Sunday, January 9, 2011

What to Wear to Your First Show (Rider)

The answer to what you should wear to your first hunter/jumper show will, of course, depend on what level you are planning on showing at. The attire at an in-barn schooling show can be quite different from that at a nationally-sanctioned competition, so it's important to find out which set of rules will be followed at each particular show.

If a show is advertised as being sanctioned, licensed or recognized by a national federation (in Canada these would be Bronze-, Silver- or Gold-level competitions), you will need to follow the national rule book. If you need to pay for a national membership in order to show, chances are that the show will be following the rules of that national federation. Most rule books are available online (go here for the Equine Canada Hunter/Jumper rule book and here for the USEF rule books) and will specify what is required in terms of dress. Failure to follow those rules will result in your elimination at the show.

At a recognized show, all you must do is follow the rules to be dressed appropriately for the show. When it comes to unsanctioned schooling shows, however, it is not always clear what is expected.

It is, of course, always safest to arrive at the show in full formal show attire (jacket, show shirt, beige breeches and appropriate boots), but it is not always necessary and can be more of a monetary commitment than might be desired by someone who wants to try showing for the first time.

The best way to find out what a particular schooling show considers acceptable is to contact the show organizers directly. If you are told that formal attire will not be necessary, the next step will be to find an outfit that is neat and appropriate. Here is a list of what you might want to consider wearing for an informal schooling show:

Helmet: Any approved helmet will do at the schooling level, although the more conservative the colour and design, the better when it comes to hunter and equitation classes.

Hair: If you have long hair, it should always be contained within a hairnet when you show. "Show bows", decorative hairnets that are meant to hang down your neck, are not generally considered appropriate in the hunter ring. Most hunter riders will flip their hair up under the helmet after putting it in a low ponytail to keep it neat and tidy. A regular hairnet should be used over top for long hair. If you are not comfortable putting your hair under your helmet, some riders will braid their hair and then tuck the braid down the back of their collar. For the jumpers, a ponytail will do but most riders will put their hair under the helmet instead to look as neat as possible.

For short stirrup riders or those riding small or medium ponies, putting the hair in two braids can be appropriate, along with a bow at the end of each braid.

Shirt: For informal summer shows, a tucked-in, solid-coloured polo shirt will be acceptable. In the winter, a tucked-in, solid-coloured turtle neck would also be appropriate. A collared show shirt would, of course, be best for a hunter or equitation class if you have one.

Jacket: In cooler weather, a fitted, solid-coloured sweater can be worn over your shirt. In the winter or if it is raining, a coat can be worn but the less bulky, the better. If you are on a budget and need to wear formal attire for a schooling show, a well-fitting blazer from a used clothing store can do the trick. Navy blue is the most classic colour for the hunter ring, but black, grey, brown and green are also acceptable.

Gloves: Riding gloves are not necessary but they do provide a nice finishing touch. Leather gloves are the classic choice but any type is acceptable. Black or brown gloves provide the nicest picture, while white gloves stand out too much and are not appropriate for hunter or equitation classes.

Breeches: Breeches should be beige or greenish-beige for showing. At very informal shows, darker breeches could be seen. At the schooling level, cleanliness and fit matter more than material or cut. White breeches are not appropriate for hunter classes. In the jumper ring, they are really only appropriate for big classes at the higher levels and therefore look out of place at the schooling level. Jodhpurs are acceptable for small children.

Boots: Black field boots (tall boots with laces) are the best choice, although any black or brown tall boot will do. Some federations allow the use of paddock boots with half chaps, but the rule is not universal so it is best to check your federation's rule book. In Canada, leather half chaps are acceptable as long as they match the paddock boots (this excludes FEI Children's classes). At the unsanctioned schooling level, most facilities are likely to allow half chaps.

Spurs: Spurs are optional. If you decide to use them, make sure that they are not pointed upwards.

The rule of thumb when it comes to hunter and equitation classes is really to go as conservative as possible. The judge should be given the chance to focus on your riding or on your horse, rather than on your clothing. If you are unsure of what will be expected of you in terms of attire, contact the show committee well ahead of the horse show (contact information should be provided in the prize list). Another way to feel more comfortable with your clothing choices is to find photos online of a previous edition of the show that you will be attending. Once you have an idea of what others have worn in the past, you can arrive on the show day with more important things to worry about!

Always make sure that everything you use, down to your spur straps, is clean and in good repair. Combined with well-fitting, conservative clothing, you'll be ready to make an excellent first impression on the judge.

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