Choosing your next horse show outfit

Choosing a horse show outfit can be overwhelming. These tips will help you wade through the endless options.

A nice fitting, button-up shirt can be a sharp look in the arena! Photo: Heather Smith.
A nice fitting, button-up shirt can be a sharp look in the arena! Photo: Heather Smith.

When searching for a horse show outfit, the options can be daunting. Have no fear, for if you follow these Michigan State University Extension tips, you’ll will be able to find something that’s just right for you!


Proper fit is something that knows no budget. I have seen price tags on jackets that rival costs of a used car, but if that outfit doesn’t fit well, it won’t be flattering. On the other hand, taking a second hand, but well-made, jacket to a tailor can easily result in a flattering, stylish and inexpensive show ring wardrobe. I don’t care who you talk to – judges, trainers, coaches, leaders, etc. – everyone will agree that fit is the number one priority when selecting your horse show wardrobe.

Personal style

When all is said and done, one of the most important things is how you feel when you’re wearing the outfit. Personal confidence will shine through in your performance with your horse, and if you’re comfortable wearing it, you can focus on the important part: controlling that 1,200 pound animal! Also, don’t be afraid to look for inspiration outside of the horse world. You may find your next best idea from architecture or even nature.


Beyond choosing a color that compliments the color of your horse, personal opinion plays a large part here. Since I’m writing the article, I’ll share my thoughts. I prefer older youth and adults stick to more classic, traditional colors. Neons, pastels and other more vibrant colors are more suited to younger youth. Want color, but want to keep a mature look? Have a conservative base color with bright, vibrant and playful accent colors. Jewel tones and primary colors tend to be more forgiving than pastels or neons, so if you’re a lover of color, try those out!

Colorful horse show outfit

An example of a younger youth having fun with their color choices. Photo: Heather Smith.


My best advice is be careful following trends too closely. I much prefer classic styles that transcend time. A classic style will not only last longer for your personal use, but it will also maintain resale value for a longer time. Found a great deal on something super trendy that you love? Go for it! If you won’t have a lot of money invested, it won’t be as critical to focus on resale value as trends change.

Minimize distractions

There are several ways to accomplish a clean, stylish look while not distracting the judges from your riding position and ability. Some of these may seem like I’m picking at the details, but trust me, a few simple fixes can go a long way to affecting the overall picture. Bonus: These three tips are all essentially FREE, or very inexpensive fixes.

  • Perfect the classic bun. All that’s needed for this is an invisible hairnet (available at Walmart, Walgreens and similar stores for less than $2 for a three-pack), a hair tie (similar to your hair color), bobby pins and hair spray – lots and lots of hair spray. Fly-away hairs are the arch nemesis of good horse show hair. If you want to jazz it up, you can add a tiny bow using similar colors to your outfit that will lay flat and still when pinned to the top of your bun. Fellas feeling left out? Just be sure your hair isn’t too messy or shaggy. It, too, should look neat under your hat or helmet.

Horse show bun

Here’s a classic, neat bun with a pop of color from a ribbon. Photo: Taylor Fabus, MSU Extension.

  • Leave the bling belts and jeans out of the show arena. There’s never a situation when you want to exaggerate movement in the areas of the waist and seat, but that’s exactly what these products do. Also, learn from my mistakes. I scratched up my saddle wearing blingy jeans once. I won’t make that mistake twice.
  • Make sure your scarves aren’t too long. Long, flopping scarves are distracting. Wrap them around the neck one more time for a much neater look.

I hope this information helps you choose your next horse show outfit!

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