How to Be a Fashionista at a Western Performance Show

Seven Methods:The HorsePresentationHalter - The HandlerHalter - The HorseEnglishWesternBehind the scenes

At horse Shows there are a few main goals apart from showing you and your horse to the best of your ability and even getting placed. One of the first goals is to look alike with a bit of individuality.

When competing at Horse Shows, every wears the same outfits such as for English, Jodhpurs, Jackets and boots. But many people do a personal twist to their outfit, a coloured shirt, different styles of jackets, different coloured jodhpurs, different boots and different helmets and accessories. When competing in Western Events, the diversity can be great, with alternative colours and patterns, and in a rare case, someone may wear the same patterned outfit as you. Though the tack for almost all events would be likely to be the same as the next persons, there is a way to look diverse and unique with a fashion twist while keeping to the rules, regulations and sticking with the same tack for both English and Western.

Method 1
The Horse

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    Compete in every event At Western Shows or Performance Shows, the events range from Western Pleasure, Western Horsemanship, Western Equitation, Trail, Western Riding, Western Reining and Bareback. Some people ride many horses depending on the event, in some cases, riders are only permitted to ride two horses to go towards High Point Awards. In some shows you can ride as many horses as you wish. Try riding the one horse in every event, from Showmanship, Hack, Hunter Under Saddle, Hunt Seat Equitation through to Western Pleasure, Western Horsemanship and Trail. This not only shows the diversity and versatility of your horse, but you will be with the few that compete with only one horse in all the events...and these riders do just as well in terms of placings and results.
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    Ride the horse to its advantage You wouldn't ask a swimmer to do a Marathon, and you wouldn't ask a Hurdler to do Pole Vault. It is the same with horses, an English trained horse is able to do Western with the right training and guidance, but you should take all necessary actions to provide adequate training in this event before asking the horse to ride it. This is the same for any Western Performance event, from Halter, Hack, Hunter Under Saddle, Equitation and Western and Trail. From the point above, if you compete with your horse in everything, keep in mind its abilities. Does it side pass with ease? Are you able to lope straight from a halt? These aspects are required for Western Equitation. Can your horse Canter with a loose rein? Can you get a single or a two beat simple change from one lead to the next? These are important features of an English Performance Horses, especially for the Equitation. You can try all the events, but ride each horse to its abilities and not so much to its can improve them as your ride.

Method 2

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    Understand the regulations By most regulations, at a Western Performance Show horses can be banded or left natural but trimmed. Horses may not have ribbons in their mane or tail, and may only be plated up for English events. (Always refer to the Club or Body guidelines and rule book). This does not mean you can't read between the lines so to say.
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    Band it up by using a different coloured plaiting band. Bands come in various colours from the basic black and white to chestnut and bay colours. Many other colours are around, as well as clear, so have some fun with it and look around. On a white mane black bands look quite stunning, whereas with a black mane you could go for a white band. When using a different band colour to the mane colouring, make sure that the top of each section between the band and the crest are super neat and tidy. Contrasting colors make the bands stand out, and in turn, the faults. If your only new to banding or can not keep them neat, go for a matching colour to help hide those small imperfections. At the wither end of the mane there is always a piece of hair that doesn't band correctly, in western events this can be braided to keep it neat and tidy. Some people trim this off, others keep it. Whatever your choice, you should make it on a knowing slate. This piece of hair allows rain to drip away from the horses back and down to the ground. If this is removed, then the water will run down the spine and causes rain scald. If you do remove it, rug up.
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    Give your horse a twist when plaiting your horse. There are many different styles and methods to braiding and stitching them in. To make them interesting, give the braid a twist before doing it up or stitching it.
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    Lock it up or let it loose? A forelock is the hair between the horses ears which resembles a fringe. Some breeds usually put a band in it to keep it from moving around while keeping the forelock in position. Others braid it and stitch it to keep it out of the way and tidy. This all depends on the style and discipline. In Western usually you either leave it out or band it up like you would the mane. Because the forelock comes off the poll, which can be rather high, you may need two bands to make it sit correctly. For English and Dressage you can plait it or wrap it, again, just like the mane. NEVER cut or hog the forelock, as it is the horses natural fly swatter and wind screen wiper.
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    Shine it up For most showing face oils are permitted, but sometimes they are not. If they are, use them around the eyes and muzzle, but ensure you only put enough on and not too much, as this will cause dust to collect on it and can detract rather than be attract the judges eye.
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    Let your horse be a star or a moon, or a square? Quarter marks are great to give your look a twist. Most clubs allow them, and some may even allow you to put some glitter spray onto them to give them a bit more of a shine. They come in heaps of different shapes and sizes, so shop around and if you can't find one you like, try making your own. Take into account the type of event you are riding, quarter marks only look good on an English horse during a hack class, they are not suitable during a western pleasure event or a showmanship event. So if you are competing in events back to back, make sure you can brush it out before your next class.
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    Shine those hooves Horses hooves can be black, white, stripped, or tri-coloured, and can be variations and combinations of each. Though many people stick with all-natural some like to glam it up or black it down. Black hoof polish is good to cover up any bumps and cracks as well as hiding any discolouration from hooves hitting coloured poles. It is best used on Hacking horses as it makes a real statement. Others prefer to use clear, to ensure the natural look is kept while giving it a gloss appearance. When using clear, you must ensure your horses hooves are spotless and tidy. If they have a bruise on their upper hoof, it won't be covered up. Some clubs such as Pony Club and General Riding Clubs allow you to experiment and play by adding glitter and sparkle. This has a great effect when used in the right situations. Go with your instinct and if in doubt, go clear. Look at your competitors and note what the winners do. If they all consistently have black or clear hooves, try the same thing. Always remember though, if your horses hooves look silly to you, then most likely they don't suit the choice you have decided upon.
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    Flaunt it or fake it? Some people prefer a natural tail. Others, a false tail. In some events it doesn't matter either way, other times it is greatly prohibited. If you are allowed to use a false tail, make sure it is the exact match to your horses current tail colour. If you have an Appaloosa, a Paint or a grey, you may have to bleach the tail to ensure a match with colour. Some false tail designers can make an individual tail to suit the horse. This works well for horses that have mottled dock skin resulting in a parti-coloured tail. If you prefer to flaunt what you have, ensure you protect the tail hair and promote the growth of it. Bag it up to keep it from getting dirty and only brush it with a tail brush when you really need to. If you continuously brush at it, it will gradually thin out. Condition it often to promote healthy growth and give it a good trim every few months. A basic tidy up is essential when showing, but only take a small amount off.
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    Organise and Execute your presentation ideas well before a show. Test them out to get the method perfect and if an opportunity arises to show them off, go ahead. A judge may give a positive comment on them, or one might say it did nothing for the combination. This is critical feedback, as another persons shimmer and shine may be another persons step up the ranking.

