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Tips for the Rider: What to Wear to Your First Show!
With summer approaching, thousands of young (and not so young!) riders will begin their equestrian competitive journey with their very first horse show. This is an event that will never be forgotten - the hours of tack cleaning, the attempts at braiding, the early morning wake-up, the nerves. But what will be remembered most? The clothes! Let’s face it, for any new English rider, putting on that hunt coat for the first time is a big deal!
Even if it is just a schooling show at your home barn, the clothes really do matter. Not because the judges pay attention to the clothes; they don’t, that’s a myth. Rather, it matters because of tradition, respect for the sport, and mostly for the indescribable feeling of putting on that hunt coat, and actually riding in competition.
Does that mean you have to spend a fortune? Absolutely not! While the sky is the limit on how much you could spend on show clothing, you certainly don’t have to. And for your first show, you probably shouldn’t. The kids are going to grow out of their show clothes. The clothes they wear this season won’t work next year, and maybe not even six months from now. While the adult rider won’t grow out of their clothes, as they move up the ranks they will probably want to upgrade. No sense breaking the bank the first time out.
What will I Need?
The basics are pretty simple. For hunt seat classes, you’ll need a dark hunt coat, light colored show shirt, and light colored breeches. The younger kids will wear jodhpurs instead of breeches. The age break for the transition from jodhpurs to breeches can vary regionally. Check with your trainer or someone who has shown in the same venue before.
What about Boots?
The kids wear short paddock or jod boots, to match their jodhpurs. Adult and teen hunt seat riders generally wear tall field boots. For most small shows, either synthetic tall boots or paddock boot and half chap combinations are just fine. There is no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on show boots. (By the way, crazy socks under your tall boots are all the rage. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to personalize your show turnout)
What about the Guys?
Men and boys wear the same basic attire, with shirt and tie replacing the show shirt. Truth be told, novice level men’s English show clothing can be a challenge to find. At Equestrian Collections, we carry virtually every line of beginner to intermediate men’s show clothing – and there still isn’t an adequate selection!
What about a Helmet?
Of course you will need a helmet!! Any time you are mounted you will need to have an ASTM approved helmet on your head and fastened properly. Not only is it required by all the show associations, it’s just common sense. Any dark, unadorned, approved helmet will do, though traditionally show helmets are velvet or velveteen.
If you have long hair you will need to put your hair up. The youngest riders look cute with braids and ribbons, as long as the braids don’t cover their numbers. This style is definitely only for the under ten crowd! For everyone else, a neat low bun, with a hairnet, is the way to go. It’s unobtrusive and won’t affect the way your helmet fits. Don’t plan to put your hair under your helmet unless you regularly ride that way. It will make you helmet uncomfortably tight.
Gloves are traditional, but not required. Black or brown is the norm (save the white for Dressage!), but if you haven’t worn gloves before, don’t start now. They will feel odd at first and may affect your rein aids.
Finally, ask your trainer if you should carry a crop or wear spurs. It is traditional to do so, but some trainers prefer that beginners do not. Like gloves, show day is not the day to start! If you do use them, simple, black or brown crop and basic Prince of Wales spurs are the way the go. This is not the occasion for bright colors, fun shapes, or rhinestones!
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