Hunter-ring styles change. Today, you see things that wouldn't have been acceptable several years ago: coats in less-muted colors, for example, or hair in ponytails. If you want to try a new style, how do you do it but not overdo? Here's a basic guideline from top equitation trainer Missy Clark.
Hair. Forever, the rule has been to pull it back neatly over your ears, tuck it up under your hat, and keep in place with hairnets. Now, though, many younger riders wear a ponytail with a ribbon to coordinate with the shirt.
Shirt/choker. White goes with everything, but any color that tones with your jacket or contrasts with it in a classy way--like this lavender shirt and gray coat--looks fine. Avoid ultrabright colors. Monogram? Relatively small and in a color close to the shirt's; on a white shirt, match your coat color.
Hunt coat. Navy or dark gray is always in style. Black is out. If you want to try one of the new lighter colors, go the "understated" route: A muted gray-brown works; a bright brown doesn't. Lighter gray or blue can work with the right shirt. With a dark-green coat, a bright-yellow shirt won't work, but a softer green shirt will.
Spurs. Leather straps with simple buckles--I don't like nylon straps or the decorative silver buckles that are getting popular--centered over the top of your foot.
Bit. For a hunter, above, a D-ring or full-cheek snaffle (with or without keepers) looks more appealing than a pelham. In equitation, either a snaffle or a pelham is correct.
Reins. On a snaffle, use either braided or laced reins. On a pelham, use a laced rein for the snaffle rein and a skinnier flat rein for the curb rein.
Martingale. Adjust the standing martingale so you can push it up to the bottom of your horse's throatlatch. Position the yoke so it rests in your horse's mane a few inches in front of his withers and so the stopper connecting it to the martingale sits in the middle of his chest, just below where his neck and chest meet.
Bridle. A plain style in dark-brown leather that matches your saddle looks best in the show ring. Subtle stitching on the browband and cavesson and a brass nameplate on the top of the crownpiece are the only "decorations" I like.
Saddle. Your saddle must fit your horse, but it must fit you, too. If your saddle fits correctly, you'll be able to fit your entire hand behind your seat, there'll be at least an inch or two of saddle in front of your knee, and the flap will reach partway down your boot. Oil your new saddle to help it turn a nice dark-brown shade.
Saddle pad. Use a clean, white fleece saddle pad, sized and positioned so there's 1 to 11/2 inches of pad showing evenly around your saddle, as shown.
Girth. Your girth should be brown leather--not orange, black, or white--fitted so very little (preferably no) elastic shows below the saddle flap. I prefer elastic on just one end; elastic on both ends lets the saddle move around too much. If your horse needs something between him and his girth, your best bet is a leather girth with a fleece underside, such as the Beval's sheepskin girth shown above; the fleece is hardly noticeable, which is a plus in the hunter ring.
Adapted from an article that appeared in Practical Horseman magazine.