(Note: the hunters are based on the HORSES performance. Anything that may distract the judge from the horse is usually frowned upon. So while I may be saying I want to express myself, I don’t mean by wearing a hot pink show coat and glittery fairy wings.)
Before I dive into my little acts of rebellion, I think it’s important for me to outline and reference a few of the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) rules in order to educate you on standard practice within the hunter division. I am only noting some the rules that apply to basic attire and tack – these are not the full rules and should not be referenced as such. For the rules in their entirety, please visit https://www.usef.org/compete/resources-forms/rules-regulations/rulebook
Taken from CHAPTER HU HUNTER DIVISION, SUBCHAPTER HU-4 ATTIRE, TACK AND EQUIPMENT (with my comments in italics.)
HU126 Tack Snaffles, pelhams and full bridles, all with cavesson nose bands, are required. A cavesson nose band is a regular nose band you see on all hunter bridles.
Judges may penalize, but may not eliminate, a horse or pony that competes in a snaffle, pelham, or full bridle that is unconventional. Unconventional snaffles, pelhams, or full bridles include, but are not limited to, hunter gags, kimberwickes, etc.
Judges must eliminate a horse or pony that competes in illegal bits or nosebands. Illegal bits include, but are not limited to, three rings, gags (other than the hunter gag), et cetera… Illegal nosebands include, but are not limited to, drop, flash and figure eight nosebands.
HU127 Equipment Light pads and bar shoes are permissible, however, bar shoes indicate a weakness and in Conformation classes a judge may penalize accordingly. All artificial appliances, including but not limited to nasal strips, boots, wraps and bandages are prohibited. In the case of inclement weather competition management may permit the use of bell boots. Even in wet conditions, I have never seen anyone show in bell boots nor have I ever seen anything but the classic hunter pad. We will use studs if competing on grass.
HU128 Attire Protective headgear: all riders must wear protective headgear. I wear the Kask Starlady and have never had an issue or complaint about it. I would never wear a helmet that was flashy or had ‘bling.’
Attire: riders are required to wear conservatively colored coats (black, blue, green, grey or brown) which are free from adornment which in the judge’s opinion is overly distracting. Shirts must have a choker, similar collar or tie. Breeches may be buff, canary, tan, rust or white. I have never seen anyone compete in canary or rust colored breeches, but I think someone should bring it back! I wear tan/buff breeches. When I was a junior and it was classic day in the jumpers I wore white. I have a green Equiline and dark royal blue Manfredi coat that I compete in and have been totally safe wearing. I have not competed in a light grey coat.
Inappropriate attire: when management permits Hunter or Hunter/Jumping Seat Equitation riders to ride without jackets, riders must wear traditional, short, or long-sleeved riding shirts with chokers or ties. Polo shirts and full chaps are not permitted except in unjudged warm-up classes. Management or Judge may eliminate an exhibitor who is inappropriately attired. Even when they wave jackets, I keep mine on. There was one time at a smaller local show where it was over 90 degrees F and I removed my jacket for the last few classes, but I wouldn’t have if I was at a higher rated show.
In classes restricted to junior exhibitors, rules concerning hunt colors will be strictly enforced.
Boy-O-Boy Bridleworks ‘Big Eq’ Browband
Custom Mane Jane Spur Straps
DIY Braid Bling
Dreamers n Schemers Socks
Show Shirts with Subtle Details
Pony Glam Hoof Hi-Lites
Blue or Green Hunt Coat
So, those are the ways I have fun in the hunter ring! So far, I haven’t been penalized for any of the above, but do not take my word for it. A lot can change from judge to judge, so if you’re concerned, always play it safe and stick to the more conservative choices. How do you get ready to show? Any fun things I left out? Let me know!