicated.
- Boutique of Leathers / Open Road. 2021. “Tutorial – How to Choose Chaps and Put Them On.” YouTube Video. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsKGCb_Kto0.
- Drum, Michelle. 2021. “Half Chap Guide: Sizing, Fit, Style.” Farm House Tack. Farm House Tack. January 5, 2021. https://www.farmhousetack.com/blogs/barn-blog/half-chap-guide-sizing-fit-style.
- Farm House Tack. 2021. “How To: Fit Half Chaps.” YouTube Video. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JBYDLMDXfs.
- https://www.facebook.com/cephas.karanja.73. 2021. “What Are Riding Chaps For? Do You Really Need Them?” HorseVills. August 13, 2021. https://horsevills.com/purpose-of-chaps/.
- Jamin Leather. 2013. “601 Instructional – How to Properly Put on Chaps by Jamin’ Leather.” YouTube Video. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TRqXiUGEUo.
- “The Cowboy at Work.” 2011. Google Books. 2011. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=DOq4phLykqcC&pg=PA227&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Do you have other tips on how to wear chaps properly? Please share below!
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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