Fair and fall show seasons evoke so many great memories. Starting out on my little Shetland pony and graduating to breed shows and beyond grounded me in life lessons too many to count! Preparation and professionalism being top-of-list and, always do and look your best.
There are several considerations to make when sprucing up show clothing or choosing a new show outfit. Horse show associations usually have rules governing attire. For example, the hunt seat division usually requires show coats in traditional conservative colors while the western division is more liberal. The right color can have a favorable or adverse effect on your desired outcome. Take a look at these questions to get started. Will you be showing indoor under artificial light or outside in the bright sunshine? What color is your horse? What color is your tack and saddle pad? Can you just dress in your favorite colors? Answers to these questions will weigh heavily on your decision as you put together the perfect show ready ensemble.
Let’s unpack this
Always start with silhouette and clean lines. Choose a color to compliment your horse’s coat color. For example, chestnuts look good in earth tones where a bay looks good in jewel tones. It is the same as finding the perfect dress to match your own hair and skin tone. Go to a department store and cruise the towel section. There is usually a great selection of colors. Choose a bath towel that most matches the color you are thinking of using. Shades of blue or green will work with most coat colors. Black and dark colors are always versatile and a good choice.
Evaluate to uncomplicate
Now take the towel to the barn and drape it on your horse like a saddle pad in the cross-ties and stand back to evaluate. Enlist someone’s help to take your horse to the indoor arena and outdoor paddock and stand at a distance similar to where a judge would stand (50-100 feet away) to see what the color actually looks like. At the show, take time while not showing to watch other classes. Look for horses with coat color similar to your horse and make note of how color plays a big role in overall appearance.
After settling on your new color, be sure it looks good on you too. Use a subdued “cool” version of that color as your base and then accessorize. Add a complimentary saddle pad or blanket to accent outfit and tack to pull everything together.
In the western division, the amount of bling you add will depend on where you are showing. Sequenced and jeweled outfits will play better indoor under soft light. If showing primarily outdoor, give careful consideration to the placement of your shimmer and shine, and factor in how the sun’s reflection will affect your ride.
For the purist, bling is frowned upon in the hunt seat division, although some leeway is afforded for tall boot detail, helmet bling, and shirt color. From the judge’s perspective, if you are wearing a lot of bling in showmanship or under saddle your position must be spot-on. Light sparkling from your outfit or tack appointments will be a beckon for anything out of position. After all, you want to draw attention to your performance not blind the judge!
A stitch in time
Tailored show clothing will make a big difference. Hunt coats, and western show jacket, vests and blouses should be form fitted. Attire for boys and men should be conservation, pressed, and complementary to the class. Call your local 4-H extension office to find a seamstress. They can put you in touch with sewing clubs in your county. Your outfit could be a 4-Hers projects for the year. Equitation and horsemanship clothing that moves in the breeze at a canter or lope can translate into looking out of position and could cost you a ribbon.
I know children grow, sometimes overnight! Be sure western pants are long enough to cover the boot to the heel while mounted. If your child shows in short stirrup classes and wears jodhpurs and paddock boots, don’t forget the garters or knee straps.
Budget friendly tip
Don’t feel like you need to break the bank. Buy a couple neutral pieces to base your show wardrobe around. Invest in a great western hat and keep it in a hat carrier so it will hold its shape longer. Keep your boots and tack clean and polished. Nothing says lack of preparation like a misshapen western hat or dusty hunt boots! Hey, you could use the towel you bought to clean your boots!
Written by Big Dee’s Web Product Specialist, Kathy Kilbane