Up until recently, riders at dressage shows have looked a dime a dozen with matching black coats, white shirts, and white breeches. If you’ve been waiting with bated breath for the day you can add a little color to your dressage attire– the wait is over.
Two new rule changes have allowed riders to be a little more creative with their dressage show outfits. Here they are, verbatim, straight from the USEF rule book:
- “Any single color jacket or tailcoat is permitted and may have subtle pinstriping, checks or tweeds. Striped or multicolored jackets or coats are not permitted. Tasteful and discreet accents, such as a collar of a different hue, modest piping, or crystal decorations, are acceptable.”
- “White, light or dark-colored breeches or jodhpurs are permitted in competition. Bright colors or patterns are not permitted. Contrast piping is allowed.”
These new dressage rules signal a massive change in the sport. Before you start making big changes to your wardrobe, it’s important that you understand all the nuances of these new regulations.
Dressage Attire Rule #1 Explained
The first rule is dedicated solely to the regulation of show coats. In recent years, you may notice a rising trend of dressage jackets featuring various colors of piping, crystals, or other small accents. Up until now, these accents have had to be extremely subtle so as not to break the rules. However, thanks to the rule change, piping, crystal decorations, and colorful accents are explicitly allowed in the show ring.
But don’t go hog wild with crystal accents just yet; there is one caveat. Note the addition of the phrase “tasteful and discreet.” This phrase essentially leaves it up to the judge to regulate your show coat. If they feel that your dressage attire is distasteful or overly colorful, they could possibly deduct points from your score.
Most dressage score sheets do not have a box explicitly for rider attire, but the judge could make a comment under further remarks. A particularly grumpy judge could even deduct points from your score for your position and aids.
Remember, the phrase “tasteful and discreet” is entirely subjective. One judge could find your dressage attire elegant, while another could hate it. As the sport of dressage goes through this transformation, it is inevitable that some judges will resist change.
Dressage Attire Rule #2 Explained
The second rule on our list deals explicitly with the rider’s breeches. Previously, only white (or tan at lower level competitions) were allowed. Now, the new rule states “white, light or dark-colored breeches or jodhpurs are permitted.” Even contrast piping is allowed!
This rule can be slightly confusing as it also states that bright colors are not allowed. Some equestrians would consider white a “bright” color. So, how are you supposed to be able to tell what’s allowed and what’s not?
Luckily for competitive dressage riders, the official USDF Instagram account recently shared a handy graphic on their social media page.
As you’ll notice in the graphic, if you stick to pastel-colored breeches, traditional colors (tan, rust, white), and dark colors (navy, black forest, brown), you’re in the clear. When it comes to subjective or easily-misinterpreted wording like “bright colors,” it’s important to go straight to the source. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted dressage authority figure or organization to ask questions.
The Rest of Your Attire
The dressage arena is shedding its old skin of white and black. Pretty soon, dressage shows will be filled with beautiful, brightly-colored riders in every shade of the rainbow. But, there are still strict rules for the rest of your attire.
When it comes to boots and gloves, half chaps and paddock boots are permitted if you’re riding below Fourth Level; garter straps are also allowed, although not very fashionable. If you’re competing above Fourth Level, tall boots are required in either dress or field style, or any variation thereof.
Gloves are recommended to be worn in a light color, although any solid color is permitted if you’re competing below Fourth Level. However, black, brown, or white gloves are required for all FEI tests.
A show shirt combined with a tie, choker, stock tie, or built-in wraparound collar is required at all levels. But, and here’s another new rule, stock ties may be any color.
Dressage Show Outfit Suggestions
If you’re looking forward to riding in something a little less traditional and a little more colorful at your next dressage show, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to find out what we think you should wear to your next dressage show, if you’re excited to embrace the new rules.
Alternatively, if you want to honor tradition and stick to black and white, that’s okay too! Check out our dressage show attire recommendations on our blog, “Which Horse Show Outfit Do You Need?”
If you love drama, then you need the Danvers Show Coat in wine. Made from a comfortable, stretchy fabric, this show coat features convenient snap buttons and a hidden zipper for extra security. While the piping appears to be off-white from a distance, a closer look reveals subtle blue diagonal striping. And, perhaps best of all, this show coat is machine washable and easy to care for.
Pair your new wine show coat with the Blakely Full Seat Breeches in a dramatic black. Crystal details on the belt loop and buttons add just a hint of bling, which can be easily hidden by your show coat, if desired. Contrast white stitching matches the piping on the show coat for a polished look.
Finish off your new dressage attire with the Smyrna Show Shirt in wine. The unique design of this shirt means that it has a secret. All the judge will be able to see is what appears to be a traditional white show shirt with the required wraparound collar. But if your show coat is removed, a wine print in deep red travels down both arms, from shoulder to wrist, ending in a white cuff.
Equine Couture is working to create a brand new collection of attire to fully embrace these new rules, as well as bring fun equestrian style to other show rings as well. The Spicy Girl Collection will feature fashion-forward designs, like cutouts, and is inspired by cutting-edge trends in modern fashion. Designed by Laurie Sharma and Lauren Brody, these two competitive showjumpers hope to showcase out-of-the-box, couture style with a line that’s a little more risqué than your typical horse show outfit.
Keep an eye on Breeches.com for the Spicy Girl Collection, coming soon!
For more horse show season tips, check out this blog.