Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer Content

Correct Attire for the Dressage Ring - Training through Fourth Levels

For more assistance or to request a catalog call 1-800-989-1500. Or, stop by any of our retail stores to speak with a Dover Saddlery product adviser. Visit for a complete store listing and the full product offering.

Steeped in tradition, the sport of dressage requires riders in USDF recognized competitions to wear formal dressage show attire that has an elegant appearance. Strict adherence to United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) dressage dress code rules applies, though you'll find subtle ways to suit your individual taste through color choices and finishing details.

Here we quote the 2017 USEF Rule Book for dressage show 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 dressage 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 current USEF Rule Book.

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

USEF Dressage Dress Code Summary from USEF Rule Book DR120 Article 1:

"The dress code for all Dressage tests and classes through Fourth Level [with some exceptions; see rulebook] is a short riding coat of conservative color, with tie, choker, stock tie or integrated stand-up collar, white or light-colored breeches or jodhpurs, boots or jodhpur boots, and protective headgear as defined in DR120.6 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."

USEF Rule DR120.1: Ties

"Tie, choker, stock tie or integrated collar"

USEF Rule DR120.1: Breeches

"White or light-colored breeches or jodhpurs"

Dover Tip: Choose to wear white or light-colored breeches for your dressage show attire. Light-colored jodhpurs are allowed, but are usually seen only on young children.

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 or field boots 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. 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. 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 DR120.6: Hats and Helmets

"and protective headgear as defined in DR120.6 and in compliance with GR801." Article 6 adds, "From the time horses are officially admitted to the competition grounds by competition management, anyone mounted on a horse at any time on the competition grounds, including non-competing riders, riders on non-competing horses, mounted participants in exhibition classes and those competing in all classes and tests, including Para-Equestrian tests, must wear protective headgear as defined by this rule and otherwise in compliance with GR801. Any rider violating this rule at any time must immediately be prohibited from further riding until such headgear is properly in place. 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 while mounted. For your dressage test, choose a helmet in a dark, conservative color that matches or complements the color of your show coat. You'll find all sorts of ASTM/SEI certified helmets that will flatter you in the dressage ring. While you're selecting your dressage show attire and 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.

USEF Rule DR120.1: Gloves

"Gloves of conservative color are recommended."

Dover Tip: Gloves protect your hands from blisters, help provide grip for the reins and create a finished look for your dressage show attire. The appropriate color to choose for your riding level depends largely on geographic location, so you should check with your trainer or local riders for any preference. Generally, you should choose gloves that are either black or white. However, if you wear a cream-colored stock tie and use a cream-colored dressage pad, you may wish to select coordinating cream-colored or ivory gloves. To suit riders' individual preferences, you'll discover many styles of show gloves in both leather and synthetic fabrics. Some gloves fit comfortably at the wrist through soft gathering. Other styles fasten with hook and loop closures. Both styles are appropriate for competition, so choose a glove that fits your hands comfortably.

Product advisors at Dover Saddlery suggest that you ride in your show gloves several times before your competition to become accustomed to the feel of them.

USEF Rule DR120.8: Heat/Jackets Waived

"In locations with high average heat and humidity on the date of a competition, management can publish in their prize list that jackets will be waived for the duration of the competition. Alternatively, management can announce prior to or during a competition that competitors can show without jackets when extreme heat and/or humidity is forecast. This waiver applies to all classes including FEI classes at National Competitions. However, competitors must wear protective headgear and a shirt with sleeves and collar, without neckwear, and without decoration except as described under .15 below. T-shirts are not permitted. Members of the Armed Services or police units may wear summer uniforms."

Dover Tip: When jackets are waived, you may choose to wear your jacket in the dressage ring anyway if you feel more comfortable doing so. If you ride without a jacket, you should wear a show shirt that meets the USEF rule criteria; it should be tucked into your breeches and you should wear a belt if your breeches have belt loops.

USEF Rule DR120.9: Rain Covers

"Competitors will be allowed to wear a hat cover and a transparent or conservative color rain coat in inclement weather."

Dover Tip: A clear rain coat is an essential, yet budget-friendly item to have on hand along with a waterproof helmet cover. These items cost very little, but provide excellent protection for your show clothing should you have rain on competition day.

USEF Rule DR120.14: Cooling Vests

"Cooling vests may be worn underneath a riding jacket. If coats are waived, a solid-colored cooling or lightweight vest may be worn over a riding shirt."

Dover Tip: A HyperKewl Evaporative Cooling Vest can help you control your body temperature while riding through the use of a cooling fabric inner. After being soaked in water for one to two minutes, the vest provides a cooling effect that lasts up to 5-10 hours.

USEF Rule: Spurs DR120.9:

"Spurs must be made of metal. Only English-style spurs are permitted, as described below. The shank must be either curved or straight pointing directly back from the center of the spur when on the rider’s boot. If the shank is curved, the spurs must be worn only with the shank directed downwards. However, swan necked spurs are allowed. he inside arm of the spur must be smooth and one or both arms may have rubber covers. If rowels are used, they must be blunt/smooth and free to rotate. Only blunt/smooth rowels are permitted in USEF High Performance Championships, USEF High Performance qualifying and selection trials. Metal spurs with round hard plastic knobs on the shank are allowed (“Impuls” spur). “Dummy” spurs with no shank are also allowed. Only blunt metal spurs (i.e., with no rowels), no longer than 3.5 cm are permitted for FEI Pony Rider tests and FEI Tests for children. The maximum length for spurs used in other classes and tests is 5.08 cm (2 inches) including rowels. This restriction also applies to warm-up and training areas, as well as during competition. Offset spurs without rowels are permitted for riders having an appropriate Dispensation Certificate. Except for USEF High Performance qualifying and selection trials, the length of the spur is measured from the base to the end of the shank. For USEF High Performance qualifying and selection trials, spur length is measured from the boot to the tip of the spur."

A Note about Schooling Shows: For dressage schooling shows, you'll always be dressed appropriately if you follow USEF dressage dress code rules. But depending on the organization that is running the event, more relaxed dressage show attire may be acceptable. Check with the organization holding a schooling show to determine an appropriate level of dress and headwear.

Tips and Trends:

  • While assembling your dressage show attire, pay particular attention to the fit of your dressage coat, and put most of your clothing budget into this item. Your coat can help hide flaws and enhance your figure.

  • Current trends in dressage coats can lend a bit of fashionable flair with subtle style elements.

  • Many dressage coats available now are machine washable for maximum convenience.

  • If you plan on wearing earrings with your dressage outfit, they should be conservative and tasteful in style. You'll never go wrong with gold, silver or pearl studs.

Stock Tie Tips:

  • Having trouble sliding your stock pin through the fabric of your tie? Rub the side of the pin shaft against your scalp a few times, and try again!

  • Secure the loose ends of your stock tie to your competition shirt with safety pins so they don't flap out of your coat lapel while riding.

  • If you opt for the traditional stock tie rather than a pre-tied one, practice tying the knot several times the day before the show.

The Little Extras
Remember to pack these easy-to-forget items when preparing for your show:

Few people enjoy learning to tie the long tails of a stock tie into the traditional knot. But do you know practical reason for wearing stock ties? In the 19th century, hunters in the fields wore the stock ties as a safety measure. If a horse or rider was injured, the long strip of fabric could be used as a bandage, sling or tourniquet. The long stock tie pin was used to secure the bandage.