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Breeches - history of equestrian pants

Published: 2019-10-18 12:45:49 Categories: Products Rss feed

Breeches - what exactly are they?

An inherent element of each rider's outfit are breeches (formerly the word breeches meant pants of a knee- or half-calf length), special pants for horse riding that provide freedom of movements and proper seat. They have no seams on the inner side of the legs, where the rider's legs meet the saddle or the horse's sides - such a solution prevents chafing and provides comfort while riding. Currently, equestrian stores offer a wide variety of this type of equestrian pants - from thin riding leggings for summer, elegant show models, up to the most innovative special breeches made of technical fabric. Breeches have a rich history - like most of the equestrian equipment elements, breeches also stem from an army uniform.

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Breeches history

Today's breeches most resemble leggings with their cut (German Reithose, pants for horse riding - not an element of the modern female closet!) - tight, lined with calfskin pants were used in the 19th century by various armies. In Poland, they were used as a part of the National Cavalry at the verge of First Polish Republic, but also ulans, and Napoleonic cavalry soldiers. Pantaloons were an especially tight version of leggings, for some time known as the "Polish attire," then in a slightly modified version, they were a part of ladies' underwear. We owe more than equestrian pants to the Napoleonic army - its uniforms had a huge impact on the equestrian outfit. Designed in a way allowing to spend long hours in the saddle during military campaigns, in colors that still reign on the parkours and maneges - white, navy blue, red, with a long jacket, and tight equestrian pants. An obvious connection with the uniform have the so-called cavalry breeches with a unique appearance: the leg is wider in the thighs, above the knee, creating the "puffs." Such a cut of pants can be found among the cavalry units of armies serving in the first world war - the last war where horses and horse units were crucial. It was also the last war where (at least at the beginning) the armies were using colorful, richly decorated uniforms. The widened cavalry breeches were still used after the horse units stopped being so useful - they were used in army clothing even after the second world war. Currently, although they are less popular among the "regular" riders, they constitute an element of the reconstructive cavalry groups and ulan regiments. Participants allowed to use uniforms during competitions, e.g. multi-medalist Żaneta Skowrońska, tend to choose the more tight breeches.

Breeches cuts and types

The popularity of tight leg cut, both for women's and men's breeches is connected with the comfort and convenience of such a solution. The close-fit cut and lack of seams on the inner side of the legs prevent abrasions. During riding, the material does not roll up, tuck, or shift, providing the rider with comfort at each pace. What is more, pants with tight legs in calves make it easy to match riding shoes. However, riders are not doomed to wear only tight breeches - on the market, there are available breeches that resemble cavalry breeches in appearance, with a wider upper part of the leg - but they are not as puffed as the uniform pants of ulans. Another model of breeches that are not as tight in the legs are jodhpurs. Their name comes from a Jodhpur city in India, and their cut was inspired by traditional equestrian pants of that region that are called churidar. This cut of pant became popular at the end of the 19th century in Great Britain, where during the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the son of Jodhpur Maharaja presented himself in such pants along with his polo team. Currently, jodhpurs have straight or slightly widened legs and their cut and strengthening on the inner side make it possible to ride in them without chaps. Short shoes are used for riding in jodhpurs. While looking for less popular cuts of breeches, you need to be patient - the market is dominated by tight, close-fitting equestrian pants that are constantly being perfected and modified in various ways to improve the riders' comfort.

