What To Wear in the Show Ring

  • User AvatarJulie Winkel
  • 21 Apr, 2015
  • 5 Mins Read

What To Wear in the Show Ring

Submitted by member: Katie

I have a question on show attire. What is the correct rider turnout for all three rings (hunter, jumper and equitation).

Answer by Julie Winkel

Hunter rider Louise Serio

For the hunter ring, I am a traditionalist. This division originated from the hunt field. Classic attire is timeless. I don’t like to see flashy, blingy, or the latest fad mar the overall look of the horse and their performance. That means conservative colored hunt coats, beige breeches, beautifully polished boots, traditional spurs, dark gloves and helmets without obvious adornments are a must. Navy and hunter green (which are extremely popular at the moment) coats are always in vogue. For summer I don’t mind lighter shades of blues, greys, browns and greens. Black is always okay, though a bit more formal in my opinion. Hair neatly contained in hairnets tucked up under the helmets is important to the overall look of classic and traditional attire. I’m not crazy about the excessive bows on the pony kids, especially if they cover the numbers and detract from the performance.

In the equitation ring, I feel that the attire should be similar to the hunter ring, although I prefer darker colored coats in the medals and important equitation classes. I feel strongly that dark gloves should be worn, as well as properly fitting spurs. I also like to see the riders carry a stick, as it is good horsemanship to understand and have the correct artificial aids. Since the rider is being judged in the equitation, polished boots and well-fitting hunt coats are even more important! With the craze of low-rise breeches, it becomes critical to have shirts that stay tucked in along with conservative belts!

In the jumper ring, I totally understand that the European influence has affected our sense of style dramatically over the past ten years. There is  every color and style of breeches imaginable to mankind and with a variety of bling. The riding shirts are as dramatic as the hunt coats, if a rider chooses to wear them. I realize fun and comfort are the key goals here, and as long as the requirements of the USEF rulebook are met regarding collared shirts, then all is good. I must say I will never get used to the flying ponytails, regardless of the famous European riders at the top of the sport that sport this style.

Jumper rider Natasha Traurig
Kenny Wheeler Hunter Breeding Attire

Hunter Breeding Attire
Kenny Wheeler

Photo Credit: SBW Archives
Chris Tolar, Liz Callar & Lynlee Dutton

Ray Francis Confirmation

Conformation Attire
Ray Francis

Photo Credit: SBW Archives
Chris Tolar, Liz Callarm & Lynlee Dutton

As far as the attire for handlers in the Hunter Breeding divisions, conservative and traditional are again at the top of the list for me. Whether male or female, I like to see khaki colored slacks, a nice dress shirt with a well-tailored blazer, paddock boots, and a hat of some sort. Any loud or outrageous clothing only detracts from the beauty of the horse. Boots, breeches and hard hats are always acceptable as well, since often times the handlers are also competing over fences in another ring.

Let’s remember this is supposed to be a HORSE show not a PEOPLE show, so as long as the attire compliments and embellishes the horse, it’s a good thing!

All the rules for these divisions can be found at USEF.org under the division rules.

Answer by Geoff Teall

Conservative is the key word in any division, but in particular in the Hunters and Equitation. I believe tastefully tailored, well fitting dark riding jackets are the only thing that is correct. I do not like the new jackets that are very short and made of new fabrics. I do not like the new lighter colored jackets. I certainly do not like any adornment on any of the rider’s attire (this includes jacket, hat, spurs, britches, etc). I think it is important for all of us to remember that this is a sport steeped in tradition and that tradition should be followed. There is a reason for everything we wear when we show horses, but beyond that, it is critical that we remember that our job as riders is to show off our horses, not to draw attention to ourselves. We owe the animals and the sport the respect to dress cleanly, conservatively and with good taste.

Answer by Olivia Loiacono

cross country rider Olivia Loiacono at Rolex Kentucky 3 day event

Photo Credit: Shannon Brinkman

For cross country at a three day event, you are required to wear the following:

  1. An SEI approved helmet.
I recommend a skull cap as they are better for “rolling” and protecting the neck.
  2. A hard shell vest, such as Tipperary.
 I highly recommend also using an air vest (Point Two or Hit Air) over top of the hard shell vest. These are not required yet, but should be in my opinion.
  3. Tall boots, no half chaps! 
Field boot style is best, as it allows more flexibility in ankle for comfort in shorter stirrup lengths.
  4. Medical Arm Band. Provides emergency contacts as well as medical information such as allergies, blood type etc.
  5. Any color breeches/belt and shirt covering shoulders.

We also wear “pinneys” that we put our numbers in. They are worn like vests as well. In addition to the rider wearing the number, the horse also has to wear one on the saddle pad or bridle. This is in-case we get “disconnected.”

Here are the optional/recommended items:

  1. XC watch
  2. Gloves
  3. Spurs/Whip

Answer by Verena Mahin

Correct show attire for the dressage ring consists of white or light colored riding pants, black boots, a white or light colored stock tie, light or dark colored gloves, along with an appropriate helmet. In cases of extreme temperatures, the stewards may waive the jackets. So in this case, you must wear a show shirt that consists of sleeves and a collar. From training level to 4th level, a dark colored short coat is required, whereas as you move to the FEI levels you get to wear the much sought after tail coat. It is also mandatory to wear spurs in the FEI levels. At all levels you may carry a whip that is no longer then 47.2 inches (except for championships, where no whip is allowed).

The riders hair must also be tied up in a bun or braid. Currently International competition still allows the classical top hat instead of the helmet (which is mandatory in the lower levels) but many riders are now wearing helmets at the International level.

The bottom line is, look neat, organized and show ready. Take pride in how you present yourself, and remember the judges are always taking notes 🙂

Happy showing everyone!

Dressage rider Verena Mahin

Photo Credit: Savannah Brentnall

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  1. Hi… I have a question with regards to the buttons on the hunt coat. For Hunters and equitation, does it matter if there are 4 buttons, or is the traditional 3 buttons preferred? Or do most judges not notice the number of buttons if the coat is well fitted and a dark navy blue.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Amy, I sent your question to “Ask The Experts” panelist Geoff Teall, here is his answer…
      “As a judge, I prefer the traditional 3 buttons on a hunt coat over the more modern style of having 4 buttons. Having said that, when judging hunters, after noticing something like this I try to concentrate more on the quality and jumping style of the horse I am judging as well as the round itself. I always want to separate the rounds I am judging based on something related to the quality of either the horse, his jumping style and movement or the round, NOT on the rider’s outfit. I feel the same while judging equitation. While I would notice something other than a traditional hunt coat with three buttons, I still would like to determine the outcome of the class based on the skills of the rider and the quality of the round itself. I think it is very important to maintain the traditions of the sport. I also feel strongly that the role of the rider, whether in the hunter or equitation division, is to show case the horse and to become invisible on him. In my world this responsibility falls to me when I am the trainer, not when I am the judge.”

  2. Is it appropriate, in hunter attire, to wear a fabulous, top of the line, dark brown tall boot ?? (clearly not asking about dressage, hunter to jump, etc)

    1. Anna-Marie Abell

      Thanks for the question! Here is Julie’s response: “Yes! Brown boots are old school, but traditional so they are fine to show in the Hunter ring “

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