What Not to Wear: Horse Show Edition


We all know that when you’re showing, the judge should be looking at you and your horse, not your clothes! But show clothing no-no’s, like wacky hair or neon pink gloves, can distract a judge, and this could affect your placing in a class. We’ve put together a few tips to make sure that you wear the correct gear in the show arena. You want the judge to notice you, not your aqua breeches!

Make sure that your jodhpurs or breeches fit you properly. You don’t want people noticing your baggy bloomers!

If you have long hair, braid it neatly so it lies on your back or flip it up so it fits up in your helmet and is covered. Always use a hairnet to control wispy, fly-away hair that can get in your face as you’re riding. Leave your show bow at home. No on really wears them anymore in the English show arena.

Boys, keep your hair short. Judges don’t like the hippy look!

Always wear an approved helmet in the show arena (and back at your farm, too!) This means a helmet that has been certified safe by the ASTM/SEI. Look for these labels in the hat. Your helmet should have a fixed leather or nylon chinstrap. Plastic chin straps look tacky—and they are usually on unapproved helmets.

Ask your trainer or some horsey pals to watch you try on helmets. Helmets come in all shapes and sizes and one brand might suit your head better than another brand. If your friends roll around on the floor laughing when you try on a helmet, it’s best to keep looking!

If you only have one helmet and it’s a schooling helmet, slip an inexpensive black cover on it when you go to a show. Judges don’t like to see bright red schooling helmets in the show arena!

If you wear white britches, don’t wear black or bright red or pink undies! They will show through the fabric and everyone will be able to see your underwear! Stick to white or beige underwear.

Stick to beige/khaki jodhpurs and breeches in the hunter and jumper ring. Save your fun purple breeches for cross-country jumping! And rust-colored breeches are old news! Give them back to your mom so she can relive her junior showing days!

Don’t wear a regular blazer to a show. They aren’t made to fit a rider like show coats. Hunt coats are cut to show off your equitation. They are short so you don’t sit on them when you sit back in the saddle.

Hunter riders usually wear field boots with laces on the front. Dressage riders usually wear dress-style boots with no laces. Don’t worry about this at lower level shows though!

This year, stock pins are out and cute embroidered chokers are in! Look for a local embroidery shop to stitch your initials or the picture of a horse on your show shirt collar. Bigger shows often have embroidery shops right on the show grounds.

Stock pins are still used for stock ties though—you see these in the dressage arena.

If you are serious about western showing, invest in a decent hat. A cheap straw one from Wal-Mart won’t do. Buy the best hat you can afford and have it professionally shaped. Take good care of it and it will last for years.

Make sure your hat fits you properly. People should be able to see your face when they look at you from the side.

Don’t wear your dirty schooling chaps in the show pen because the judge will think you just got done breaking a colt! Affordable equitation chaps will help you sit tall and secure, like a pro.

Tuxedo shirts and bowties are so yesterday! Slinkies with jackets or vests, or just starched, colorful western shirts (especially for guys) will tell the judge that you’re stylin‘ in the saddle!

When choosing western show clothes, try to choose colors that compliment your complexion—and your horse’s coat color. Try to coordinate your show blouse with your saddle blanket.

When choosing a western blouse, make sure the sleeves cover your wrists while you’re riding.

Don’t go crazy and use too many colors when choosing a western show outfit. Wear one base color with one accent color to create an elegant look.

Your chaps should cover your boot heels when you’re mounted.

If you’re going to show your horse in halter and showmanship classes, head to the western clothing shop to buy a fitted jacket and matching or contrasting dress pants. 

Western folks, don’t wear gloves in ridden classes. It’s a no-no. If you ride English-style, a pair of black gloves is a must!

If you wear jodhpurs in the show ring, use gaiters (leather bands with buckles) under your knees to prevent your joddies from riding up.


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