Who’s ready to go to a horse show? I know, it’s the end of horse show season, BUT I finally went to a horse show this weekend!
The world is going back to the ‘old normal’. And I am so grateful for that! One good thing is that the horse show scene seems to be returning to a pre-Covid time and this is making me beyond happy. And while my goal was to get my own horse to a show this summer, I was not able to make that happen.
However, my friend Vickie made it possible for me to show by letting me use her awesome horse Shylo. And this past weekend I participated in my very first (in a long time) horse show as an adult rider.
I have been to a lot of horse shows this summer. Mostly because I love horse shows. But in the back of my mind I wanted to get back into the ring. Instead of being the one on the sidelines, I wanted to be the one being judged. And that finally happened this weekend! And I think all of the preparation was so worth it. I felt more comfortable at the show, and I felt like I fit in, like I belonged with the other competitors. I didn’t feel completely out of place!
So that got me thinking about sharing what I have learned with you, in case you are getting ready to go to your first show.
And ultimately I want to go to a show with my own horse. While that won’t happen this year, I have learned a lot to help me get him to the show ground. And I thought it might be helpful for you to learn more about the planning process that I go through, in hopes it might help you get yourself to a show as well.
And, just so you know….Affiliate Disclaimer: Some of the blog posts on my site will allow you to purchase different products and services online provided by other merchants, and not myself. Some of the links that I post on my site are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission.* I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn a commission by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. *Disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Going To Your First Horse Show – One Day at a Time
So over the next week or so, I am going to walk you through the process of getting yourself, and your horse ready for to show. And not only do I have a written plan for you, but hopefully the photos will help you too. My upcoming posts will be all about getting ready to go to your first show. I have a lot of information that will break down the process of helping you to have a successful horse show.
So this is how the posts will be broken down:
- Rider Turnout
- Show Tack
- Horse Turnout
- What To Bring To a Horse Show
- Grooming For a Horse Show
- Practice Horse Show Day
So how about we get started with day one and talk about your turnout as the rider?
Going To Your First Horse Show – Rider Turnout
The easiest thing to talk about first when planning to show is getting you ready to show. And I don’t mean the training part of it. No, only you and your trainer will know if you are ready for the challenge of actually showing your horse. But I can help you get yourself ready for the show. And you may think that it will cost a fortune to outfit yourself, but not with me dressing you! I mean, I am the Budget Equestrian right?
The first think to think about is you want to be comfortable in what you are wearing, but you want to look professional and polished. Make yourself familiar with what is allowed for the show you are going too. That is my first piece of advice. If you are riding in English, or Hunter classes, you need to know what is required for your class.
And the same goes for Western classes too. You need to know what the rules are of the class you are entering. The most important thing to remember when you creating your show outfit is it needs to be neat, tidy, and most important – CLEAN! There should be no horse slobber on your show jacket, and no remnants of your horse’s breakfast. No dust on your helmet, or hat. And your boots should be so shiny that you can see your reflection in the polished leather.
I know, this is no easy task. Especially if you are showing by yourself. But with a little bit of effort, you can present yourself as a polished rider who has a team of grooms waiting for you to simply get on your horse and walk into the show ring. This is what you want to portray to the judge. Neat, well fitting, and tidy are a lot more important than how much you spent on your show clothes. The goal is to compliment your horse – and complete the overall look of a show ring competitor.
What Do I Wear To A Show?
But let’s step back, what do you even need to wear in a horse show class you might be wondering. Well, if you have to ask this question, my recommendation is you need to go to a show and see what the competitors are actually wearing. I would recommend going to a larger show, if you can, to really watch, and observe what people are wearing. Pay attention to their boots, helmets, jackets, breeches or chaps. What type of shirts are they wearing? What about their belts, or gloves? You are bound to find a rider or two that you are drawn to. Without seeming creepy, study them. Probably the reason you are drawn to their appearance is because they are turned out well.
It doesn’t matter if you spend $100 or $1000 dollars on your show clothes. What does matter is that they are clean, and fit you well. And because I am more of an English rider, I am going to focus on what to wear to in English riding classes. This is what you will need to have for English classes at the horse show:
Remember – this is only talking about rider turnout. We will go over your horse’s tack and turnout later. So let’s breakdown each of these pieces of clothing.
This is first and foremost the most important piece of equipment in my opinion. And a riding helmet will probably be one of the more expensive pieces of equipment you will need to buy. And the reason for that is, you shouldn’t buy a second hand riding helmet.
