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Showing Western: clothing questions

Dear Jessica, I hope these questions aren't too trivial for you. My husband and I bought our Quarter Horses two years ago and have had a wonderful time learning to ride them (we used the advice in your book and found a great instructor, thank you!). Now we want to start showing. We've been to some shows with our instructor and her husband and their friends, and it just seems like a lot of fun.

But all those people kind of take for granted that we know more than we do about show clothes! I started thinking about what we would need, and I realized that we really don't know much at all. I've been looking at some magazines, and there seems to be a lot of fancy trim on the Western show clothes. I've seen sequins and shiny stuff (rhinestones maybe?) and a lot of metallic-looking edges, but I don't know if I'd be comfortable in get-up like that, and I know my husband wouldn't wear it. He's going to back away from the whole showing idea if he has to wear sequins!

Here is what we want to do: start showing at just local shows, in horsemanship and trail classes. Can you give me an idea of what would be clothing that would let us show without feeling too different from everyone else, but that isn't going to have fancy stuff all over (and cost as much as a horse)? Our instructor says "Oh, just wear things like these," and her husband says "I just wear what she puts out for me on show day", so we're not getting a lot of help there.

Thanks Jessica, I know you'll have good advice for us!

Sandra and Chuck

P.S. we're both in our forties and more careful than we used to be. We wear the Western-style safety helmets that you recommend, and that's fine with our instructor. She didn't even make a fuss when we said we would plan to show in them too!


Hi Sandra and Chuck! You're right, it would be easy to spend a lot of money on show clothes. But if you're just starting out at the local level, don't worry, you won't have to buy sequins or rhinestones. I think you'll be able to afford, and get your husband to wear, suitable clothing for your classes.

You've already got your safety helmets -- good for you, and good for your instructor!

Horsemanship/Equitation: You'll both need western hats, boots, and belts and buckles. You'll both need jeans (don't forget the starch!), and you'll both need chaps. Sandra, you'll be expected to wear a fitted blouse. You can wear a vest if you like. You should wear gloves. Chuck: you'll need a starched shirt that's colour-coordinated with your saddle blanket. You should also wear a neckscarf tied in a square knot.

Trail: You'll both need your western hats, boots, belts and buckles (sound familiar?). You'll both want starched jeans and chaps. You should both coordinate your clothing with your saddle blankets AND with your horses (just choose colours that don't clash -- some shades of red, for instance, look great on dark bay horses and horrible on light chestnut ones; white can make a grey horse look yellowish or dirty; etc.) Jewel-tones are always popular.

If you take a couple of photos of your horses (tacked up), and go down to the local tack store, you'll be able to make better decisions about colour-coordination. If you're lucky, the store will have well-informed staff members who also show in those classes, and they'll be able to help you look at the clothing and saddle blankets and choose suitable items.

You'll be able to use the same outfits at regional shows, too -- so don't worry, you can avoid the sequins and rhinestones until and unless you get to the point of competing at National.

At the local level (and really at the other levels too) you can improve your "look" a lot just by being tidy.

Be sure that you have enough pins to put your number on your vest (or blouse or shirt or jacket) neatly so that it stays in place, stays level, and doesn't blow around and flap. If you put your number on your saddle blanket, be just as careful.

Here's a website for you to visit: www.hobbyhorseinc.com

Hobby Horse Clothing Company is a firm that specializes in show clothing for (primarily Western) riders. The owner, Suzy Drnec, is wonderful at helping riders figure out just what colours and styles will work best for them and their horses. Her designs are excellent and the clothing is top-quality.

There's an interactive feature at the Hobby Horse website that will let you mix-and-match horse colours, chap colours, and shirt (blouse, vest, jacket) colours, so if you've been wondering how your outfit would look on a bay horse instead of a dun, or if you've been asking yourself whether purple or teal chaps would look better with your show blouses and your chestnut horse, here's your chance to get some answers.

There's also a Hobby Horse Clothing Company print catalogue with all sorts of useful information in it; I don't have one handy at the moment, but I know that Suzy generally includes several pages of information about colours, and a lot of helpful tips as well as sizing and ordering information. The number is 1-800-569-5885.

It's also a good idea to look through magazines (Horse & Rider, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman) and through other catalogues such as Schneider's and State Line Western -- you can begin to develop your eye by noticing what's in fashion, and what looks as if it would work for you and your horses.

The one item I'd suggest taking to every show is a big smile that shows the judge and everyone else how much you enjoy riding your very nice horse.

Attitude is something that money can't buy, and it's an asset in the show ring just as it is everywhere else.

Have fun at the shows!

Jessica

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