Eventing Rider Turnout & Dress Code
Starting from the head, we'll discuss the correct eventing rider turnout and dress code. It always pays to check with the host club to see that these regulations apply - but here's a basic starting point.
Realize that most approved headgear is less than flattering and view it as an essential piece of safety equipment, not a fashion statement.
You may ride all three phases in the same helmet.
If you do so, your best color choice for your helmet is black or very dark grey, with navy or lighter greys being a bit less traditional, but acceptable. If you have a helmet that doesn’t fall within these color parameters, a helmet cover is also acceptable in any and all phases.
A visor-less skull cap is fine in all phases as well, but in the dressage and stadium phases it is more traditional that you have a visor, at least as part of your helmet cover. Eventing rider turnout for cross-country, helmet covers in your “colors” (more about those soon) are popular.
Your hair, if any longer that your shirt collar, needs to be tucked into your helmet, fixed in a bun at the nape of your neck, or secured in a show bow. Keep fly-away hair under a hair net.
Younger girls may ride with one or two braids left down. Be sure to practice how you will wear your hair with your helmet before the show so you don’t end up with a headache caused by your hairstyle changing the fit of your helmet.
Makeup and earrings are fine, but be conservative, opting for small post studs over large, dangling earrings. For men with facial hair, be sure it is neatly groomed.
White or ivory stock ties with a stock pin are standard for dressage and stadium, but a regular, conservative necktie with a white shirt for men is just as acceptable, as is a white or light-colored shirt with a choker collar for women.
Dark-colored jackets (the same one for dressage and stadium is fine) are always correct; there is currently a trend for lighter-colored jackets for stadium, but they are still the exception.
If you do not regularly ride in gloves, you may want to start. They’re not mandatory for any of the three phases, but more “correct” at least for dressage, and most riders wear them for all three phases.
For dressage and stadium, black, white, or natural tan gloves are fine, but remember that lighter-colored gloves visually amplify hand movement.
White, ivory, khaki, or light gray breeches are correct for dressage and stadium and may either have self patches or leather or leather-like patches or full seats.
Ideally your breeches will have belt loops and you will wear a belt, especially if they waive coats due to heat or for a casual schooling show. You will want your shirt tucked in and wearing a belt is more traditional and correct.
Either field boots or dress boots are acceptable for all three phases, as are paddock boots and jodhpurs for junior riders. Recent rule changes permit half chaps, but these are typically only seen at very informal schooling shows.
Good tall boots can mean a substantial investment, but if you only wear them for competitions (and only when you’re actually in the saddle), they will last for several years.
Spurs and whips are permitted for all three phases, with the exception being whips in the dressage phase of a championship division, where they are usually prohibited. Check the rule book for specifications regarding acceptable spur types, whip length, etc. for all phases.
Cross country is the one phase you have a lot of options regarding your turnout and is the place to show your sense of style.
Color coordinating your attire and your horse’s gear is a lot of fun and can make for eye-catching photos. Over-the-top color coordinating is looked upon by some as “amateurish,” though I don’t really view amateur status as a bad thing.
My reason for avoiding being too “matchy-matchy,” however, comes down to convenience and finances. If you want a lot of color-coordination, you’re going to have to find and buy a lot more “stuff” and then pack, keep up with, and clean a lot more stuff. Also, if you change your mind about your colors (or change horses and find your “old” colors are horrid on the new horse), you’ve got to buy a lot of new “stuff.” There is, however, a good solution. I do like coordinating, and I do like to change colors depending on horse.
Choose a single actual “color,” but limit that color to just a couple items such as your shirt, your saddle pad (or its trim/piping), boot tape, etc. Let your complimentary color(s) be black and/or white and you don’t have to buy “custom” big-ticket items (protective vest, horse boots, etc.), you’ve got a lot of flexibility, a good bit of overlap regarding using gear for all phases, and you can be quite stylish on the cheap.
Safety First v Expensive
Finally, remember that it is not crucial that you have the latest, trendiest, and most expensive gear for yourself (or your horse). What is most important is that what you do have is safe, neat, and clean. eventing rider turnout should not detract from what it is you are showcasing: a prepared and talented horse and rider team.