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Correct Attire for the Dressage Ring - Training through Fourth Levels

Steeped in tradition, the sport of dressage requires riders in competitions recognized by the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) 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 many ways to suit your individual taste through color choices and finishing details in your clothing, helmet and boots.

Here we offer tips on dressing for the competition arena for Training through Fourth levels. Always be sure, however, to consult the current USEF Rule Book for the most up-to-date information on dress code. It is particularly important to consult the rule book for dress code requirements and exceptions for any FEI level including Junior, Young Horse and Pony classes, USDF Pas de Deux and Quadrille, for Federation Dispensation Certificates and for use of armed services/police uniforms. The exceptions allowed for these classes are not covered in this article.

Note: The USEF website is updated regularly with both rule change notifications and the most up-to-date USEF Rule Book, including rules pertaining to headgear, whips and spurs.

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. The dress code for the USEF test for 4-year old horses is a short riding coat of conservative color, with stock or tie, breeches, and protective headgear as defined in DR120.6 and in compliance with GR801. The dress code for FEI Pony Riders and FEI Tests for Children is dark coat or club uniform coat, breeches or jodhpurs, white shirt with tie or hunting stock, gloves, boots and protective headgear as defined in DR120.6 and in compliance with GR801. Spurs are optional for all of the FEI Tests for Children, FEI Pony Tests, and the USEF test for 4-year old horses. (See DR120.10)

Show Coats

Choose a short riding coat in a conservative color. A cutaway coat (modified tailcoat) with short tails is permitted. Most competition coats have four-button fronts, but if a three-button coat flatters you best, the number of buttons doesn’t matter. Contrast trim, such as a suede collar, or subtle details, such as crystal accents on the pockets, can allow you to express your sense of style.

Show Shirts

Choose a show or competition shirt that lies smoothly against your body without puckering or bunching and allows your freedom of movement. You’ll find options in all sorts of colors from classic white to colorful shirts with white “bib” fronts, and shirts that have all sort of details for fun when you’re not wearing your show coat.

Note: If jackets are waived due to high heat conditions, you must wear shirt with sleeves and a collar, without a tie and without decoration. For this reason, a simple white show shirt is always in style.

Stock Tie

Wear a tie, stock tie, choker or use a show shirt with an integrated collar. You may choose to tie a stock tie, wear a pre-tied version or choose a ruffled stock tie that closes with hook-and-loop at the back of your neck.

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.

Show Breeches

Most adults choose to wear white breeches in competition, but light-colored breeches such as cream are allowed. Light-colored jodhpurs are allowed for 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.


At any level, you can choose to wear dressage or field boots. Riders most commonly choose to show in black tall boots 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: Gloves

All riders must 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, from the most traditional to fashionable choices with crystal embellishments and contrast piping.

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.


Riding gloves protect your hands from blisters, help provide grip for the reins and create a finished look for your dressage show attire. You should choose a conservatively colored glove. 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. If you do not wish to draw attention to your hands, avoid gloves with crystal embellishments or contrast stitching. .

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

  • Copies of your dressage tests.

  • Hairnets.

  • Stock tie pin, if desired.

  • Safety pins.

  • Conservative stud earrings.

  • Belt with conservative styling.

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.