We take a look at attire requirements or traditions in all four of the major equestrian disciplines: hunters, jumpers, eventing and dressage.
This week, we kick things off with the hunter ring. Traditionally speaking, hunter attire is the most conservative of the bunch. Let’s first take a look at the origins of hunter dress:
The modern show hunter classes find their roots in the field hunter classes that were popular during the rise of the sport. Field hunters were judged on their handiness. The idea was that the horse would have a brave yet safe jump over obstacles in the hunt field so as to safely carry their rider to and from their destination. In many ways, field hunters can be compared to today’s eventers. However, the hunter classes of today have been toned down a bit.
Field hunters were turned out neatly and conservatively — less equipment meant less obstruction in the event of a misstep. The riders often wore red hunting coats paired with velvet hunt caps.
Conservative show clothes
Today, turnout is still on the conservative side. It always looks polished and sophisticated. According to the USEF Rulebook, Sec. HU128, riders are required to wear conservative colored show coats — black, blue, green, grey or brown —paired with a white shirt with choker collar and buff, canary, tan, rust or white breeches.
In some of the higher level Performance classes or Hunter Derbies, as well as certain Finals divisions, you may also see Formal Attire in the form of shadbelly jackets. These are not listed anywhere in the rulebook as a requirement, however.
If you’re heading to your first hunter show, err on the side of conservative. Go for a nice shaped hunter pad and a plain or fancy stitched brown bridle. Remember, boots may not be worn in competition and martingales are prohibited for any flat or hack classes. Unless waived by the organizers, competitors must wear their jackets during competition.