Unspoken rules in the Equestrian World: White Breeches

Everyone has their own style and preferences. For me, I like the way white breeches flatter my figure. They look sharp and clean up nicely at shows. I also find them practical since I event as well as compete in pure show jumping.

Traditionally in the United States, whites were something you had to earn, worn by riders competing in the Grand Prix and, even then, they were only worn for big money classes or world cup qualifiers. Then, the Junior/AO Jumpers started wearing them in the classics, and now you see riders wearing whites in classics as low as 1 meter. The United States and Canada are the only countries where this unspoken rule carries a lot of weight. Riders in Europe only compete in white breeches, from the tiny .70m jumpers all the way to the grand prix classes. Everyone has their own style and preferences. For me, I never liked the way tan breeches looked on myself. They made me feel more body conscious going into the ring. Regardless of my opinion, the question is, if other countries don’t see a problem wearing whites in lower level events, is it really that big of a deal if we do it here in the United States and Canada?

White breeches are just one example of the many unspoken rules in the American Equestrian sports. While trainers should always set an example for neat and presentable turnout, I feel it’s inappropriate for them to force their views on what constitutes as such. A horse/rider combination can have a traditional turnout that’s ill fitting and a dirt magnet. While another pair could be decked out in flashy, high tech fabric with bling that’s well fitted and clean. The emphasis needs to be focused on what fits well and is comfortable for the rider rather than what will please the trainer. That being said, there are still rules, especially in the hunters and equitation. In section HU128 of the U.S Equestrian rulebook under hunters,

HU128 Attire

  1. Protective headgear. All riders must wear protective headgear. See GR801.2. While competing in a jumping class, if a rider’s chin strap becomes unfastened, the rider may stop, re-fasten the chin strap and continue his/her round without penalty or elimination. A judge may, but is not required, to stop a rider and ask them to refasten a chin strap which has become unfastened, again without penalty to the rider.
  2. Attire. Riders are required to wear conservatively colored coats (black, blue, green, grey or brown) which are free from adornment which in the judge’s opinion is overly distracting. Shirts must have a choker, similar collar or tie. Breeches may be buff, canary, tan, rust or white.
  3. Formal Attire. Riders are required to wear scarlet or dark coats; white shirts with white stock; white, buff or canary breeches. Members of the Armed Services or the Police may wear the Service Dress Uniform.
  4. Inappropriate attire. When management permits Hunter or Hunter/Jumping Seat Equitation riders to ride without jackets, riders must wear traditional, short, or long-sleeved riding shirts with chokers or ties. Polo shirts and full chaps are not permitted except in unjudged warm-up classes. Management or Judge may eliminate an exhibitor who is inappropriately attired.

The rules are similar in the Hunt Seat Equitation section of the rulebook. They are very subjective and that’s the problem with classes judged heavily on looks. At what point does looks become the be all and end all? What about “good riding is good riding”?



While it is important to be neat and tidy for a horse show, you should also be comfortable in what you are wearing.   Photo credit: Natalie Claman

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