So, your young equestrian has reached an exciting part in his or her riding career: a horse show! Horse shows are a fun way to show off your equestrian skills and know-how. And like so many other sports and disciplines, the outfit is EVERYTHING. We will walk you step by step through how to dress your child for an English style horse show.
Prepping for a Horse Show Starts with the Proper Outfit
Horse shows can be very exciting! They are a fun way to put all of those long-practiced skills on display. And while a horse show judge is of course going to critique everything from rider position to how the pony moves, horse show attire is extremely important. Just as you would never send your little leaguer onto the baseball field in a bathing suit, the same goes for horse showing and taking the time to make sure your child is properly outfitted. While slight variations may occur depending on the level of showing, age of rider, etc., there is a standard checklist of apparel that all riders should wear.
A little planning goes a LONG way.
Horse show mornings are notorious for their (VERY) early starts. A common start time for the first class of the day is 8 am. As you might imagine, this can mean for an early wakeup call, especially if you need to go to your barn and load your horse on the trailer.
We highly recommend packing your horse show bag the night before your show. This allows you to take your time and make sure you have everything you need.
English Shows have specific attire requirements.
Make sure you know exactly what type of horse show your child is entering so you know how to outfit him or her. This is a great time to consult your child’s trainer for recommendations. There is a big difference between English shows and Western shows. English schooling shows are typically a bit more laid back than traditional English shows. (For example, instead of a show shirt and hunt coat, a short sleeved polo shirt may be acceptable).
Let’s walk through each piece of the English competition attire.
How to Dress for a Horse Show
So we are going to assume a couple of things here. We are going to assume that your child is riding English and is competing in a standard (not a schooling) school. As we mentioned above, the dress code for these types of shows is a bit more formal than a school show.
I think the easiest way to approach this is to start from the top and work our way down (helmet down to to the boots).
Quite possibly the most important part of your child’s riding gear, you will want to make sure she has a properly fitted helmet. A black riding helmet is the standard for English shows. You can go with a black fabric-type covered helmet or a black hard plastic version. Save those brightly colored plastic riding helmets for lessons and less formal schooling shows.
If your daughter has long hair, two long braids with hair bows are a pretty popular way for the junior riders to put it up. Show bows come in all colors and designs. They are a fun way for riders to show off their personality and add a little color to their traditional riding outfit. Read more about horse show bows! (Alternate would be to tuck long hair up in a low ponytail or bun, held in a hair net.) Hair nets are common once a rider passes the junior stage of showing.
Shirt and Jacket
Show shirts come in all colors and you can choose between short sleeves or long. Now, some trainers will tell you that show shirts should always be long sleeved. This is in case it’s a ridiculously hot day, and the judge decides to dismiss jackets from being worn. We typically opt for long sleeved shirts for this reason. When my daughter was a very young leadliner, occasionally I would put her in short sleeved shirts during the blazing hot summer months.
For boys, a show shirt is simply a button down dress shirt. Instead of a stock pin, boys wear a necktie or bow tie.
Like show shirts, jackets come in many color choices. The most popular choices for hunt coat colors are navy blue and black, however gray, green and brown are options as well. Our best advice? Go with a machine washable hunt coat as opposed to one that’s dry-clean-only!
A pair of black leather riding gloves don’t just look sharp – they also help the rider keep a good grip on the reins.
Keep the colorful schooling tights for lessons. Show pants should be tan or beige. Occasionally you might see a pair of gray or rust colored pants. Keep the show jodhpurs looking crisp, clean and stain free for competitions!
Check to see if your jodhpurs came with straps. If not, you’ll need to pick up a pair. These elastic straps have leather ends which attach to the buttons inside the leg opening of the pants. These straps help to keep the pants down over the boot tops.
Garter straps are worn on each leg around the upper calf area. They might seem pretty pointless, but they actually serve a purpose. Garter straps help to keep the rider’s jodhpurs in place. These straps come in black or brown and you should match the color to your child’s boot color.
Another item that is an important accessory, even if it is typically covered by the rider’s coat is a belt. For horse show belts, you can pick a traditional leather belt (color matched to garter straps and boots) or you can have some fun and pick something colorful. My daughter loves wearing C4 belts when she rides.
The final piece of our horse show outfit, but certainly a very important one! Paddock Boots are a must for any junior rider. I highly suggest letting your child wear their boots to lessons to break them in and get used to riding in them. Don’t forget to pick up some boot polish! It’s important to polish those boots before each and every horse show. We keep this clear quick shine in the horse show bag. It is great for last minute touch-ups!
Looking Show Ring Ready
If you follow this list, you will be in great shape for your child’s first (and all subsequent) horse shows! The horse show outfit might seem daunting, but once you get a show or two under your belt, it will feel like second nature.
It is so important to have a properly outfitted equestrian and the youngest of kids will need a lot of help putting it all on. Then they grow up and really start to learn how to do a lot of it for themselves. We hope this helps to give you a better understanding of how to dress your child for a horse show!
Show day tip: Put sweatpants or pajama pants and a t-shirt or sweatshirt OVER your child’s horse show apparel to keep it clean and relatively mess-free until her class is called!