Jodhpurs are known primarily as riding pants, but they began as traditional garb in oriental countries and India. Since their introduction to England in the late l9th century, these pants have been used for riding, as military uniforms, as police uniforms, and as high fashion wear. Hollywood movie directors used to love them, and they are still the most practical wear for child equestrians.
The traditional jodhpur was roomy at the hip and tight-fitting from knee to ankle. It’s a good cut for riding, as it provides freedom of movement for hip and thigh but helps to give a good grip for the lower leg. Modern stretch fabrics have changed the need for the flared hip, which has totally gone out of fashion; today the styles are form-fitting.
Sir Pratap Singh, a younger son of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, introduced the style to England when his polo team arrived to play for the Queen. Although by definition the trousers extend to the ankle, the English players began wearing breeches that ended at mid-calf. They wore high boots with the shorter pants, while the genuine long pants are made to be worn with low shoes or paddock boots. The distinctive hip flare was retained.
The English adaptation became the norm for formal equestrian wear in England and then in the rest of the world, especially as women began to abandon the sidesaddle and ride astride. Perceived as upper-class wear, it became a symbol of military and police authority as well, being used in many uniforms. Hollywood movie directors liked to strut around in them, too.
However, the true jodhpur that extended to the ankle became standard wear for children, grooms, and for informal occasions. Short boots, called paddock boots, are better for children, who grow out of their shoes quickly, and are also suitable for working around horses and stables. Instructors say that it’s easier to see that riders are keeping the correct leg position when the full-length pants and shorter boots are worn.
Adults also often wear them with low boots and half-chaps or leggings, which protect the lower leg from chafing against the stirrup leathers. They make good work clothes around the barn. Riders seldom want to wear their tall, highly-polished boots for stable chores.
The pants are made with knee patches, both for protection and to help the rider grip the saddle, and with the seams on the outside of the leg to minimize rubbing. More modern styles often have seat patches as well, again for better grip, and may have the whole seat and inner leg lined with non-slip fabric fabric or leather. Seams need to be very strong to withstand the stress of vigorous equestrian exercise.
Jodhpurs in all colors are acceptable for informal occasions, but competition usually requires traditional beige or white. Saddlebred show riders wear a special style with a flared cuff that comes low over the heel, always in dark blue or black.