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What’s winning in the equestrian sports bra world?

Read on to find our top 4 sports bras for horse riding

Sitting trot? Collected canter? Cross country? Which is it that gets you? I’m talking about breast pain. Horse riding is known to be one of the highest breast impact activities a woman can do, and yet do we all take care to wear a sports bra for horse riding that is up to task? Or do we just shrug and bear the bounce.

If you thought you were alone in this, guess what, this is not the case. In a survey conducted in 2018 by the University of Portsmouth of 1265 female horse riders, breast pain was experienced by 40% of all participants and this was significantly related to cup size- increasing linearly. Breast pain was experienced most frequently during sitting trot, and 21% of those reporting pain said it affected their horse riding performance. It has been found that excessive breast movement results in pectoral muscle tensing and breath holding to try and reduce it. In addition, painful straps and other bra related issues, were reported by 59% of participants.

What are my breasts made of?

Breasts are made of glandular tissue and fat with some strands of connective tissue (known as Cooper’s ligaments) running through. They are held up by nothing more than skin. WHATTTTT? I originally thought the Cooper’s ligaments were tough old fibrous bands- like the kind of ligaments that hold your joints together, that literally strapped your breasts onto your chest wall. But no, according to the University of Portsmouth Breast Health Research Group, this is not the case. Understanding this key feature of the anatomy helps you immediately realise why your breasts need significant support.

How big is big?

It is now recognised that more than 35% of women have what are deemed large or hypertrophic breasts. Large breasts are defined as breasts where each is over 700ml in volume. Hypertrophic breasts are greater than 1200ml each in volume. Just to put this in context- a pair of 700ml breasts would total up to be the equivalent of two loaves of white bread, 16 satsumas or a pair of 8 week old kittens (ahhhhh). A rack of 1200ml breasts equates to 2 pineapples, a standard sized brick or 2 toasters. View our bigger bust sports bra range.

It is difficult to equate these volumes exactly to bra sizes. Owing to differing back and cup sizes and breast shapes it is hard to be accurate. But hopefully the examples above give you a good idea. Whatever way you look at it, it’s a lot of weight to be held up by nothing more than skin. Unfortunately, large breasts do have negative health implications– they are associated with postural difficulties and musculoskeletal pain in shoulders, neck and back.

80% of women still wear the wrong bra size

Understanding breast anatomy also helps you understand why your breast size changes so readily- whether through hormonal cycles or weight change, the glands and fat content change accordingly and with that, your bra size. Just because you got measured 4 years ago- before you had a child, lost 2 stone and took up powerlifting, doesn’t mean that same fit still applies. Check out our fitting guide to help you assess how your current bras are fitting or if you need an update.

More than 80% of women have been found to be wearing the wrong bra size and the most common fit error found is wearing a band size that is too big. This is probably owing to the old school ‘add 4 inches’ measuring method (from when bras were made of satin and lace and had no stretch in them). So, make sure you are wearing the correct band size- it should be super snug feeling around your ribs, but still allow breathing (!) If you can pull the band out at the back more than a couple of inches, it is too big. 80% of a bra’s support comes from the band, so it needs to be a firm fit.

Why is horse riding a challenge for your chest?

Riding and equestrian activities are uniquely placed in terms of demands placed on a sports bra. The nature of the sport means that breast movement is not always a regular gentle 2 dimensional bounce, it can be a very erratic and 3 dimensional movement: the ultimate challenge in terms of support. So your sports bra for horse riding needs to give high impact support. Your bra also need to be comfortable enough to wear for long periods- we are often in them all day.

KnockerLocker recommends

Keep reading to find our top rated sports bras for horse riding.

Consider something with regular oriented straps or a wide racerback. Studies have show that a racerback option does not actually reduce bounce, but can be uncomfortable exerting pressure on the upper portion of the shoulder/ trapezius muscle when worn for long periods. Anita Active extreme control bra is a great option. It features three-section cups, supported at the sides with a clever side sling to provide maximum support. The combination of tailored, non-wired cups with a seamless inside means it is top notch for comfort. Soon to be available in nude to go under your white shirts.

Underwires or wire-free? It is very much a personal choice, I personally love an underwire sports bra, but I know many who don’t. A lot of new encapsulating bras have no underwires but feature moulded cups, so still offer the same great breast separation and support as their wired counterparts. view our non-wired sports bra range.

Runderwear Easy-On is a perfect example of this. Originally developed for runners, it has now become a firm favourite sports bra for horse riding in. The whole brand is built around providing non-chafing underwear and the bras are no exception, offering super soft, amazing support. The cut away at the front of the arms- originally to allow for arm motion whilst running, is brilliant for riders holding the reins.

Read more of the Runderwear brand story here.

We also love the ultimate horse riding bra from Panache. This wired, moulded bra can be converted into a racerback with a J hook at the back. Meaning you can wear it regularly oriented for mucking out and go for the more secure racerback orientation when you mount up. 

If you do love an underwire and are of more ample bosom- the Elomi Energise is one to look at. Developed specifically for larger breasts, the encapsulating, non-compression technology is what makes it such a winning sports bra for horse riding. Its four section cup that offers not only bust separation and shaping, but also all the support you need. Also available in white for under your competition shirts! If you hate an underwire and are of more ample bosom- it is the Enell Sports bra all the way! Front fastening, wide backed and available in white, covering upto 42 band size. View our other plus size sports bra here.

And lastly, please please please, do not wear a crop top if you are more than a petite C cup. They simply do not provide the support your breasts need and ultimately, skin stretches and they will sag. They are also the culprits behind much breast chafing that goes on.

All of these bras are rated as Power 4 by KnockerLocker- this means our DD+ cups find these good for all high impact activities. For other Power 4 rated bras, see here.

Ladies, get yourselves into the right sports bra for horse riding to give your breasts the best support they can get, leaving you free to focus on remembering your dressage test! Remember that 5% of the price you pay for every bra at KnockerLocker goes straight to Pink Ribbon Foundation, supporting those whose lives are affected by breast cancer.