Western Show Clothing

What You Need To Know About Each Class

A simple question that can be a little difficult to answer. If you look around any horse show you will find a huge variety of rider styles.

When you pick out your show clothes for the season it is best to pick colors and patterns that are flattering to both you and your horse. Remember to have fun and be creative with what you put together. You can buy used show clothes, brand new or even discounted clothing.

western show clothingEach class in the western discipline varies in what is most appropriate for apparel. The rules and fashion statements for each class are always changing. What was common and popular 5-10 years ago may not work this coming year. Below we break down what exhibitors usually wear by each western class.

Many of the rules you run into when choosing clothes are dictated in part by popularity and trends. You may not have realized that many horse shows can also double as exhibitor fashion shows.

Western Showmanship & Halter

Showmanship is an in-hand class where you execute a specific pattern, and are judged on how well you complete the pattern. Your appearance in this class must be clean and well presented, which also goes for your horse. The in-hand classes allow the judges a closer inspection of both you and your horse.

Make sure your horse is properly groomed for show. Ears, muzzle, and bridle path should all be clipped and clean.

Your appearance is also equally important as it contributes to the overall picture as you perform your pattern. The western show clothing you select to wear in this class has a huge impact on the picture you present of you and your horse. Since the class itself is about precision and presentation, you are best off finding something that suits you well, compliments your horse, and is nicely fitted.

Believe it or not, your western show clothing can actually cause a distraction in your pattern. If you choose something that doesn't fit properly or is not the most flattering color or pattern, it can subtract from your presentation.

You want to present a clean line in your western show clothing through a unified color between the pants, jacket, and boots. Choosing two different colors for the jacket and pants is typically a poor choice because it cuts you off at the waist and may draw the judges eye more to your top or bottom. You do not want any outfit that will draw the eye to one part or another, it makes smaller movements of your hands or legs much more obvious.

You can choose a showmanship outfit with your choice of color. Just make sure that color compliments both you and your horse. You may want to rethink a red outfit if you have a chestnut or sorrel horse. Make sure the colors you choose coordinate well with your horse's coat color.

Many exhibitors choose darker based colors such as blacks or blues as these darker colors tend to minimize smaller movements. If you choose lighter colors keep in mind they may not serve to reduce excess movements of your legs or hands during the pattern and they may be more difficult to clean between shows.

There are also trends in colors from year to year. You can choose to follow such trends, just keep it real and choose what western show clothing works best for you.

Halter is another in-hand class you have the option of showing in. The rules are much different than those in showmanship. In halter, the judges focus 100% on horse conformation. Basically you have it or you don't. Many exhibitors choose to use their showmanship outfit in a halter class as well.

We have seen people wear jeans and a western style top or jacket. Some choose to wear a specific halter jacket with black pants, the jacket not necessarily matching the pants. The larger the show the better you want to present yourself, but from what we have seen at some smaller shows the rules for western show cothing in halter are a little more relaxed for the exhibitor.

You still want a nice and clean overall picture to present to the judge.

Summary Checklist
  • Choose a color and pattern that compliment both horse and exhibitor
  • Base color of pants and jacket should be the same for showmanship
  • Outfit should be well fitted for comfortable movement during the pattern
  • Hat should compliment your outfit and be properly shaped
  • Present yourself and your horse with tall, confident posture and movement
  • Find coordinating pieces horse show jewelry to compliment your outfit

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Riding Classes

Western Horsemanship
Western horsemanship is another pattern class, only this time you are riding your horse. In this class the judge focuses more on the rider and the rider's equitation in the saddle.

You want to choose your western show clothing for this class very carefully. Just like showmanship, you want to present yourself neat and clean. It is in your best interest to select an outfit where the bottom colors flow into your horse show shirt. You want clean, lengthening lines in your appearance. So again black chaps combined with a bright pink top will cut you in half and again draw the judges eye more to one point of your body. Also, make sure that the horse riding pants you wear under your chaps also match your chaps.

Darker based colors will minimize your movement while on the horse. You want to execute your pattern with little distraction by your hands or legs. If your horse presents a sharp pattern, but the judge is distracted by excessive legs or hands, you may place lower than someone with an equal pattern performance and no distractions.

This is more important at larger breed shows. At smaller open shows you will likely see exhibitors wearing a pleasure blouse in both horsemanship and pleasure. This is ok, but at a larger show you may want to coordinate your colors a little better.

You also may not always have to complete a pattern. Typically at breed circuit shows and larger open shows you will see a pattern combined with some rail work or riding out on the rail. At smaller open shows you may only complete rail work.

Western Pleasure
Western pleasure is one of the most popular classes you will find at a horse show. It is also well known for the bright and shiny western show clothing. The rules are continuously changing for this class. Several years ago it was common to see riders in slinky's, which are form fitting shirts made out of a stretchy material.

Then the trend shifted to blouses with larger cuffs, collars, and crystals. Now the trend seems to be shifting towards jackets in the pleasure arena. Crystals and rhinestones are still everywhere you look, but the popular colors and patterns change each year.

This is truly a class you can have some fun with. A western pleasure class judges 100% on the horse and its movement through all three gaits. In this class it is acceptable to have a brightly colored top with a solid base color on your chaps.

You still want to choose a color or pattern in your top that compliments both you and your horse. We would recommend keeping a darker color for your pants and chaps. Lighter colored western show clothing on the bottom can once again draw the judge’s eye to your legs. In a western pleasure class you want to give the appearance that horse is truly a pleasure to ride. The less motion in your legs the judge notices, the better.

Trail class is a class where you and your horse complete a pattern through and over obstacles. Patterns are typically more precise and technical and require a bit more preparation beforehand.

Attire for this class does vary. Some use a general western outfit for the western classes. A solid horsemanship outfit with coordinating chaps and top are a good choice of western show clothing and can be used in this class. Others present in their western pleasure blouses.

When choosing an your western show clothing for this class keep in mind you are being judged on your equitation in this class and your horse is judged on how smoothly the pattern is completed.

Western Riding
Western riding can be thought of as a western pleasure class with a ton of lead changes. Your horse is judged on smoothness through the pattern during each transition.

We have seen both horsemanship and western pleasure type outfits during this class.

Keep in mind you need to choose what will best suit you and your horse. Colors and fit are still important.

Under Saddle Checklist
  • Western show clothing needs to be clean and fitted to the rider
  • Hat should compliment outfit colors and be neatly shaped
  • In horsemanship, matching pants and top create a clean line for your pattern
  • In western pleasure you are able to have a little more fun with the colors and patterns of the top of the outfit
  • Riders have a few optins with their show belts, though a simple leather belt matched to the chaps is always a safe bet
  • Trail class and western riding outfits vary between shows

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