Dressing for the Select Amateur Show Ring, Part 2

Here are some of the finer details of choosing a Select Amateur horse-showing outfit, like what to wear for a specific class and what color to choose.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

In showmanship, Vlietstra suggests matching your top to your pants or opting for a darker complementary shade of pants. Journal Photo.

In Part 1 of this series, you learned the basics of choosing your attire for the Select division. This time we’ll talk about some specifics, like color and event.

Showmanship Suggestions

Functional, for the older exhibitor, is often a better aspect to consider than flash. “Follow your heart,” Suzanne Vlietstra, president of Hobby Horse Clothing Co. in Chino, California says about dressing for showmanship. “Be sure that whatever you wear is comfortable to move in and doesn’t restrict you.”

If you’re figure impaired, “Be careful about jacket length.” Try not to wear a jacket that calls attention to the hips. And think about color. “One color is trendy and flattering.” If you don’t want to go that route, Suzanne suggests going darker with your pants.

Halter How-to

“For halter classes, a nice blazer or sport coat and trousers are always in style anywhere, with a shirt and tie for the guys, and blouse with scarf or jewelry for the women. Classic blazers will never go out of style, so invest in a good one and have it tailored if needed.”

When you’re leading instead of riding, be it showmanship or halter, Suzanne says to beware of “the melting legs issue.” Using exaggeration to make her point, she says, “Please don’t think that starched khaki pants 12 inches longer than your legs look good.” This backfires, she explains.

Don’t let yourself go into the show pen unprepared. Download AQHA’s FREE Ultimate Guide to Showing report and know exactly what to expect when you attend a horse show.

“It will make your legs look like they belong on an elderly elephant. If you want to use khakis in halter, think about whether you have the leg length to look good with them starched and stacked. What looks dashing on a 6-foot-tall male trainer usually looks goofy on a short, round amateur.”

In a halter class, the Select-aged exhibitor should exude a look of professional confidence. Not “dressing for your age” can take away from that quest. Suzanne says to consider what is going through the judge’s mind. “Most AQHA judges are men and probably fairly conservative,” she says. Laughing quietly, she asks, “When was the last time you saw one in black leather and rhinestones, singing with the Village People?” Suzanne feels that most judges like a nice exhibitor presentation, but are not swayed by pounds of rhinestones.

Color Class

The colors that looked great when you were 15 might not be as appropriate when you are 50-plus. Are you a fan of bright colors? Try using them as an accent color with a mostly beige or black outfit instead of wearing a whole outfit in a bright shade. Suzanne warns against using too much black, however.

“Black can be kind of harsh. I once heard that black is only for the young and the dead.” Black, she says, “is often thought of as a formal color and is usually accessorized in an extra-fancy way.” Because older riders are usually following a “less is more” guideline, this goes against the grain. Because of this, Suzanne suggests going with a deep navy blue. “It looks great over jeans, can be as dressy as black, but it also dresses down.”

The Final Touches

Regardless of which classes you ride in, thinking “beauty tips” can help improve the picture. “Do something cute with your hair.” Suzanne says. Because skin tones and texture change as we age, she says, “I recommend that the ladies take all of their show duds, including the hat, to a cosmetic studio from time to time, to get an arena makeover.”

Everyone can use some horse-showing tips no matter what division you’re in. Whether you’re new to showing or a veteran of the show pen, you’re sure to find some helpful tips in AQHA’s FREE Ultimate Guide to Showing report.

Also, she says, bring along some show photos, as a guideline for the makeup consultant. “I’m not even certified to operate lip gloss,” Suzanne says, “but learning to apply tasteful makeup, designed for show riders to emphasize their eyes, cheeks and lips while wearing a big ol’ hat is a dandy thing.”

Hands are part of the overall picture, too. Suzanne says, “They are some of the body parts that usually don’t age gracefully on outdoor women. A nice manicure with neutral nail polish is a good idea for the show pen.”

Some Tips for Men

“Show men have it easy,” Suzanne says. “Some of you can wear the same classic white shirt you bought in 1967 and still look great, as long as you have a good cleaner to starch it!”

That is, of course, if you can still fit into that 1967 shirt. Now that you’re older, you might “have a relationship with the Dunlaps - where the middle dun laps over your belt buckle,” she says.

“Then, you might not want to decorate your middle with a white shirt above black chaps.” She suggests using the same basic guidelines to create a slimming look for men.

“Tricks for the tummies - dark colors minimize. Light colors emphasize. And, you don’t want a shirt so tight that it pulls between the buttons. That’s pretty scary.”

She says pampering yourself with a specially created garment might be the answer. “Find a custom shirt maker and get some wonderful shirts made. It’s an indulgence you’ll appreciate every time you wear one.”