How to dress your child for a horse show

If your child plans to compete in an English horse show, what should she wear? (Read this article for tips on Western horse show attire.) Although several factors dictate the what-to-wear decision (including type/level of show, class, age of rider, and trainer preference), dressing your child for a horse show generally includes a few essentials, plus several nice-to-have accessories.

Take a look:

  • Boots. Depending on your child’s age, they will need either ankle-length paddock boots (usually black or brown and most appropriate when riding a pony) or knee-length tall boots (usually black) when they move up to a horse. (Hint: For easy-on-easy-off tall boots, buy a pair with a zipper!) Shine those boots after she mounts for a clean, elegant look on show day.
  • Pants. Called jodhpurs or breeches, these specialty pants should be tan, comfortable and well-fitting. White is appropriate for Finals classes in national shows.
  • Belt. Classic minded? Opt for a thin black or brown belt. (Tip: Match the belt color to the boots.) However the belt is a new accessory you can really show personality with. Thanks to new companies like C4 Belts, you can find fun patterns and colors to add a fun look to your show attire.
  • Shirt. Your child should coordinate her shirt with her jacket so they complement one another. Generally, riders wear white, buttoned-down, collared shirts, but soft pastels and patterns are also acceptable. Companies now offer cool-tek fabrics with SPF factors that are now appropriate as well.
  • Jacket. In general, stick with conservative colors for the jacket (such as black, navy, hunter green, brown or gray) and look for a tailored fit (narrow waist and square-fitting shoulders). Hunter class requires three-buttoned jackets, while jumper class can opt for three- or four-buttoned jackets.
  • Helmet. Capping off the look (literally), a traditional, black velvet helmet (ASTM/SEI approved) provides protection from head injury and conveys professionalism. Your price range can dictate your choice as helmets can range from under $100 to over $500.
  • Accessories:
    • Hair bows: Use hairnets and hair bows to keep longer hair tidy and to present a clean, crisp look. Besides presenting a polished appearance, hair bows allow you to express your style and individuality. (For more helpful tips, check out some of our previous blog posts, such as 5 Tips for How to Wear a Great Hair Bow, Braiding Guidelines, and Do Bow Size and Shape Matter? And for great styling tips, check out our YouTube Channel.)
    • Garter Straps: Worn just below the knee, garter straps help break the look for the eye when breeches are worn with paddock boots. These apply to all children showing.
    • Gloves: Marrying comfort, style, and performance, gloves should either be black or match the color of other leather pieces such as boots or tack.

Remember, the equestrian sport thrives on tradition. For a wonderful perspective from a former show judge, read, “Let’s Not Lose Our Traditional Attire,” published in USHJA In Stride.