We have a list of recommended clothing and equipment for downloading on our site for Stone Horse Expeditions & Travel, where boots and hat are mentioned. But I would like to stress the importance of a good hat and adequate foot wear a bit more. It is not for looks but for very practical reasons. Whether it is against sun, rain or wind – a hat with a good brim and from a material that is a bit firm, like a good quality felt, leather or a strong plant fiber, will give you very good protection. I have been wearing my felt cowboy/girl hat way into the colder season and found it to be quite warm, as the wide brim breaks the cold wind. And in the hot sun, I would be in very bad shape without my hat that provides shade for my face and gives all round protection. A bandana (or kerchief) as a neckerchief will also protect your neck and is a good addition to protect against sun or a cool wind. These “cowboy” items do have a very practical application, but you can choose whatever style you like as long as the hat has a brim that is a bit stiff and is of a material that is somewhat water repellent. Another very handy feature to have with your hat is a string that you can pull tight if a wind blows or if your horse’s gait picks up. You don’t want to lose your hat – though it does happen to the most experienced riders occasionally. With a string you can take off the hat and keep it on your back for a while if you want. A baseball cap is an option also, but I would definitely recommend a wide brim hat.
When traveling with Mongolian people, or visiting a ger (yurt) of a nomadic family, you’ll want to treat your and any other hat with care. If you take it off, don’t put it on the ground, but somewhere safe. Don’t put it upside down. Hats are treated with respect. Given their function in protecting your head and face, they do deserve it. A good hat can really make a difference for your riding holiday in Mongolia. It’s the Land of the Blue Sky and the sun shines a lot!
Boots or footwear that performs the same function are just as important for a safe and enjoyable horseback riding tour. Firstly, your boots or shoes should have a heel. Around an inch is perfect. You probably don’t want more than 2 inches. The reason that cowboy/girl boots have the heels they have is to prevent the foot from slipping through the stir-up. This is a very important safety concern which we at Stone Horse address by fixing safety cages to the stir-ups of all guest saddles. However, we still recommend footwear with a heel, as it does make your foot sit better and more securely in the stir-ups. The ideal boots would have a heel, a sole with a bit of a profile as you also do walk around camp, or may want to climb a hill for a nice view above the scenic campsites; and they should be reasonably sturdy for backcountry travel. I prefer short “Roper” boots, but that’s really a personal preference and we have had guests with different riding or other boots that have served them very well. Buying your boots in Ulaanbaatar is an option. You can get them on the “Black Market” – a large outdoor market where you can buy anything – where a large selection of Mongolian made boots are sold for a reasonable price. There is of course a slight risk if you set out in brand new boots that may give you blisters. But if you do arrive without riding foot wear, a stop-over at the market to buy boots is possible. At the market you will see also the traditional Mongolian boots with the pointy tips bend upwards and with beautiful decorations as well as warm felt liners for winter boots.
If you opt for other footwear, then half chaps made from a fairly strong leather or compatible material are a must. This is to protect your lower legs from chafing on longer rides. Our list of recommended clothing and equipment also gives some tips where to get half chaps.
Having mentioned hat and kerchief for sun protection, you may also want to consider a pair of light sun gloves if you are concerned or particularly susceptible to sun. Riding in sunshine does expose the back of your hands a lot. You can get fingerless sun gloves if you prefer.
However, hats and boots (or half chaps) definitely should be part of your outfit for your riding adventure, for protection against the elements. And after all – it does look pretty good. Think of the pictures of your horse riding holiday in Mongolia that you will want to share…!