Battle of the Bling Heats up in English World


Ah, remember just a couple of show seasons ago, when it was all the rage to decorate the glossy stripe that ran down the front of the Euro-style safety helmets? The first artistic touches were colorful strips of tape that allowed English riders to flaunt their barn colors or complement their attire. What followed next was the application of Swarvoski crystals that bedazzled the helmets of hotshot junior riders. Alas, it got to the point where some horse show judges were allegedly shading their eyes from the sunlight sparkling off the riders’ helmets. Fearful that the bling revolution was spiraling out of control, the United States Equestrian Federation passed an amendment to the apparel rules for huntseat equitation classes. As of December 1, 2006, the rule regarding safety helmets mandates “conservative colored headgear with no additional adornment.” That amounts to a bling ban for equitation and medal class riders.

Hunter riders are also wise to beware of too much bling. Though there aren’t any specific rules admonishing “adornments” in hunter classes, it’s obvious that there’s a push for a return to traditional, conservative attire and tack. For this upcoming show year, keep your bling back at the barn.


  1. I’m not actively competing right now, but I think that the “bling ban” is actually a good thing. While I’m all for people being individuals, and expressing their sense of individuality and style, I have to say that I don’t think that flashy ornamentation belongs in the show ring.
    First, in performance classes, there is only one horse and rider in the arena at a time, so the judge’s eye is already completely focused on that horse and rider. Therefore any bling on a helmet or bridle is only going to distract the judge from watching for the horse and rider’s performance.
    Secondly, when judges do favor, or even appear to favor, riders who are at the front of a fashion trend, other riders will think that those things will get them noticed, too. So fashion that deviates from the tradition will put pressure on other riders to follow suit, and with how quickly fashion trends can take of and get out of hand, this could become a problem for those riders who can’t afford to keep up.
    This very problem has run rampant in the western pleasure arena for years. Riders feel pressured to buy or swap with other riders for the clothes that are in style, or risk the judge looking them over. Personally, I’m all for returning to more traditional and conservative attire in all equestrian sports and letting our and our horses’ performance speak for us.`

  2. I totally agree with leave the bling at the barn. Show it off to your friends but leave it out of the show ring. The first comment pretty much says it all. let your horses performance and your riding skills speak for themselves.

  3. I don’t think any bling should be allowed. Its to distracting and puts a status label on the rider and horse. Just look at western shows (pleasure, equitation etc.). If you don’t have a saddle thats at least half covered in silver and the most flashy outfit you wont even get looked at. I wish western showing would do away with all the glitz as well. Its like there is some unspoken rule saying if your not dripping in x amount of silver for this level of compition don’t bother. To heck with you or your horses talent. I am glad that the more working classes of western arn’t so bad I just hope they don’t take the same road.


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