Dressage means training. It’s a form of equestrian partnership that is at least 4000 years old. Initially, dressage was intended to train war horses. In more civilized times we use it to dance with our equine athletes. At Barn Dog Tack like to think of it as a combination of interpretive dance and yoga with a 1200 pound partner judged on both precision and expression. The clothes are just as specific as the test requirements in competition. Here’s what you’ll need to ride your first approved tests all the way through 4th level according to USEF rules:
- Helmets Astm/SEI certified for equestrian use, the helmet worn in dressage should be a dark, subdued color, but may be adorned with things that sparkle and shine. It’s a good idea to make sure the bling on your helmet compliments the rest of your outfit and isn’t overdone.
- Show Coats short riding coats in conservative colors are best until you reach the upper levels. Three or 4 button coats, depending on individual fit are perfect. You can explore your sense of style via contrasting trim colors, pocket accents and button options.
- Show Shirts should be fitted but made of athletic material that allows freedom of movement and has both sleeves and a collar in case coats are waived due to warm weather. There are tons of options available in multiple colors and styles.
- Stock Tie: you may wear a stock tie with pin, a choker or an integrated collar. Stock ties come in the traditional style (originally intended as a bandage if needed during battle) or you can get the modern and easier version that wraps around and connects at the back of your collar.
- Show Breeches should be white. And yes, we don’t know whose crazy idea it was to wear white around horses, but this is a cross we bear in dressage competition. The good news is there are several designs that are both flattering and easy to wash. Kids can wear beige.
- Tall Boots are best and either field boots (the ones with laces) or dress boots are acceptable at all levels. Those who focus on dressage over jumping will usually choose dress boots. Since the advent of zippers, the laces on field boots are purely decorative and no longer make it easier to take boots off or put them on.
- Riding Gloves help you keep your grip on the reins and avoid blisters. In the unlikely event of an unplanned dismount, they also protect your hands from injury. Dressage competition gloves can be any color, but it’s best to coordinate with your outfit and your horse’s clothes. Some will recommend white or cream colored gloves, but if you are a new rider, dark gloves are best until you develop very quiet hands.
- Belts: no outfit is complete without an attractive belt that compliments your outfit.