The clothing requirements for showing in Western classes are pretty much the same across all breeds. Cowboy boots, jeans, belts, long sleeved shirts or jackets, and a cowboy hat are the base requirements for most shows. More formal shows may require chaps and a ties or scarves depending on the class.
While the requirements are the same, what is different between breeds, and even classes within a breed, is the style of certain clothing items. For instance, cowboy hats used on the Arabian or Walking Horse show circuit have a different length and style brim than what is used by Quarter Horse competitors. At Quarter Horse shows, the style of jacket or shirt used in Horsemanship is often different than what is used in Reining or Working Cow Horse.
If you’re not familiar with what is required, or normally used for your event, spend some time doing your homework. Go to a show just to watch and learn. Subscribe to a publication that specializes in your breed or event. If you have a trainer, talk to your trainer at length about what you should wear.
The devil is in the details when it comes to all aspects of showing. Pay attention to the little things when looking at a competitor’s outfit. It’s a good idea to pick each item of clothing apart so that you don’t miss important details.
Look at the size and shape of the brim and crowns on the hats that are being worn. Are the brims short or long? What is the shape of the brim? Is it squared off or round or somewhere in between? Is the crown low and close to their head or is it high? What type of materials are the hats made of?
Boot styles fluctuate somewhat with the trends in western fashion. However, some breeds and events will stick with tradition. Look particularly at the toe shape. Are the toe shapes pointed, round, or square? Next, look at the heel height. Are they low or slightly higher? Soles are another feature that can change depending on trends.
Belts and belt buckles are items that change depending on the trends for the breed. Look at belt material and style. Are the belts made of plain leather or do they have intricate tooling and silver? Are the buckles plain or are they more intricate? Look at the size and shape of the buckles. When you’re doing comparisons you’ll want to note whether or not the buckle is a trophy buckle as they tend to be larger. The last thing you want to do is show up wearing a big non-trophy buckle when everyone else is wearing simple, smaller ones.
Shirt or jacket colors are important. Pay attention to the colors used for competitors of your same age range and level. Youth riders will often use different colors than what are used in the adult classes. Additionally, more experienced riders will use louder colors to draw the judge’s attention and novice riders will use classic colors to fit in.
Also pay attention to the style of the shirt or jacket. Are they form-fitting or loose? What materials are they made of? Do they tuck inside the jeans or do they hang over the edge of the chaps?
Ties and scarves are something that can change with the trends. They also dependent on the association’s rulebook. Be familiar with the rule requirements and then compare what you see in the show arena.
Chaps are a pretty standard item as there are only a few basic styles that are used in the show pen. Chaps may be plain or tooled at the top. Materials may be suede, slick leather or equi-suede. As with the shirts, you’ll also want to pay attention to the colors of the chaps that are used.
Showing in Western classes can be a lot of fun. Do your homework and pay attention to the details and you should have a great time dressing Western for your class.