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Correct Attire for the Dressage Ring - Training through Fourth Levels


The traditional sport of dressage requires riders in recognized competitions to wear formal attire that has an elegant appearance. Strict adherence to United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) dress code rules applies, though you'll find subtle ways to suit your individual taste through fabric choices and finely detailed clothing accents.

Here we quote the 2011 USEF Rule Book for dressage attire, and follow each rule with tips from Dover Saddlery's product advisors to help you make the right choices for riding Training through Fourth Levels. For dress code requirements and exceptions for any FEI level including Junior, Young Horse and Pony classes, USDF Pas de Deux and Quadrille, for individuals with Federation Dispensation Certificates and for armed services/police uniforms, please refer directly to the USEF Rule Book.

Note: Check the USEF web site regularly for changes to rules on dress code requirements including those for headgear, whip and spur regulations.

USEF Dress Code Summary from USEF Rule Book DR120 Article 1:
"The dress code for Training through Fourth Levels is a short riding coat of conservative color, with tie, choker or stock tie, white or light-colored breeches or jodhpurs, boots or jodhpur boots, and protective headgear as defined in DR120.5 and in compliance with GR801. A cutaway coat (modified tailcoat) with short tails is permitted. Half chaps, gaiters and/or leggings are not allowed. Gloves of conservative color are recommended. Exception: Riders through First Level may wear half-chaps, gaiters or leggings in solid black or brown, without fringe, matching the color of their boots, and made of smooth leather or leather-like material."

USEF Rule DR120.1: Coats
"A short riding coat of conservative color.... A cutaway coat (modified tailcoat) with short tails is permitted."

Dover Tip
Choose either a hunt coat or dressage coat (a modified tailcoat) in black or navy.

USEF Rule DR120.1: Ties
"Tie, choker or stock tie"

Dover Tip
Top a white competition shirt or show shirt with standup collar with a stock tie, choker or a conservatively-colored tie for men. Stock ties are most commonly seen on women. At Training and First Levels, stock ties are usually the most conservative in style; ruffled stock ties look best in upper level tests.

USEF Rule DR120.1: Breeches
"White or light-colored breeches or jodhpurs"

Dover Tip
Choose to wear white or light-colored breeches. Light-colored jodhpurs are allowed, but are usually seen only on young children. White breeches are available for children from Kerrits, Tuff Rider and Irideon.

If your breeches have belt loops, pair them with a conservative belt. A belt will give you a polished appearance with attention to detail as you walk around the show grounds or if you ride without a jacket in extremely hot weather.

USEF Rule DR120.1: Boots and Half Chaps/Gaiters/Leggings
"Boots or jodhpur boots. Half chaps, gaiters and/or leggings are not allowed ... Exception: Riders through First Level may wear half-chaps, gaiters or leggings in solid black or brown, without fringe, matching the color of their boots, and made of smooth leather or leather-like material."

Dover Tip
At any level, you can choose to wear dressage boots, such as the Ariat® Tempo Zip Dressage Boot, or field boots, such as the Mountain Horse Supreme High Rider Field Boot that reach your knee. Riders most commonly select tall boots in black, and most commonly select dressage boots rather than field boots.

If you're riding at Training or First Level, you also have the option to wear paddock boots (also known as jodhpur boots) instead of tall boots. Paddock boots may be black or brown in color and may have either zippers or laces. Examples of paddock boots include the Grand Prix Prestige Paddock Boot and the Ariat Cobalt Quantam Performer Pro Boot.

If breeches and paddock boots are worn together, you should top them with smooth, conservatively-styled half chaps that most closely resemble the look of a tall boot, such as Tredstep Pro G-2 Half Chaps and Ariat® Covington Half Chaps™. If jodhpurs and paddock boots are worn together, as in the case of a young child, garters or jodhpur knee straps that match the boots are usually worn too.

USEF Rule DR120.1 and DR120.5: Hats and Helmets
"and protective headgear as defined in DR120.5 and in compliance with GR801." Article 5 adds, "At any time while mounted on the competition grounds, all riders under age 18, all riders while on horses competing in national level tests, all riders competing in Para-Equestrian tests, and all riders while on non-competing horses, must wear protective headgear as defined by this rule and otherwise in compliance with GR801. When a horse is competing in both national and FEI levels or tests (e.g. Fourth Level and PSG), the rider must wear protective headgear at all times when mounted on that horse on the competition grounds and during all tests. Any rider violating this rule at any time must immediately be prohibited from further riding until such headgear is properly in place. Any other exhibitor may wear protective headgear at any level of competition without penalty from the judge. Protective headgear is defined as a riding helmet which meets or exceeds ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)/SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) standards for equestrian use and carries the SEI tag. The harness must be secured and properly fitted."

Dover Tip
Dover Saddlery recommends that all riders wear ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)/SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) certified helmets at all times. For your dressage test, choose a helmet in a dark, conservative color or top it with a dark helmet cover. You'll find all sorts of ASTM/SEI certified helmets that will both protect and flatter you in the dressage ring. Some examples include the Charles Owen Wellington Professional, the Troxel Grand Prix Classic Helmet and the IRH Olympian Helmet.

While you're selecting your show headgear, remember that your hair must be neat. Except for very young riders who may wear braids or pony tails, long hair should be contained in a hairnet and/or fashioned into a bun. Short hair that cannot be tied back should also be contained in a hairnet to prevent distracting flyaway strands.

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