Method 3
Halter - The Handler

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    Buy a good pair of pants that are a good cut and length to suit you. Your pants are not the main part of the halter look, but you do have to run and move around in them. Look for a show pant that is flattering to your body shape and has a slightly longer leg cut with a higher waist. This gives a longer leg impression so as you walk and jog beside your horse you too will look longer.
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    Wear a shirt or a slinky on your top half. It should be long sleeved unless you are wearing a halter jacket. Otherwise you can get away with a short sleeved shirt under the jacket as it won't be seen. The shirt for handlers should be long sleeved and have a collar. The shirt should be buttoned all the way up the front. A slinky, (suitable more so for females) should have a turtle neck type collar. You are required to have your shirt tucked in unless it is a slinky and sits right on the gab between your pants and skin line, no skin should be seen.
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    Put on a jacket or wear a specially designed halter outfit. Jackets come in two basic cuts for Showmanship and Halter - cropped and long. A cropped Jacket sits just on the pants line, and gives a flattering appearance. A longer Jacket is one that may or may not have a split similar to that of a riding Jacket. It gives a longer appearance and many judges prefer a longer jacket to a cropped or a shirt style top. If you go for a specially designed halter outfit, look for one that suits your body shape. The Halter outfits are usually made of leather and do up at either the front or back depending on the design and shape. They are good for the handler that does a lot of Halter showing as they are less likely to get dirty and can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. They are also especially good as they are at most good Western Attire Retailers and the designs are quite bright so they suit a new Handler wanting to make an impression.
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    Buckle Up with a good leather type belt suited for Showmanship and Halter and have a Buckle. The buckle can be either Glitzy and Glamour with Rhinestones and Diamantes or it can be a silver plaited trophy type buckle. Either is well suited, and this just makes the outfit. If you don't wear a belt and buckle you can be eliminated from the event.
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    Finish the look with a sturdy pair of boots such as Pull Ons, or Lace Ups. They can have fancy stitching or embroidery or they can be plain. During a Halter or Showmanship event you must always wear a hat. This can have a Hat band and can be glitzy or plain. To finish the look wear a neck piece such as a Yolk band or bolo tie for males and a piece of jewellery such as a necklace or bolo tie for the woman.

Method 4
Halter - The Horse

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    Halter your horse in a leather Headstall or Halter suitable for the type of Halter showing you will be doing. There are different guidelines and halters for different breeds of horses. Western breeds often have the same types of halter, whereas Arabian Halters are much different - being thinner than normal.

Method 5

  • jodhpurs
  • jacket
  • Ratcatcher Brand Shirt or similar
  • boots
  • tie
  • spurs
  • cane
  • hat
  • accessories
  • saddle
  • bridle
  • saddle cloth/pad (Hack and HUS)
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Method 6

  • Pants
  • shirt
  • Hat
  • Belt and buckle
  • neck feature (yolk or jewellery)
  • boots
  • spurs
  • chaps
  • Saddle
  • Pad
  • Bridle
  • Bit
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    Colour coordinate your looks (For all Events)

Method 7
Behind the scenes

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    Right now light oiled tack is the thing in western classes. Instead, try dark oiled tack. Believe it or not judges don't judge the class on the color of your tack. In English everyone's tack matches right? Well, white bridles and tack can be purchased. These look nice, especially on dark horses.
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    Don't use a fake tail, because they look just that, fake. Only use them on short tailed horses, or horses with pieces of their tails missing. Most horses do fine without them.


  • One thing you don't want to do is do anything that will annoy your horse. He could act up, and cause you to be disqualified.
  • Things like light sparkles on the hooves, and braiding ribbons into the mane look nice and stand out in a crowd but subtly. You want every thing subtle, and you don't want to break any rules.
  • On the mane, at the wither is a piece of hair than doesn't sit correct. Some people trim this, some leave it hang or braid it to keep it out of the way.


  • If you don't win a class don't let it get you down. Think about what you can do better next time and practice some more at home. Try to go to lessons or clinics that your local club might hold to learn more about the events and what is required and/or expected.

Is is extremely rude and unprofessional to question the opinion of the judge.

Article Info

Categories: Horse Showing and Competition