English Elegance

With these English attire tips, you’ll be dressed for horse-showing success the next time you show English classes.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal, with contributions from Kristin Syverson

Make sure your English showing attire is neat, clean and fits correctly. Journal photo

English apparel is not as flashy as the rhinestones and sequins you might see in western pleasure or showmanship classes. The look is elegant and refined, but it doesn’t have to be boring.

AQHA rules leave quite a bit to the imagination, so the Hitching Post helps us point out some helpful tips to make your English dress a success.

Hunt Coat

  • Sleeves should be able to bend at the elbow.

  • The coat length shouldn’t be so long that you sit on the tail in the saddle.

  • The correct sleeve length should be measured with your elbow bent, just like it is when you ride.

  • Colors: stick to navy, browns or gray. Wear a lighter color for outdoor or summer events.

  • Hunt coats come in a lot of different fabrics and designs. Stick to what feels comfortable. It’s OK to try something a little different with patterns, like a subtle windowpane, but just remember this is a traditional event. Conservative is the name of the game.

In English, the old adage goes: Your riding is what should stand out, not your clothes. Get strong in the saddle with the help of AQHA’s Fit to Ride e-book.


  • Shirt colors do not always have to be white, but think basic. Just make sure it’s not an iridescent color.

  • Give your white shirt a little pizzazz by selecting one with an interesting pattern or texture. Some even have fun extra touches like colored trim inside the cuffs and collar.

  • Shirts can have piped collars.

  • The final touch to the shirt should be a monogram on the front of the collar. Monograms can range quite a bit in detail. Within reason, monograms are a fun way to personalize your look.


  • Boots should be field boots, not dress boots. Field boots have laces.

  • When you buy new boots, buy them about an inch too tall, because they settle.

  • Boots should fit snugly around your legs so they do not slouch down.

  • Young children show in short paddock boots, jodhpurs and garter straps. Though the age varies, it is traditional in the hunter-jumper world for children 12 and under to wear jodhpurs, and for 13 and over to wear tall boots.

  • Garter straps go just below the knee and should match the boot color: brown with brown and black with black.


  • English pant styles vary a little. Find something that you’re comfortable in, but remember, colors should always be tan or khaki.

  • Side-zip breeches are a popular style and tend to be the most flattering.

Of course, no matter how flattering your breeches are, you need a solid position and flawless execution to truly wow the judges. And talented English riders are strong in the saddle. Be your best self with the help of AQHA’s Fit to Ride e-book, featuring exercises specifically tailored to equestrians.


  • According to AQHA Rule SHW320.2, "It is mandatory for riders in all hunter, jumper and equitation over fence classes, including hunter hack, where jumping is required and when jumping anywhere on the competition ground to wear properly fastened protective headgear that meets ASTM/SEI standards or equivalent international standards for equestrian use. The helmet must also be properly fitted with harness secured. It is mandatory that all youth wear an ASTM/SEI approved hard hat with harness during all English classes including flat and over fence classes. It is recommended that amateurs wear an ASTM/SEI approved hard hat with harness in all English classes.


  • You need to wear black gloves.

  • Makeup should be a finished look within reason. Make sure it is age-appropriate.

  • Jewelry should be moderate. Keep earrings subtle. Dangling jewelry of any kind is not only distracting, but poses a serious safety risk.

  • Hair should be tucked under the helmet and well-groomed. You don’t want fly-aways.

  • Don’t forget a belt.