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Show Ring Attire for Horse and Rider

Its spring and the start of the show season, which for people new to showing can be daunting as you work out what classes your horse can do, how to turn him out and what to wear yourself. This will give a rough guide to what classes there are and a general idea of turnout for both you and your horse.
Mountain and Moorland classes are well known and popular, with any of the nine hairy native type ponies who can be registered fitting into this. Welsh ponies, Dartmoors, Connemara ponies, and Shetlands are welcome in this class. In small local shows, your horse is unlikely to have to be registered, or full bred but it is always advisable to check each particular show’s rules. Most native type horses are kept natural, with a full mane and tail, and no trimming, but some breeds do permit a bit of tidying. If unsure, check out your horse’s breed society website.
There are also show pony classes usually divided by height. The type of horse who can enter this is usually fine built and pretty, normally a native crossed with a finer breed. Trimming of any hairy bits is advisable, so ears, muzzle and heels should all be tidy. The horse should be plaited through its mane and forelock and have a pulled tail.
Another well known class is Cob class. At larger shows these are divided into show cobs and traditional cobs. Show cobs are trimmed up, have their legs clipped and are plaited or more commonly hogged. They should also have their tails pulled and cut straight to just below the hock. Traditional cobs should have as much mane and tail as possible, and have full feather. They shouldn’t really be trimmed but a bit of tidying around the ears and muzzle can create a neater appearance. Both types should be stocky and well built, not too tall and have good manners. Around 15hh is about ideal for a cob class.
Hunter classes can be divided into 4 sections at larger shows, small, lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight, and classed using height as well. At small shows, classes may be combined, and are sometimes generalised to hunter type. For this class, your horse should be smartly turned out, with plaited mane, pulled and straight cut tail and trimmed heels, ears and muzzle. There are also working hunter classes, divided into lightweight and heavyweight and then again by height. The horse is required to jump in these classes, and turnout and type of horse is the same as ridden hunter. You’re also allowed a few blemishes on a working hunter as knocks and scrapes are expected on the hunting field.
Arab classes can be entered by full Arabs, part bred and Anglo Arabs, but are often separated into the different types. Full Arabs should be kept natural, with a full mane and tail. Some people hog the mane from behind the poll a few inches down the neck to emphasize the necks arch but this isn’t essential. Part bred Arabs should be plaited, trimmed and have their tail straight and pulled.
The hack classes are usually entered by thoroughbreds or similar breeds with a tall and elegant stature. They are plaited, trimmed and have the tail pulled and cut straight. These horses should be really well mannered and obedient, as you will be severely marked down for disobedience.
Most other classes overlap with these, for example in a coloured class, you turn your horse out as you should for his breed or type, so a traditional cob would still be natural and a show cob would still be pulled, plaited and trimmed. Equitation classes are the same, as are novelty classes. Tack For most classes, a well fitting straight cut saddle is ideal as it allows the shoulder free movement and shows your horse off better. For hunter classes, a working hunter saddle is better. Pick a girth to suit your horse’s colour, so a white girth on greys, brown girth on chestnuts etc. Your tack should ideally be brown but black is ok at local level shows or if it suits your horses colouring better. If you have to use a numnah, make sure it matches your horse and tack and is inconspicuous.
Your bridle should suit your horse's head and the classes you are showing in. A hunter and cob bridle should have a wide, flat noseband and browband, while a dainty show pony or Arab should have a similarly dainty bridle with rolled noseband and, dependant on your class, a smart ribbon covered decorative browband. Most novice and junior classes require a snaffle bridle, but classes like ridden hunter and cob prefer a double bridle or Pelham. Working hunter allows different bits and martingales, but if it comes down to two horses, the one with more traditional tack will be favoured. Also no change of tack is allowed between the jumping and showing phase of this class apart from the essential removal of any boots your horse is wearing.
For pure Arabs, a rolled Arab slip is correct for in hand with a leather lead. For foals and young stock, a smart head collar or foal slip should be used, or a white webbing halter. Some mountain and moorland types can be shown in a rope halter at any age. Any other types should be shown in a riding bridle with reins or an inhand bridle with a leather coupling and lead. Riding bridles shouldn’t be used with couplings.
Use your tack to the benefit of your horse’s appearance. It goes without saying that it should all be clean and in good condition, but you can also pick specific styles to enhance your horse. For example if your horse has a long back, a long saddle will make this appear shorter, where as a short saddle will only make the back appear even longer. For a horse with a long face, try to choose a suitable wider noseband to shorten his appearance. Now for you… A lot of classes overlap with what they want the rider to wear, which is great as it means less rushing about getting changed and less money having to be spent on different outfits. Ridden Classes
First off are jackets. For a lot of classes, a good quality, well fitting tweed jacket is required. Mountain and moorland, hunter and cob specify this as the only jacket permitted. Hack classes give tweed as a specific for men and an option for women, along with black and blue show jackets, which are more popular and correct. Arab classes give the option of tweed or blue show jackets. Show pony classes specify that a navy jacket must be worn, but most others allow tweed. Classes that overlap such as coloured, lead rein and equitation require you to wear what is right for your horses type so if you take your mountain and moorland in equitation, turn out as if for a m & m class.
Most show classes require you wear a shirt and tie, with some classes allowing stripy shirts but most requiring a plain shirt that complements your jacket. Your tie should also co-ordinate with your jacket, any button hole, browband or hair scrunchie you choose to wear should enhance the overall appearance but not be so eyecatching that it detracts from the horse and rider themselves. Judge’s tend to prefer a neat and tidy, traditional look and disapprove of excess glitter and sparkle that can creep into the showing world.
Jodhpur specifications vary between classes, but a neutral colour like beige is allowed in most classes. Canary is allowed in m & m, hunter, show pony and Arab, and hack allows yellow and cream as well. Cob classes specify that beige must be worn. As a general rule, under 16’s should wear short boots and jodhpur clips and over 16’s should wear long boots and garter straps if the boots have no rear zip. A few classes specify brown to be worn, such as show pony classes but you should wear what suits the rest of your outfit and your horse.
Your hair should be tied back and in a hairnet, this creates a neat and tidy look. Jewellery shouldn’t be worn apart from tie or stock pins and gloves should be worn that tie in with your outfit. Leather show canes matching your outfit and tack add the final touch. In hand classes Generally for in hand classes you should wear a tweed jacket or waistcoat, a complementing shirt and tie and if you can, trousers and short boots or shoes. Trousers should be a contrasting colour to your horse so light for a horse with dark legs and dark for a horse with light legs. Riding attire is allowed but looks less professional. Gloves should be worn, and a cane can be carried. For any class, ridden or in hand it is recommended you wear a properly fitted, current standard riding hat with a harness. This is preferably blue velvet. You shouldn’t be marked down for being safe over wearing traditional headwear. Beaglers and bowlers are traditional for some classes such as hunter but offer no protection.
These are the basics of what turnout is expected of your and your horse, however there are variations and what is acceptable at local level showing would get you marked down at higher levels.
If you aren’t sure, ask someone you know who is experienced in the show ring, or go and watch before you go and see what is commonly worn. Above all, the main aim is for you and your horse to have fun and maybe even win something, and at a low level turnout isn’t as strict so don’t worry about getting it too perfect.

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