Color and Style Tips
Color and style are the key elements of your western horse show wardrobe.
- President of the Hobby Horse Clothing Company
Color plays a very important role in the impression you make in the show ring. You must flatter your horse at the same time you try to look unique--a trick when there are 20 sorrel horses with riders in black chaps loping around together!
Before you choose colors, keep in mind that the color of your horse affects the overall picture much more than your little face. Don't ever choose something you don't like, but dress for your horse as well as yourself, because very little of your coloring shows in the pen, compared to the acre of horse you're riding!
Do some research: Consider a trip to the library for a book on fashion and color, and do your own research for both you and your horse. ("He's tall, dark, and handsome and looks good in a gray flannel suit.") Or check out the Winning Colors interActiv feature on my website (see below). It's a fun way to preview color combinations for you and your horse. When it comes to color, trust your instincts, start simple, and study the impression color creates in the show ring before you start spending.
In general, horses are either "redheads" (sorrel, chestnut, red roan, rose gray, dun--horses with red hair, which look especially nice with softer earth-tone shades of sand, rust, brown, peach, and most any green tone) or "brunettes" (bay, black, white, most grays--horses with brown, black, or white hair), which can wear bright jewel-tone colors like red, blue, purple and also the greens well. "Neutral" color group horses include palominos, buckskins, and grullas, who can use either the earth-tone or jewel-tone accents, depending on the rider's preferences, horse's coat color and the horse's markings.
Some horses including Appaloosas are a little harder to classify. If your horse has more than 50 percent body white, consider the brunette/jewel-tone colors to contrast with your horse's white coat and avoid a dreary "sand chaps on almost white horse" combination. If your colorful horse has less than 50 percent body white, use his primary coat color as the determining factor: for example a minimal white sorrel overo Paint would probably look best in the redhead/earthtone colors.
If you ride several horses, or aren't sure what color horse you may be showing, consider the versatile blue/green color range. From the palest mint to the deepest forest green, these colors look great on almost any horse color, and also carry well from a distance in the show ring. Picture a beautiful teal green shirt with a matching saddle blanket on a sorrel horse and a bay--it's a winning picture either way.
Show fashions don't change with each season of each year like street apparel. Good basics like hats and chaps can be updated from time to time and should last you for many years, given reasonable care and a semi-steady body weight. Show clothing fashions have a lifecycle of several years from the time something new hits the world shows and then trickles down to local or regional level shows. So consider that you're investing in clothing that should be useful in your wardrobe for three or four years, then budget and invest accordingly.
Keep in mind that dark colors minimize while light colors emphasize. Smaller patterned or vertical stripe fabrics minimize and lengthen; while large, bold stripes or horizontal designs shorten or broaden your figure. Remember, too, that the judge will be looking at you from at least 50 feet away, so tiny details will be lost but color and silhouette will carry from rail to rail. Make sure your outfit "reads on stage."
If you're bottom-heavy, you might consider a dark chap color to minimize "thighs of size" with a vertical patterned dark vest to minimize your middle, topped off with a lighter hat to visually draw the observer's eye upward and create the illusion of height in your upper body. If you're tall, a darker hat visually compresses you a little, especially with a darkish outfit below it. Busty? Try to keep layers--lapels, ties, collars--to a minimum on your chest and go for a color blend at the waist. Small, or trying to create a bigger or more adult impression? Go for a sharp color contrast between chaps and tops, and emphasize accessories--bolder ties or a little more jewelry, perhaps.
Any figure will look trimmer if you try to make everything--chaps, belt, vest/jacket/shirt--come together at your natural waist instead of your hips. No color or style will erase your figure flaws, but careful choices can emphasize your good points and minimize your weaknesses. Trends come and go, but good taste is always in style. You may want to attend a few shows like those you'll be competing in with a camera to snap a few reminders of what you did or didn't like.
If you would like to preview outfit colors on a variety of horses, check out the interActiv feature on my website. It's a fun way to get an idea how great--or average--a color combination might be on your horse