Your riding helmet needs to fit you well, and should look like new – regardless of how long you have owned it. It’s also important to note that your riding helmet needs to be ASTM certified, which most helmets are now. But it needs to be spotless. And all helmets are not shaped the same. Some are more oval, and some are more round in shape. And the only way for you to know what looks best on you is to try them on. But more important than how it looks, is how it fits. You need to be comfortable in the helmet.
Because if it feels good, you are going to be more comfortable. So find a riding helmet that fits you well, and looks good. I would also advise you to get a traditional black helmet for showing. They do make helmet covers that you can cover your schooling helmet with, but it won’t have the same look. So save your white schooling helmet for home use, and invest in a black helmet for the show ring.
Next you will need a nice, lightweight, show shirt. I say lightweight because this will be under your show coat. And adding layers in the middle of summer will make you miserable! So find a nice shirt that is lightweight to wear under your riding coat.
Again, the fit is the most important thing to consider. It needs to fit you well. It also needs to be clean! No dirt or dust or horse slobber on your show shirt please. The color is really up to you. If you want to wear a colored shirt, that’s fine. But you don’t want to buy a regular shirt and wear it under your coat. No, just NO! And I’m not saying that because I am a horse show snob. I am saying it because you need to show the judge that you are serious about being at the show. And having a button down shirt under your show coat tells the judge you aren’t really that serious about being at the show. Sorry if I am being to blunt. But if you are showing – you need to put in the effort, and dress for the show and your own success.
Going To Your First Horse Show -Rider Turnout
There are a lot of options for comfortable show shirts now. I have found several for less than $50.00. But my most favorite show shirt is my Ego7 shirt that I just had to have. It’s adorable! I had to wait 5 months to get it, and it was not cheap. But I love it! To me, it was worth the cost. I paid $129 for the shirt when I bought it. And I just found it on Smartpak and Farm House Tack for $149.00. So apparently this shirt is getting popular. I like it because it is super lightweight, and it has the standup collar that it needs to have for showing. I also really like how it looks!
My advice is if you find one thing that you absolutely love whether it’s your show shirt, breeches, or whatever, and it’s expensive, save up for it. It will make you feel good about your presentation, and if you feel good about how you look you will perform better too. If you invest in yourself, and your show wardrobe one piece at a time, in time you will have a very nice outfit for showing.
Thankfully the days of wearing a wool show coat are a thing of the past! Show coats have not only gotten more lightweight, but also more affordable. There are a lot of different options when it comes to show coats. But again, make sure it fits. You don’t want to invest $150.00 for a new coat that is too tight, or too big on you. Also consider the color. If you are showing in the jumper division, well you can wear whatever color you like.
However, if you are showing in a local show, or equitation or hunters, you will want to stick with the traditional colors which are black or navy blue. You can get a little out there with gray, burgundy or dark green. And this can be good – if you and your horses turnout is impeccable. That just might make you stand out for the judge. And as long as your skills are perfection, this could be a good thing.
But I prefer to blend in, sort of. I have 2 show coats, one is tradition in Navy and the other is my ‘bling’ or stand out coat which is grey. Both are lightweight, and I got each of them on sale. I really try hard not to buy things unless they are on sale. My Ego7 show shirt is the exception.
But I found an Ariat Triumph show coat on eBay for $40.00
Going To Your First Horse Show -Rider Turnout
And I bought my Tredstep burgundy coat when it was on clearance at Dover’s for $200.00 Yeah, it was expensive, even being on clearance – but it is AWESOME! And again, I built my show ring outfit over time. I waited (mostly) to see when something was on sale before finally buying.
And I would urge you to stick with buying a ‘real’ show coat. They are made for equestrians, so the sleeve length takes into account your position, as well as having a flap in the back that is cut to be more flattering. And while you can go to a thrift store, and buy a blazer – it isn’t going to give the same presentation as a show coat. Sometimes you can find coats like I did on eBay – or even check out Facebook Marketplace. Do your homework, and put a little research into your outfit in order to have a polished look in the show ring.
I have a love hate relationship with breeches. I love full seat breeches because of the ‘stick’ it gives me in the saddle. But I am very self conscious of my size, so pouring all of myself into a pair of skinny pants just doesn’t seem right. However, I have quite the collection of breeches. And by wearing them all the time when I am with my horses, I find my self consciousness is less over time.
And you can usually find breeches on sale at Riding Warehouse or Dover’s and get some great deals on breeches. I would advise you to get ‘real’ breeches though. You know, the ones that have a zippered front, not the pull on kind. The pull on style or riding tights are fine for schooling. But at the show – you want to look your best right? So have a pair (or 2) of show breeches, and save the riding tights for home.
Tan or beige is the traditional color for the show ring. Or if you are in a special class – you may need a pair of white breeches. Navy, burgundy or black should be reserved for home.