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Breeches grips

Nowadays, you can choose freely from the wide variety of breeches available on the market. What to pay attention to while choosing? What is the difference between certain cuts and technologies? The basic difference between various breeches is the type of grip. Grip in breeches is a strengthening on the inner side of the leg, sewn-on in places where the rider's body touches the saddle. The aim of the grip is to improve the adhesiveness to the saddle, but also to reinforce the material in places, where due to intense usage, it tend to get easily damaged. This type of strengthening, made of calfskin, was used in cavalry pants. At first also in "civilian" breeches the grips were made of leather, smooth or suede, however they were very difficult to maintain - after washing, the grips were stiff, deformed, and it was generally difficult to keep them in good condition. Gradually, the traditional leather grips were replaced with synthetic grips - faux leather or suede. The upside of it was that these grips were easier to keep clean and they provided equally good adhesiveness as the leather ones, but they were not as durable. Some of the synthetic materials were not as good at their task and instead of reinforcing the pants in key parts, they were the first to wear out. The most recent and currently dominating material on the market when it comes to breeches grips is silicone, usually in the form of slight overprint, leather or synthetic patches in the traditional places. Silicone provides perfect adhesiveness and due to perfecting the technology of its application to the breeches, it does not fall off or brittle, maintaining its properties for a long time. Silicone overprints now come in various forms: from the most simple dots and lines to pretty fancy patterns - doodles, miniature horse shoes and bits, but also little stars, polka dot, flowers, or checker - kinds of patterns has no influence over using the pants during riding, they are only decorative, adjusted to your particular liking and limited only by the producers' creativity.

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Knee or full seat grip?

Besides the type of material of which the breeches grips are made, their type is also important. We differentiate two types of grips - knee and full seat. Knee grips, like the name itself suggests, are placed only on the inner side of the legs, at knee level, in the form of leather or synthetic patches, or silicone overprints. Full seat grips are placed on the whole inner side of the breeches - in all the places that should contact the saddle in a proper rider's seat. Both knee and full seat grips are made of traditional materials or silicone. The choice of a grip type depends on each rider's preferences, equestrian discipline, or style of riding. Full seat provides better adhesiveness, which is why it is more popular among dressage riders. This type of grip would also be more useful for beginners, who learn how to keep balance in the saddle and sit properly - due to good adhesiveness on a bigger surface it would be easier to keep in the saddle. Knee grip, on the other hand, is more popular among riders taking part in show jumping: it does not "keep" in the saddle as much as a full seat grip, but it provides great adhesiveness in the knees, which is crucial in half-seat and jumps.

Breeches should end above the ankle and tightly fit in this place so that they would not roll up and squeeze the rider. Because of that, the older models had velcro closures at the ankles, allowing the riders to adjust the width of the legs and comfortably put knee socks on the breeches. In the newer breeches, the velcro has been replaced with a thin and elastic fabric that fits the rider's leg girth, simplifying the choice of breeches - if you are shorter and have some excess of material at the ankles, it would not roll up.

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Breeches colors. Which one to choose?

Most often breeches come in dark soft colors - everybody who has ever cleaned a horse and took a mud bath knows why... However, the rider's outfit had long stopped resembling a uniform, and the producers of equestrian clothing and equipment are more and more prone to use bold colors and patterns. The traditional black, navy blue, bottle green, and gray are still popular and available in all brands' offers, but they are slowly being replaced with more interesting colors. What to mind while choosing our breeches color? The most important factor is the occasion - if you are looking for breeches for competitions, you should pick white or creme ones, they constitute an element of the show outfit. Of course in the everyday stable circumstances, white breeches are not the most practical ones (just like white saddle cloths), which is why for regular use it is good to choose slightly darker colors. In the patterned breeches offer, the traditional and elegant checkers is just one of the possibilites - there are more and more fun and colorful versions of breeches, especially for teens and kids. Besides the color and pattern, the material is also important. Denim breeches are becoming popular now, usually with admixture of elastin, which makes the pants fit the body. It is good to choose breeches made of thinner and brighter materials for summer, for a heat wave you can thing of the thinner equestrian breeches available on the market. For winter, it is good to look for breeches made of technical fabrics - e.g. softshell, which is not only warm but alos wind- and waterproof. They would be an asset not only for riers, but also for coaches spending hours on the maneges.

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Breeches, although they used to be a part of the army uniform, today they no longer resemble the 19th century leggings or pantaloons. The most popular tight versions are constantly being perfected and modernized by the producers in order to made horse riding as easy and comfortable as possible. They also withstand difficult weather conditions and meet the various tastes of riders - the offer is so vast and varied that everybody will find something tailored to their needs and style.

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