I get lots of questions from adult re-riders and/or those getting back into competiting after a long absence about what attire is trending in the show ring these days. The vast majority of these people don’t care about being fashion divas, they just don’t want to look out of place as they make their showing debut. I can totally relate to that feeling! I make enough of my own mistakes in the show ring, I at least want to blend in with the crowd when it comes to my show attire. All of you re-riders out there struggling with this common #adultammyprob, this guide is for you. Welcome to HunkyHanoverian’s guide on what to wear in the hunter ring. It’s not going to be top-of-the-line, break the bank attire (I’m very much an adult ammy on a budget) but it will be a guide illustrating what I wear at USEF A/AA shows and feel very comfortable in. Enjoy!
The Hunt Coat
If you haven’t been in the show ring in many years, I have got some great news for you. Hunt coats are FABULOUS these days! Say goodbye to stuffy and hot wool hunt coats with giant shoulder pads. Modern fabrics and tailored cuts of today’s coats now make you feel sleek and stylish when you slip one on. You can wash them yourself (crazy I know, good bye dry-cleaning bills!), and they are super lightweight and cool in even the hottest climates. Trust me on this one, I show in Texas. Where were these coats were when I was suffering through summer shows in 100 degree heat during my junior years?! I have two go-to coats at the moment, which both have modern features that I love.
The first coat is an AA MotionLite Coat in navy. These coats are are all mesh with no inner liner at all. As you can probably guess, their major plus is being super cool in hotter weather. You can feel even the lightest breeze in this marvelous coat. It must be magic mesh, because you cannot see white show shirts underneath it at all. I was very skeptical of this initially, but after trying one on I was immediately converted. I didn’t even need a show coat when I tried on my MotionLite, but it felt so amazing that I knew I had to have it, and at such a reasonable price point I didn’t even have to feel too guilty ($250).
My one “wish” concerning these coats would be a long length. Being 6 feet tall, I do wish they came in long sizes for us taller riders. The coat is a tiny bit short on me when I’m on the ground, but I feel that it still looks nice in the saddle and the cooling properties make it worth the not quite perfect fit. Riding Warehouse has all the sizes and colors (not to mention super fast shipping and amazing customer service!), but if you aren’t looking to stand out you might want to play it safe with navy.
If you don’t typically show in really hot climates, or you want something a smidge more traditional, then definitely check out R.J. Classics show coats. This coat is my go-to for traditional style. Still very lightweight and machiene washable, I have a conservative dark green one that I am in love with. It is truly elegant, and I feel so good when I wear it. Believe it or not, green is a very common color in the hunter ring these days. If you want to be a tad different without making a huge statement, go with a conservative dark green coat. Riding Warehouse has a great selection of R.J. Classics coats at all different price points. Don’t feel like you have to get the priciest one to blend in, all of their coats are great regardless of the price. Mine is a mid-range one and I seriously love it to pieces. I also really appreciate that they come in long sizes, which provides just the right fit for my taller frame.
I’m addicted to show shirts and I cannot lie. I have maybe 5 or 6 different brands? I just can’t help myself though, because show shirts are where you can really express your style. As long as it looks conservative under a hunt coat, you can have lots of fun with different styles and colors. Colored show shirts and monogrammed collars are a bit of an outdated trend these days, although you definitely still see some monograms here and there. I still have some monogrammed shirts that I keep as back-ups, but pretty much everyone is wearing white shirts with unembellished collars. When I say white shirts, I mean the part visible when you have a coat on. Outside of that small area, show shirts now come in fun colors and patterns.The new technical fabrics and breathability make show shirts these days super comfortable. The available colors and patterns also make them super fun.
Noel Asmar makes some gorgeous colors with cooling mesh and stylish tailoring. I have one with aqua sleeves that I adore, partially because it matches my Voltaire hat. Other brands that I love are Kingsland (I have one with a navy body so it is easier to keep clean), Noble Outfitters, and fun Ariat one with floral mesh inserts that I love.
