When it comes to show belts, less is more. Though you may have a wondrously expensive silver or beaded belt that you love to wear at the barn, consider if you really want that billboard around your waist in the show pen. Not only will your chaps cover most of your belt (if they are flatteringly fitted at the waist, not the hips) the edge of a vest or jacket will also hide the belt. A plain belt made from a scrap of your chap material is the most flattering look you can wear under chaps: it's almost invisible, comfortable, and it won't matter if a little of it shows, unlike seeing just the top edge of a silver-encrusted belt.
Guys should consider simpler belts in the show ring too, remembering that a pale belt on dark jeans, peeking out from under dark chaps, draws an unflattering horizontal line around the waist that will add the illusion of thickness and weight. Keep your fashion belts for boot scootin' and stay simple in the arena.
Western belt buckles come in an endless variety of shapes and sizes, but the best buckle to wear in the show ring is always the buckle you just won. Haven't done that yet? Don't despair, but don't spend a bundle on a buckle you probably won't wear that long. Borrow a trophy buckle (large oval or rectangular buckle with figures and lettering) or opt for a smaller three piece set on a tapered belt: a buckle, loop and tip that will work with any show outfit and can be stylishly worn in the 'real world' as well.
Buckles with prongs sometimes lay flatter than those with tongues, and buckle should, of course, always be proportionate to the wearer. If you're one of the Dunlaps (your tummy done laps over your belt a smidge) you can wear a bigger buckle than a fashion chickie whose hip bones jut out like a hanger. The width of your belt will affect the size and style of buckle you choose for your show outfit. Buckle widths should match the width of belt they are worn on. Straight Western belts are 1 1/2" wide, and tapered belts are usually 1 1/4" at the back, tapering to 3/4" of 1" at the buckle area. Women and kids often like a 1 1/4" belt for less bulk at the waist.
Find a reputable Western shop and learn about Western jewelry: it's fascinating, and you soon discover what you prefer. Sterling silver overlay is more expensive than German silver or a manufacturer's brand name alloy, and hand engraving, contrast precious metals and other custom flourishes can add hundreds of dollars to the price of a buckle. And don't forget: some show organizations don't require you to wear a belt at all (check before you show) so if you're wearing a blazer, vest, or jacket that completely covers your waistline, consider dispensing with the belt altogether for a trimmer look.
Remember, you'll never get a second chance to make a first impression, so strive to create a winning impression the moment you step into the ring!
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Writing or riding, Suzanne Drnec enjoys horses and their people. Drnec is president of Hobby Horse Clothing Company, a show apparel manufacturer, and also the caretaker of an assortment of lawn ornaments including a Paint, a Quarter Horse and an antique Arabian.