Getting ready for your first show is an exciting experience, but it can also be overwhelming. For your first show, your trainer is your best resource for choosing what to wear as some shows are more formal than others. In this guide we offer a general overview for standard show apparel for the hunter and dressage show rings.
Starting at the top, you’ll first want to take a look at the helmet you currently own. If you have a black, conservatively styled helmet then you are set for the show ring as long as it is clean and in good condition. If it’s in good condition, but a little on the dusty side, you can take a lint roller and gently go over the helmet to remove unwanted hair and dirt. However, if you have a brightly colored plastic schooling helmet you’ll need a different helmet for showing. The easiest and cheapest way to change out your helmet is to buy a black velvet cover, but these should only be used for local, schooling shows and, if you plan to continue showing, a show helmet should make its way into your budget. The Ovation Deluxe Schooling Helmet could easily enter the local, schooling show ring in its classic black color.
When getting ready to buy your show helmet you’ll also want to consider how you’ll wear your hair under the hat for shows. At the very least you should always wear a hair net to keep your hair neat and tidy. If your hair is longer a show bow is also a good option. For young girls in leadline and short stirrup classes, braided pigtails and bows are also correct.
A plain white show shirt, known as a ratcatcher, or a wrap collar show shirt is the most common and traditional style for the hunter ring. A pop of color on the inside of the cuffs and collar adds a bit of fun, and pale pastel colors are also acceptable. Ratcatchers, which have a separate fabric choker that goes over the normal shirt collar, are normally worn with a stock pin in gold or silver, while wrap collar shirts are typically left unadorned. The TuffRider Starter Show Shirt is a traditional ratcatcher shirt and available in white, light pink and blue.
For dressage, a plain white show shirt is also traditional, though you’ll want to look for one that has a small tabbed loop at the back of the collar to help keep your stock tie in place. A stock tie is worm with the show shirt and must be purchased separately and is always worn with a stock pin. Learning to tie a stock tie can be tricky at first, and these are available in pre-tied styles for ease of use, such as the Horze Shania Pre-Tied Stock.
Long sleeves are always proper regardless of discipline and short sleeves are generally frowned upon in the event that jackets are waived due to heat.
While a riding jacket may look like a suit jacket at first glance, riding jackets are tailored with horseback riding in mind and feature back vents to allow them to lay nicely over the saddle when the rider is seated.
For the hunter ring, a navy colored show jacket with self-colored buttons is always proper, with subtle patterns and plaids also being acceptable. Other conservative colors may also be acceptable, but it often depends on your region, leaving navy as the best choice for most people. These style of jackets also generally feature two back vents with a three button front. The RJ Classics Essential Washable Show Coat is Navy Herringbone offers a classically styled hunt coat with the added benefit of being machine washable.
For the dressage ring, black jackets with metallic buttons are common, and generally feature a longer cut than a hunter jacket to enhance and flatter the silhouette. Navy and other conservative colors may also be worn in dressage, but black is the most common color. These jackets generally feature four buttons in the front and a single back vent. The Horze Essential Competition Jacket is a great starter option that could easily cross over for eventing as well.
In the hunter show ring, tan or light beige breeches in a knee patch style are always correct, with the new euroseat style of knee patch breeches becoming increasingly popular. Euroseat breeches offer a fabric cut in the same pattern as fullseat breeches, but only have the patches at the knees. The Ovation EuroWeave DX Celebrity Knee Patch Breeches offer great fit and style and are available in light tan for the show ring.
Fullseat breeches are the most popular type of breeches for dressage and white is the favored color for this discipline. Knee patch or euroseat breeches may also be worn, but are less popular. The TuffRider Aerocool Fullseat Breeches feature moisture-wicking material perfect for summer shows and traditional fullseat style.
For the youngest riders jodphur pants are appropriate. A good, general guideline for age in the hunter ring is 11 to 13, depending on the mount. Most children on small to medium ponies will be in jods, while those on horses should be in breeches and tall boots. Children on large ponies have a little more flexibility in choosing either tall or short boots. The EquiStar Classic Cuff Jods are an affordable option for Jodphur pants.
Tall, black riding boots are always appropriate for the show ring and come in two main styles, the dress boot and the field boot. Leather is the favored material for riding boots, but synthetic materials are an economical alternative to leather for riders who are just starting out, or who are on a budget. If you’ve never ridden in tall boots before you’ll want to try schooling in them at least a few times before showing in them. When purchasing tall boots, you’ll also want to keep in mind that the leather will “drop” by 1/2″ to 3/4″ depending on the boot, as the leather breaks in and a wrinkle forms around the ankle.
Field boots are tall riding boots that feature lacing at the ankle, making it easier to bend the ankle for the shorter stirrups used for jumping and are the most popular boot for the hunter ring. The Ovation Flex Sport Field Boots are a nice, leather option for the show ring and feature an elastic lace.
Dress boots are the traditional style of boot that most people think of when they hear the words riding boot. These tall black boots have no laces and help to visually elongate the leg in the longer stirrups used for dressage. The Saxon Equileather Dress Boots offer a traditional dress boot style with an elastic gusset for easy wear and budget-friendly synthetic leather.
For young riders showing in jodphur pants, paddock boots are proper and are generally brown in color. If the child is showing in short boots and jods, they should also wear garter straps, which are a set of brown leather straps that are worn on the leg below the knee to help keep the riding pants in place.
All riders, regardless of discipline, should wear gloves in the show ring. Not only does it offer a finished look in the ring, it also functional. providing more grip on the reins. Black leather or synthetic gloves are correct for all levels of riders in the hunter ring and for lower level dressage shows. White gloves should only be worn by more advanced riders in the dressage ring. The Noble Outfitters All Reins Gloves are a great synthetic option, featuring a breathable stretch knit on the back of the hand and a synthetic leather grip on the palm.
Additionally, if your breeches have belt loops, you should always wear a belt. While a little bling or color on your belt is fine, for the most part your belt should be fairly conservative in black or brown leather. The Perri’s Padded Leather Belt is a nice option and allows you to add a bit of color, which can be coordinated with the colors of your show shirt.