Now I think this is a matter of preference. And tall boots are definitely going to be the most expensive part of your show wardrobe. But for me, I love my tall boots.
You can buy paddock boots and then use half chaps to give the look of tall boots. However, after you buy the paddock boots, and a good pair of leather half chaps you will have come close to spending the same amount of money as you would have if you just bought your tall boots in the first place. And if you are showing at a big show – you need tall boots.
But you don’t have to spend a thousand dollars on tall boots, unless you can afford it. I have been very happy with my Ariat boots. They last forever, they are super comfortable, and they look nice. I recently bought a new pair of boots on eBay for $219.00. They were brand new in the box, and perfect! I saved over $100.00 by doing my research, and looking for deals.
Gloves are a nice finishing touch that really complete the overall ‘look’ for showing. And you can find gloves that are inexpensive, or you can go for quality that will not only finish off your look, but are also very practical and useful.
My go to gloves are from Noble Outfitters. I have several pair that I wear on a regular basis. But for the show ring, I have found a new pair of gloves that are SO comfortable, and offer a little extra grip. They are the Roeckl grip gloves. They are super stretchy and very comfortable. The gloves are also very lightweight, which is perfect for summer shows.
Another added bonus is they are washable! So even if you wear them for your everyday schooling and riding, you can throw them in the wash and they come out nice and clean and ready to wear at your show. They look pretty fragile, but don’t let that fool you. These are strong gloves that will last.
My personal opinion on gloves is that it completes the show ring look. And if you are in a competitive class where there isn’t much difference between two riders, the one with a more polished look just might win the class. Even if you are in a small, local show, paying attention to the little details could make the difference. And honestly, I find myself wearing gloves anytime I am around my horses. So wearing them to a show is a no brainer for me.
And while I am talking about the finishing touches, you can’t forget your belt! Especially if your breeches are the low rise style, a belt will not only tie your entire outfit together but it will help to keep your breeches from puckering in the back.
This is one area of my show outfit that I don’t go crazy on. A simple black belt is a nice touch that ties your outfit together. This is especially true if you are wearing black tall boots, and a black riding helmet. I found a very comfortable and affordable black leather belt on Amazon which is fine for me.
It’s nice because the edges of the buckle are rounded, so it doesn’t dig into my midsection while I am riding. I did also find a knock off ‘H’ belt which I really like, but I think I need to size up because the buckle does hit me in the gut, which I don’t like.
But it does look nice as a part of my show outfit. And I don’t know how a real one compares, or how you can tell this one is a knock off. But I don’t care, I like it! And I like the low price of the belt I bought – $32.00. If I were to buy a Hermes belt, it would cost around $830.00.
Since I mainly use my H belt for showing only, I’m not worried about it lasting forever. For $830.00 I can buy a complete horse show outfit. So I will opt out for the affordable version of this belt. I can’t find the one like I bought anymore, but the one I did find on Amazon is pretty close:
So for your belt, I don’t feel this is where you need to spend a lot of money. However, I do think it is an important component of your overall show wardrobe, so don’t skip it.
This may not seem like an important aspect of your show outfit, but it really is! Even if you don’t have longish hair, having everything tucked neatly under your riding helmet is important for the show ring. Let me show you two examples:
This is me without a hairnet:
Now this is me wearing a hairnet:
Can you see the difference? It’s just one small thing that can impact your overall appearance when you are in a horse show. And like I have been saying over and over, it’s important to pay attention to the little details!
There are many affordable options for hairnets. But my favorite is the RWR No Knot Hairnet. It is super easy to use. Pull-on, pull up and you are done! The unique design of these hair nets makes bobby pins and barrettes a thing of the past. With no knots or pins, your hair net will be comfortable under your helmet and will keep your hair tidy. They have a cool, comfortable, seamless browband and it is very strong and stretchy. I like it so much that I use one even when I am riding at home.
Going To Your First Horse Show -Rider Turnout
Wow. That is a really in depth look into a horse show outfit right? Yes, it is. But if you are seriously wanting to show, then you should be serious about your overall presentation to the judge, wouldn’t you agree?
Even if you are showing at a local show, you want to give the best impression to the judge. You want to show that care, and you are doing more than just throwing together an outfit in order to go to a show. Your presentation is showing the judge that you are taking this horse show seriously, even if it is a small show. The way you present yourself is important. You have worked hard to get to this point, and not caring about your turnout could impact how you do in the class.
So do some research, and figure out how you are going to look your best when you go to the horse show. And be sure to come back for another post about horse showing! Next we will talking all about your tack, and how to make a great first impression on the judge.
Happy Horse Showing!