If you showed in the olden days you probably remember the greenish beige Tailored Sportsmans with basically no stretch and waistbands up to your bra. Don’t worry though, those days are long gone. I also do not recommend trying to crusade a comeback with those until you see the exponentially more flattering and comfortable options in the show ring today.
Yes, Tailored Sportsmans are still very popular. Their Trophy Hunter style can be very flattering on certain body types, and although the side-zip style isn’t exactly all the rage these days, I still think they look nice under hunt coats. The nice part about moderns times though are the many different brands at multile price points that are equally acceptable in the show ring. “Puke green” is a color choice of the past and if you want to blend in nowadays go with a subtle light beige or buff color. A favorite brand of show breeches for myself are Romfh Sarafinas. They are ultra stretchy yet supportive, as well as super a flattering fit.
Belts are the other area where you can show your personality. Predominately hidden under your coat, have fun with your belt and feel free to express your personality a bit. I have fallen head over heels for elastic belts. I didn’t understand the draw at first, and even initially thought they looked a tiny bit tacky. But, then I tried one. They are crazy comfy and have a super slim profile which is perfect for not adding extra bulk around the waistline of your hunt coat. There are many makers at many price points to fit any budget. But really, whatever belt floats your boat is great in the belt department. I usually nab something from the amazing clearence section at Riding Warehouse. I have an Unbelt and Ruespari (both elastic belts), multiple C4s in various colors (I love how easy to clean these are), as well as some various Ovation brand ones that all get a spot in my show ring rotation. Whatever suits my mood that day, or better yet, matches my show shirt, gets to be worn on show day.
Honestly, any black gloves will do. This is a great area to save some money! But, I also think that sometimes paying a bit more upfront for good quality gloves is smart. I bought black Roeckles about 4 years ago and only use them for shows and they are still in pristine condition. But like I said, gloves are really a no brainer, and pretty hard to mess up. Buy whatever fits, as you will definitely want some extra grip when your show nerves kick in!
Whatever fits best and is conservative works in the hunter ring these days. Thanks to basically all boots having zippers nowadays, the finely tappered ankles and Spanish tops is the desired look. Some people show a bit of spice with extra touches such as small areas of snake skin or fancy toe punches, but plain black boots work just as well. Field boots and dress boots are equally acceptable styles. You do not need cusom to fit in, any boot that fits well and is properly polished is just fine. If you are 6 ft tall and all legs that necessitates customs like me, just make sure to take care of them so they last as long as possible. Popular brands are Parlanti, Tucci, Ariat, and DeNiro (what I wear), just to name a few. Brand is really not important though, just find some that fits you! The judge won’t be able to tell what brand they are from the judge’s stand, but they will notice ill-fittings boots and that can hamper the overall impression of you.
When it comes to buying what fits, the helmet is the most crucial. Do not worry about “in” brands. Any helmet that fits your noggin and is conservative is just fine in the hunter ring. GPA, Kask, Samshield, Charles Owen, and Trauma Void are just of few of the brand options. Most brands these days offer a wider brim option as well, which is a great asset when riding in sunny weather. Personally, I prefer Samshields due to their wonderful fit for my head shape, washable liners, and their their minimalist look. But really and truly- any helmet that fits your head and is conservative in color and details is fine. Stay away from sparkle and shine in the hunter ring and you will be good. Also, don’t forget a hairnet! You will stick out like a sore thumb without your hair neatly contained in a net. Try to find the closest color to your hair so it is less noticeable. I prefer the RWR hairnets, but any net that is a good match to your hair will work.
At the end of the day, you should wear whatever you feel good in, regardless of labels. Feeling good in your own skin will help you step in the ring with that extra bit of confidence. There is so much variety in competition wear these days, that with a little bit of searching you are bound to find your own personal perfect fit, and you can do it without breaking the bank. Good luck!