Youth Horse Show Apparel: Tips for the Arena

Youth Horse Show Apparel: Tips for the Arena

Put the right outfit together for the youth arena.

youth horsemanship exhibitor wears blue chaps and shirt (Credit: Journal)

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Youth riders can be a tough bunch to outfit. They are constantly growing, and the styles and designs older riders wear can sometimes be too much for young competitors.

Keep in mind these few tips when dressing for youth classes:

  • Youth can get away with brighter and bolder colors than adults. See this guide for matching outfits to your horse.
  • Custom-dyed boots for showmanship, as well as riding classes, have made their way to the small-fry scene. Most exhibitors at AQHA shows have custom-dyed boots; they create a unified look.
  • Jackets and rail shirts are being worn longer for slimmer silhouettes. Youth should wear a more delicate and proportioned design that fits them while still offering the appropriate “pop” for the arena. Good tailoring and fit are a must.


Smaller boys and girls can usually wear a shirt from a western store. Good fit is a must.

  • Boys should wear shirts that coordinate with their saddle blanket.
  • Girls should wear an age-appropriate version of what older girls wear.

Vest and Jackets

Vests and jackets tend to bunch up on smaller-framed children. They can look misshapen, so start with a basic shirt, blouse or slinky top. If you choose a rail shirt alone, be sure any contrasting pieces match to pull the outfit together.

Boys should wear a small scarf to finish the collar, and make sure it coordinates to match.


Don’t make the mistake of buying a pair of chaps too big thinking your child will grow into them. Chaps are one of the most important pieces of a show outfit. Here are tips for measuring for perfectly fitting chaps.

Youth chaps should fit:

  • Snugly off the waist.
  • Cover some or all of belt when you are mounted. 
  • Smoothly through the thigh and hip.
  • Fitted to the knee but not so much that they prevent movement.
  • Long enough to cover your boot heel when the rider is seated in the saddle.

If you purchase a pair of chaps, but sure to correctly care for your chaps investment.

Chaps are sometimes not needed at local shows for youth. Nicely fitted jeans will work, but you can make them lay smoother by sewing a short length of heavy elastic under the instep to keep the pants snug under the rider’s boot.


Keep makeup clean, simple and fresh. Makeup should be used to enhance features. Don’t overdo it to the point where it is a distraction.

Get a hat that is proportional to the size of the youth rider and does not overpower the face or look too big for the body. Many hat-makers now offer youth sizes with shorter brims.