So I headed over to Dover Saddlery in Chantilly, VA, where I knew I'd find more than enough choices to supplement my dwindling wardrobe. In the past, I've definitely favored breeches over tights because I like the extra thickness of fabric that breeches have and they somehow seemed more "dressagey" because of the civilized snap and zipper. But, now that I'm putting on a lot more miles and doing it in all kinds of heat and rain, I realized that tights were going to be a better choice. I had found that the pair of Kerrits tights I had worked the best for me, so I had my eye out for similar products.
I ended up choosing three pairs of tights. I loved the idea of the Kerrits IceFil Tech Tight. These tights had neither a full-seat (which I have grown to dislike because it not only feels like I'm wearing a diaper, but because I feel like the extra money for the full-seat doesn't really get me much in terms of security in the saddle) nor knee-patches, which had been causing some chafing issues. I was worried that the bunching of the knee-patch would always cause chafing on my inner knee with enough riding, and I figured tights without any extra fabric on the knee would be great. Plus, the tights had this funky silicone carrot pattern where the full-seat and knee-patch would normally be and these tiny silicone carrots were supposed to provide some extra grip in the saddle, without being bulky. And, as if all that weren't enough, the fabric was actually supposed to keep your skin several degrees cooler than normal, which sounded fantastic for riding in hot, humid weather.
The second tight I choose was the Kerrits Flow-Rise Performance Riding Tight. I've always loved Kerrits breeches, and I figured this model was similar to the one I already had, but in much cooler colors. And the knee-patch material seemed pretty thin, so I hoped that would mean no chafing. I picked up a pair in Peri 2- Tone and imagined that I would look really endurance-like with my colored tights. Especially if I paired the tights with something of a different, yet bright color:)
Finally, I picked out a pair of Soybu Riding Tights. I wanted to try a brand other than Kerrits and these tights seemed reasonably priced and very good quality. Plus, the knee-patches were quite thin and you can never go wrong with basic black tights:)
Over the next couple of months, I tested out the tights in a variety of conditions and ended up finding one that really hit all of my requirements. In no particular order, I was looking for a tight that:
- is easy to move in, regardless of whether I am riding or walking;
- can handle getting completely drenched and still be easy to move in, regardless of whether I am riding or walking;
- looks reasonably decent when worn by me, who is not a supermodel, or anything close to a supermodel;
- washes well and doesn't require anything special in terms of soap or drying (in other words, no real leather); and
- provides a small amount of friction in the saddle, so as to keep me from sliding off in a heap every time my horse spooks a little (I just have a smooth-seat saddle and there's not a lot of grippiness), but not so much friction as to cause anything unpleasant after 20 plus miles.
The next tights I tested were the Kerrits Flow-Rise Performance tights. I had really high hopes for these because I was in love with the thought of being able to wear more color. These tights fit great and were comfortable in the saddle and out. In fact, these were the tights I wore on my epic ride a few weeks ago. They got soaked and stayed that way for probably a couple of hours and at no point did I feel anything different than I did when they were dry and there was no chafing. The only thing that bothered me about them was that the waist band was too compressive. So I felt a bit squeezed when I first put them on, although after riding for awhile, I didn't notice the compression as much. I also found that having my thigh be a giant block of color was not as flattering as I thought it would be. I almost hesitate to say that because I really think that endurance riding has to be function over form and no matter how ugly something is, if it works, that's what matters. But, with so many choices for breeches and riding tights, it seems like a person ought to be able to get both form and function.
And that is where the Soybu tight comes in. This tight is so comfortable, I've been known to keep it on after I get home from the barn and even sleep in it. The very first time I rode in it, I got caught in a downpour while I was walking on foot with my horse cooling him out and we were a half-mile away from the barn. I was drenched in a matter of seconds, but the tight never sagged or felt uncomfortable during my walk back to the barn. And it has performed the same way under saddle when wet. Plus, it has no weird thigh seams or color blocks, and no compression waist band to make me feel restricted or self-conscious. It washes up well and it has a little bit of texture to the fabric which provides a small amount of friction, but nothing that has caused any unladylike chafing thus far.
I will say that while the Soybu tight was the winner in my little impromptu competition, the Kerrits Flow-Rise tight was a close second. And I think if the Kerrits IceFil tight could get rid of the weird thigh seam and make the silicone carrots a bit more grippy, it would be a great choice too.
Note: I paid full price (with my own money) for all three tights that I tested. I don't have any affiliation with Dover Saddlery, Kerrits, Soybu, or any other company. The views I expressed in this post are solely my opinion.