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How to Dress for Success:
Mastering the Art of Proper Attire for the Hunter Competition Ring

In the world of equestrian sport competition, proper attire plays a crucial role in presenting a polished and professional image. Dressing appropriately for the hunter ring reflects the tradition and elegance of the sport and ensures a competitive edge when the rider and horse are judged as a team. Adhering to the rules and conventions set by the USEF allows riders to easily present themselves with confidence and style. This article will give you a simple and comprehensive guide to the established dress code as mandated by the most recent edition (updated 05/01/2023) of the USEF Rule Book, Chapter HU, HU107 Attire, and HU108 Hunt Colors. The rider’s attire in the hunter competition ring typically includes an approved riding helmet, a traditional show coat, a collared show shirt, breeches and tall boots. Note: Always check the USEF website for rule changes or updates before your competition. Members of the Armed Services or the police may wear the service dress uniform with protective headgear. (See General Rules, GR801.3)

1. Protective Headgear

All riders must wear an approved riding helmet. The helmet must meet or exceed current ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)/SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) standards for equestrian use; it must carry the SEI tag. The helmet must be worn and adjusted securely whenever you are mounted on a horse on showgrounds.

2. Show Coat

As the centerpiece of competitive equestrian apparel, the coat is the key item in your show wardrobe. Hunter conventions require riders to show in either a navy, dark green, or black coat. The coat should be single-breasted, well-fitted and tailored to a proper length to cover the backside without being excessively long. It is essential to choose a coat that suits your body shape and ensures a polished appearance in the ring. It should be made of a breathable, lightweight fabric with ample stretch to allow optimal freedom of movement and mobility.

3. Show Shirt & Collar

A crisply pressed show shirt with a high, wrap neck or stand collar is a must-have. The shirt should be plain white with no visible logos. The shirt can be long-sleeve, short-sleeve or sleeveless worn under the show jacket. Choosing a shirt that fits well is important, ensuring that the collar neither constricts nor gaps open. A stock tie may be worn over the collar, depending on the level of competition and the rider’s personal preference.

4. Breeches & Jodhpurs

Rules for Hunter competition include well-fitted knee-patch breeches. Generally, light-colored breeches in beige or tan shades are preferred, emphasizing the traditional look. The fabric should be stretchy, allowing easy movement and providing comfort during long hours of riding. Jodhpurs are a great alternative for younger riders, paired with paddock boots and garter straps. Both breeches and jodhpurs should be clean and wrinkle-free, enhancing your polished appearance. A belt should always be worn with breeches that have belt loops; it should be conservative in style and match the color of your boots.

5. Riding Boots & Paddock Boots

Tall leather riding boots are a hallmark of equestrian elegance. The boots should be well-fitted, reaching just below the knee and should have a slight heel. They must be polished and maintained in good condition, enhancing the rider's overall look and presentation. Paddock boots are allowed for younger riders paired with jodhpurs and garter straps. Children are allowed to wear ankle-length black or brown paddock boots when showing or black knee-length tall boots with breeches as they graduate up the levels.

6. Accessories

For a refined finish, accessories should be minimum but certain pieces are critical. Gloves provide a better grip on the reins and are essential for competition. Choosing gloves that are comfortable and lightweight, allowing for dexterity and sensitivity is important. Additionally, riders may wear a solid-colored belt that matches the rest of the attire. Jewelry and excessive adornments should be avoided, as simplicity and functionality are key in the hunter competition ring.