Question: "Bling" is popping up in English catalogs and tack shops. How do hunter/jumper and dressage judges feel about the rhinestones on spurs, chokers, gloves, etc.? And what about "bling" browbands?
Answer: It all depends on the discipline. For dressage competition, a tasteful, fancy browband that enhances your horse's head is completely acceptable and very commonplace. Also, a small amount of "bling" on a spur adds just a little touch of elegance. As with anything, moderation is the key. You want your riding and your horse to shine through, not your "bling." Don't overdo it!
For equitation, the United States Equestrian Federation has actually passed a ruling that forbids the use of "blingy" browbands, helmets, stirrups, etc., in competition. Judges found it very distracting, especially on a sunny day when many were literally blinded by a flash of crystal!
I'd avoid it in the hunter ring, as well. Hunter competition has its roots in tradition and the overall picture should be classic, quiet and understated. Let the horse's beautiful jump be the thing that shines!
As for show jumping, go for it, if you want to! Use a fancy browband or your "blingy" helmet. As with all equestrian sport, it's really about the horse and rider combination, not the fashion statement; so use common sense. Too much of anything is not a good thing.
For eventing, I'd follow the same guidelines as for the individual disciplines described above. Many people already use brass "clincher" browbands for eventing.
Of course, for everyday use, lessons, schooling or just enjoying a nice ride, have fun and use the fancy pad or a shiny browband! Especially for young riders--let them get creative and "decorate" their ponies at home.
Bottom line: Keep it simple for the horse show and let the discipline in which you compete dictate how much "bling" to use.
Tack Buyer, Dover Saddlery
Question: Are lace-up field boots a "no-no" in the dressage arena? Are dress boots without laces only for dressage, or can they be worn in hunter/jumper/English pleasure classes, too? Which boots are correct for the cross-country phase in eventing?
Answer: In the lower levels/schooling shows, either type of boot is fine. You usually see field boots in the hunter and jumper rings and dress or dressage boots in the dressage ring.
Field boots were designed to help get into a tall boot if you have high insteps; however, zippers have done away with this issue. Dressage boots have a stiffener up the back, so it is not advisable to jump in them.
Question: Is a dressage coat cut differently than a hunt seat show coat? If so, at what level of competition does wearing a dressage coat become important?
Answer: Yes, there are differences between a hunt coat and a dressage coat. Hunt coats are shorter and have a three-button front and a simple back. Generally, all the buttons are tonal. Dressage coats have more of a European look. They are longer, have a four-button front, and the pleats at the back are often accented with additional buttons, often silver or brass.
Unless the rider is competing at a high level in dressage, a simple, traditional black or navy hunt-style coat is completely acceptable. Riders will definitely want to avoid the lighter colors and bolder plaids for cross-discipline riding or dressage, but can certainly use a hunt coat.
If you are sure that dressage is your discipline, then buy a dressage coat, as it is more discipline specific. However, if you cross between disciplines or event, you are completely fine competing in a basic colored hunt coat.
All answers courtesy of Penny Laselva, Buyer for Smith Brothers
Question: For those of us just starting out, how are Western show chaps SUPPOSED to fit?
Answer: Chaps should fit snug off your waist, and will cover most of your belt when you are mounted. You want them to be smooth through your hip and thigh, with minimal gapping at the front of your thigh. Chaps should fit well from the waist to the knee, where they will taper slightly to cover your boots. Your chaps must be long enough to cover your boot heel when you are mounted.
Question: When wearing chaps for pleasure and horsemanship classes, should my pants color match the chaps, or are blue jeans acceptable? Also, if I am just beginning to compete in reined and working cow horse events, am I required to wear chaps?
Answer: With regard to your chaps matching your pants, I have not come across any rules stating that they should match, but remember that you are trying to present a flattering picture, so certainly, if your pants match your chaps, the cleaner the picture. There are still quite a few people wearing jeans under their chaps, especially at the lower level shows; but generally show pants are lighter weight, more flattering and, in most cases, less expensive than jeans!
In reined and working cow horse events, according to the National Reined Cow Horse Association Rulebook: "Riders must wear a Western hat or helmet approved for riding by an equine organization, long-sleeved shirt and chaps." Once again, however, it is worth checking with the individual organization that is putting on the competition as to whether or not it will require chaps to be worn.
Question: When is it appropriate to wear a straw hat in the competition ring, and when a felt hat?
Answer: At higher level shows, you will typically see felt hats being worn all year long. However, during the hot summer months, it is certainly acceptable to wear a straw hat.
Question: I am a youth rider. When I'm competing in barrel racing and reining events, am I required to wear a helmet? Other than that, are there any dress codes for barrel racing events?
Answer: You are not required to wear a helmet in barrel racing and reining events, but it is acceptable in both, and STRONGLY recommended by Smith Brothers. Regarding a dress code for barrel racing events, the National Barrel Horse Association encourages and promotes appropriate Western attire at all NBHA-sanctioned events. The NBHA's definition of this is: long-sleeved Western shirt (with sleeves rolled down and buttoned or snapped, and shirt tails tucked in); cowboy hat (or helmet); and cowboy boots. For non-sanctioned events, I would contact the organization to see if it has a dress code.
Check out the summer 2008 issue of Everything For Horse & Rider, the shopping magazine for horse people. To order, call 301-977-3900 ext. 0.