Eventing Cross Country – Rider Dress & Horse Tack Rules Explained

Cross Country Dress Rules for the Rider

When competing under British Eventing rules, there are a number of core dress rules for the rider for the Cross Country phase:

Cross Country Protective Headwear is a ‘Jockey Skull’ of an elliptical or an even round shape with a slightly abrasive or smooth surface, which must not have a peak or peak type extensions. Cross Country Protective Headwear must be worn when mounted, this includes exercising, warming up or competing, and conform to the following standards;

To compete in British Eventing Competitions your riding hat needs to meet one of the following safety standards.

  • PAS015 (1998 or 2011) plus BSI Kitemark or Inspec IC Mark
  • VG01.040 2014-12 plus BSI Kitemark or Inspec IC Mark
  • ASTM F1163: 2004a onwards plus SEI Mark
  • SNELL E2001 or E2016
  • AS/NZS 3838 2006 onwards plus SAI Global Mark

All hats must be ‘hat tagged’ by a British Eventing official for compliance.

A removable hat cover with a light flexible peak may be used.

 Body Protector is mandatory for Cross Country and must comply with the following requirements:

  • A British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) approved and appropriate labelled ‘Level 3 Body protector’ (2009 or 2018 year) and manufactured in 2009 or after.
  • An Exo Body Cage must be declared at the Event Secretary prior to the Cross Country phase if worn.

Competitors are recommended to check their body protectors on a regular basis and if damaged they should be replaced.

Inflatable/air jackets must have a body protector underneath if worn on the cross country phase.

A sweater, shirt or cross country baselayer should be worn. Long sleeves are highly recommended for added protection. Shirts can be any colour.

Breeches can be a colour of your choosing. Most riders choose to wear a traditional pale colour, however some riders are now choosing to wear black, navy or even colourful breeches when competing.

Long Riding Boots, or jodhpur boots with self coloured gaiters, must be worn for the cross country phase.

Numbers must be clearly visible for the Cross Country phase.

Spurs are optional at all levels. Spurs must be made of smooth metal, blunt and incapable of wounding a horse. Metal spurs with round plastic, metal or rubber knobs are allowed. Rowel spurs which rotate freely and are round and smooth are permitted but not in the Young Horse Classes. Dummy spurs are permitted with a shank less than 4cm long and point towards the rear and if curved must point downwards.

One Whip may be carried which must not be any longer than 75cm and not weighted

Jewellery if worn can increase the risk of injury. Competitors are strongly advised to remove all jewellery especially before the Showjumping and cross country phases. Long hair should also be appropriately secured.

Tack Rules for the Horse

There are certain tack requirements for your horse when competing under British Eventing rules for the Showjumping phase. Here we explain a brief overview of the 2020 British Eventing Rules and Members’ Handbook 2020. In essence British Dressage and British Showjumping rules govern the dressage and showjumping tack phase except where modified British Eventing rules apply – Rule 7.19.7.

An English or Continental style saddle with a pommel, cantle and flaps. This includes treeless saddles. Side saddles are not allowed. The saddle should be either black or brown, navy and grey in colour.

A gel pad/memory foam or sheepskin seat is permitted as long as it is unobtrusive and matches the colour of the saddle.

Unless a dispensation had been granted, velcro straps from the girth to the stirrup iron or a mechanical means of fixing the rider’s boot to a stirrup iron is not permitted.

The horse must wear a conventional bridle with a bit, noseband and browband. The reins are to be attached to the bridle via the bit. The bridle colour is predominately black or brown (again navy and grey are also permitted). Discreet padding on the noseband and headpiece/poll area is permitted. Padding is not permitted on the cheek piece area or the front of the noseband.


  • A snaffle bridle can be worn in the cross country phase for all levels. Permitted snaffle bits include:
  • An ordinary plain straight bar or jointed centre snaffle
  • Ordinary snaffle with double-jointed mouthpiece including French link and with a lozenge
  • D Ring Racing snaffle
  • Egg-butt snaffles with or without cheeks
  • Snaffle with upper cheeks only
  • Rubber, leather, plastic or steel unjointed or jointed snaffles
  • Hanging cheek snaffle

British Eventing Rule 7.19.7 allows competitors to use any normal jumping bit, Pelham, American or continental gag, hackamore and any form of bitless bridle. Reins may be attached to leather ‘D’ rings. Competitors may not use a Market Harborough or a curb rein which passes through the rings of a running martingale. Stirrup leathers must hang outside the flap of the saddle.

British Eventing has produced a table which defines the saddlery that is permitted, not permitted or compulsory at each phase.


Riding In Exercise Areas Lungeing Dressage Tests Show Jumping & Cross Country
Bit guard & tongue guard Y Y N Y
Nose net Y Y Y Y
Ear covers *1 Y Y Y Y
Ear plugs N Y N N
Fly fringe Y Y N *3 N *3
Face masks *5 NOT PERMITTED
Snaffle bridle/ Micklem multi-bridle/ST-Zaum/Freeflex/Stubben Freedom/PS of Sweden High Jump/ PS of Sweden Jump off/ Collegiate Comfitec/ Jeffries Gentle Bridle/Grackle. Bridles must be used with a permitted bit, without bit clips and with a throatlash Y Y Y Y
Double bridle Y Y N *4 Y
Running and Irish martingale Y Y N Y
Bib martingale Y Y N Y
Side, running reins and chambons N Y N N
Neck strap Y Y Y Y
Seat covers Y Y X Y
Boots, Bandages Y Y N Y
Equiboots/Hoofboots Y Y N N
English style saddle COMPULSORY
Flash, crossed (incl. grackle/Mexican) or dropped noseband only with snaffle bridle PERMITTED
Cavesson noseband PERMITTED *2
Breast plat PERMITTED
Tongue Strao and/or tying down the horse’s tongue NOT PERMITTED
Standing martingale NOT PERMITTED
Any other form or martingale or gadget NOT PERMITTED
Sheepskin cheekpieces and any other attachment fitted to the cheek pieces that may affect the horse’s vision NOT PERMITTED
Sheepskin noseband *6 Y Y N Y
Coloured stirrups Y Y N Y
Body bandage/spur pad Y Y N Y
Stirrups which can be attached by magnets or other means to riders’ boots NOT PERMITTED

Source: British Eventing Members Handbook

*1 Ear Covers / Protective Fly Hoods are permitted and may provide noise reductions. The ear covers should be discreet in colour and design. Ear covers may not be attached to the noseband.
*2 Compulsory with a double bridle
*3 Only permitted if specially authorised for all competitors in exceptional climatic conditions by a BE Steward
*4 Double bridles are only permitted at Intermediate Novice and above for dressage
*5 Equivizor is permitted for warming up on the flay with clear lenses
*6 Sheepskin shall not be used on a Grackle/X noseband other than on the crossover section.