April 25, 2022 7 min read
Between the adrenaline of riding into the show ring and the hustle and bustle of the show grounds around you, horse shows are an absolutely next-level experience. Few things can bring you quite as high as winning a blue ribbon or make you feel quite as low as falling off or getting disqualified. Wearing the right horse show outfit is just one way to make your show day a little less stressful.
Unlike other English disciplines, there are three different levels of show jumping attire: formal jumper attire, proper attire, and standard jumper attire. Check your prize list and show rules to figure out which level is required for your next horse show.
Formal jumper attire is reserved for the most prestigious events and the highest levels of equestrian competition. Riders must wear dark-colored show coats. Scarlet show coats are allowed; however these are reserved as a sign of respect for Team USA riders only. Showing up in a scarlet show coat is a major faux pas, unless you ride for Team USA.
Pair your conservative show coat with a white show shirt that is tucked into a pair of white or fawn breeches. Your show shirt must be fastened at the neck and have a white tie, white choker collar, or hunting stock tie.
Tall boots are preferred, but technically half-chaps are also permitted as long as they match the color of your paddock boots. However, at this level of competition, half chaps and paddock boots are unheard of.
Police and members of the armed services are allowed to wear their formal dress uniform.
The level below formal jumper attire, this horse show outfit can be slightly more colorful. Fawn or white breeches are still required, but a show coat of any color is allowed, although conservative colors are traditional. Show shirts can be a little more colorful, as light color shirts with a choker collar and sleeves are permitted. The shirt must still be tucked into your breeches and fastened at the neck.
This is the least formal level of horse show outfit that you’ll see in the show jumping ring. In fact, it’s the most common style for show jumpers. No coat is required, although it can be worn at your discretion. Shirts still need a collar and sleeves, and must be tucked into your breeches. However, polo shirts are allowed.
Feel free to wear your half chaps, however, they must match in color to the rider’s paddock boots. Keep in mind that if you want to present the best image possible to the judge, tall boots are still a better option.
Recent rule changes have allowed dressage riders to be a little more creative with their horse show outfits. The two updates that will have the biggest impact on your attire are:
This means that riders can now wear any color of breeches, from a bright lagoon blue to black. The same goes for show jackets! 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.
The hunter ring has very close ties to the traditions of foxhunting, so the attire is very conservative and formal. Despite this, the USEF rules on horse show outfits in the hunter ring have surprisingly few official limitations and leave the majority of show outfit regulation up to the judge. Because the hunter ring is placed entirely on the discretion of the judge, it’s important to follow the spirit of the rules in order to place well.
For example, it states in the rulebook that a judge is not permitted to eliminate a rider based on their attire, unless it’s a safety issue. However, if you want to place in the ribbons, you’ll wear the appropriate horse show outfit.
Show shirts must have a choker or tie. Shirts that have the choker integrated into the shirt are permitted. Breeches should be either rust, tan, canary, buff, or white, but the most common color choice among hunter riders is overwhelmingly tan. Show coats should be dark in color. Most riders will choose to wear navy coats with three matching navy buttons. Protective helmets with chin straps are, of course, required on all competition grounds.
Footwear is not specifically mentioned in the USEF rulebook, but there are some unofficial regulations. Typically, all hunter riders over the age of twelve or thirteen wear tall boots. Young riders who are competing in the short stirrup or youth divisions typically wear garter straps and paddock boots, along with show bows in their hair.
When it comes to horse show outfits, eventing is the only discipline that doesn’t require just one outfit– instead, it requires three different outfits! Eventing is made up of three phases: dressage, show jumping, and cross country. Each phase has its own attire requirements.
The competition attire for dressage follows the same rules as any other dressage show. Show jumping typically follows the rules laid out under “Standard Jumper Attire,” but double-check the rules for your level at your specific show before attending. Cross country is where many equestrians go all out by color coordinating their shirt to their horse’s saddle pad and boots. Other equestrians choose to save some money by wearing the same breeches and show shirt for all three phases, and taking on and off the jacket as needed.
Whatever you decide to do, as long as you’re following the rules, there’s no wrong way to coordinate your horse show outfit for eventing!
Riders can wear any color jacket and any color show shirt, as long as the shirt has either a stock tie and pin, choker, or tie. Keep in mind that show jackets with tails are NOT permitted. Breeches should be a light color or white. Tall boots must be worn and should be black, brown, or another dark hue.
Riders should wear a lightweight shirt with sleeves and their preferred choice of neckline. Breeches and gloves (if you choose to wear them) are allowed in any color, while tall boots follow the same rules as in the dressage phase. A protective vest must be worn at all times on the cross country field, including during warm-up. While not required, USEF recommends that this vest should pass or surpass the current ASTM standard F1937 or be certified by the Safety Equipment Institute.
Jodhpurs or breeches must be a light color or white. Again, the breeches you wore in your dressage phase are fine, as long as they’re still clean! Black, brown, or dark-hued tall boots are required. Your show shirt can be of any color, but should have a stock tie and pin, choker collar, or tie. For Beginner Novice through Advanced, you can compete in the show jumping ring without a jacket, as long as the horse trial you’re competing in is completed within one day.
Plus, the best part about this outfit is that you can wear the breeches and the Nicolette show shirt in all three phases! Or, if you’d like to switch out your shirt for cross country, you can wear the colorful Lettia Sun Shirt instead.
Whether you compete in the hunter ring, dressage arena, or out on the cross country field, you can find everything you need for your next English horse show right here on Breeches.com. We want to make riding more affordable and more accessible for every equestrian– especially when it comes to horse show outfits. That’s why we prioritize high-quality products at affordable prices. For more horse show tips, check out this blog.
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