In local open or 4-H shows, jeans with extra-heavy starch and razor-edge creases down the leg fronts create a crisp look that's acceptable in showmanship. For breed-specific competition, however, where your goal is to project the ultimate picture of professionalism, fitted show pants are your best bet.
Opt for show pants that hug your figure from waist to mid-thigh - without fitting skin tight. Also, look for simple designs, without pockets or yokes, that feature side zippers and high waistbands for a figure-flattering appearance.
The Material World
Select textured show pants made from a durable polyester blend, wool, or a wool/lycra blend. Not only do these fabrics provide maximum comfort and easy altering, they also hold a crease nicely and don't cling to your skin. Tip: Don't ride in your showmanship pants. Leather chaps often discolor show pants, and some pants will pill in the seat and leg areas if you ride in them. If you want to wear show pants in riding events, buy two pair. Use one for riding, and save the other for showmanship.
Black is a versatile, slenderizing choice for show pants. Have a pair of sand or beige pants on hand, however, for variety. Tip: If you're having a special color of pants custom-made, buy enough fabric for an extra pair. Or is you find off-the-rack pants that exactly match the rest of your show outfit, buy two pair. You may never find the right shade again.
Getting the perfect hem length is an important finishing touch, so most showmanship pants are sold unhemmed. Keep this rule of thumb in mind when checking hem length: You want your show pants hemmed long, covering as much of your boot heel as possible. Don't hem your pants so long that they drag the arena footing, though, as they may get dusty or muddy.
When trying on show pants, wear the belt, buckle, and boots you use for showing, as a l/4 inch difference in boot-heel height can spoil the hang of the hem. Also, test your show pants by walking around the store before you commit to a hem length. This will simply ensure that the pants will straighten out to a suitable heel-covering length when you move. Tips: Consider an offset hem (one that's longer at your boot heel than over your arch) to help achieve the correct length. If your pants legs still ride up when you walk, and you've reached the longest hem possible, sew small drapery weights (available at your local fabric store) inside the heel area of the hem to help weigh down your pants when you move.
An additional note:?Stage a dress rehearsal a few days before the show to make sure your pants (and the rest of your outfit) fit properly. If you've gained a few extra pounds, your pants may appear shorter than they did before as they stretch over your curves. You may need to have them altered. Frequent dry cleaning and washing also contribute to too-short pants. If this happens to you, invest in a new pair.
The diva of Western show-ring fashion, Suzi Vlietstra is founder and president of Hobby Horse Clothing Company. When she's not designing beautiful and innovative apparel, she rides and competes on her own Paint and Quarter Horse.