Hey there horse people! The show season is about to begin and I know we are all itching to load up our trailers and get down that centerline. Between the team bonding and showing off your new skills, horse showing is an especially rewarding experience. And if you’re a dressage rider, you know that the show experience is even more fun since USDF recently relaxed their long-standing attire rules. Gone are the days of penguin suits. You can now wear colors, sparkles, and even Wonder Woman tall boots. (Seriously, check out page 52 of the visual guide here!)
With all the recent advancements in designs and fabrics, equine fashion has really taken off in the last five years. "Matchy matchy" culture is here to stay, and I’m so excited we can finally bring our love of fashion to the show ring.
Just because the rules have been relaxed doesn’t mean we can wear anything we want, though. That’s why today I’m going to walk you through the ins and outs of what’s allowed in the dressage ring.
USDF Show Outfit Rules
To start, let’s go over the standard outfit of a dressage rider. We have the helmet, show coat, show shirt, neckwear, breeches, boots/half chaps, belt and gloves. Traditionally, the outfit was a combination of black and white materials. With the recent rule changes, we are able to color coordinate and stray from the classic show outfit. But be advised, the judge is the one who decides what’s allowed and what outfits are too bold. So if your outfit is borderline, it’s smart to ask an official to double check.
Today, I’m going to walk you through the updates for helmets, show coats, breeches, and boots.
Helmets & Protective Headgear
In the new update, helmets are now required in all dressage tests. Traditionally we used to see top hats commonly worn in the upper level rings, but those are now listed as illegal headgear. Any headgear that is ASTM certified, has a SEI tag, and is properly secured while riding is now deemed as legal protective headgear.
Now to the fun part! Helmets are a great way to express yourself and can truly be a piece of art. Per the USDF visual guide, “Protective headgear may be the same as or a coordinating color with the coat, and may include contrast coloring, accent, and crystal decoration.”
This basically means as long as your helmet is tasteful and coordinates with your outfit, it’s allowed at shows. So if your goal is to blind your judge with bling in the ring, go for it!
Short Jacket & Shadbelly Coats
Next we will move on to show jackets. In dressage there are two types of jackets, the short jackets and shadbelly coats. Short jackets are worn in introductory level through fourth level. Once you hit the FEI levels, you are allowed to wear shadbelly coats that have long tails.
For show jackets, the rules now allow single colored jackets that can have subtle pin striping or tweed, along with tasteful discreet accents. Those accents can be crystal decoration, contrasting piping, or the collar being a different hue. The common colors I’ve seen in the showing world have been mint green, taupe, burgundy, gray, navy blue, brown and black. If you’re unsure if your coat matches the requirements, feel free to email USDF here and ask!
We are finally at my favorite part, breeches! Gone are the days of only being able to wear white or tan breeches. If your horse uses you as a human napkin, you understand why I’m so excited about this change.
In the new rules, we can wear breeches that are a light or dark color that aren’t too bright. You also cannot wear patterns, but contrasting piping is allowed. The most common colors I’ve seen are white, dove gray, taupe, navy, and black. I have also seen light pastels in the show ring, but those aren’t as common. On page 32 of the visual guide, you can see all the current allowed breeches colors here.
The new rules offer the most creative freedom when it comes to boots. The rules say the boots can have coordinating colors, accents, and must have a distinguishable heel.
So, this means that as long as your boots have the above requirements, you can wear just about anything you want! Bring on the contrasting laces, snakeskin print, and even Wonder Woman themed boots. As long as they aren’t distracting to the judge, you have free rein with your fashion forward boot choices.
Dressage fashion has changed rapidly over the last five years, and I’m so excited we can express ourselves on centerline. At The Tried Equestrian, there are lots of fun options perfect for the dressage ring that I know you’ll love. I hope you found this guide helpful, and if you have any questions about your specific outfit, feel free to consult the USDF visual guide, the rule book, or reach out to USDF with any questions.
Until next time!
Visit Amber's website to learn more about her business here!
Shop TTE's curated competition outfits here!