Getting Ring Ready

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When competition heats up, the equestrian athlete expects performance sportswear. Show attire must endure long, sweaty days in the arena and still pass the judge’s scrutiny. Now that show season’s here, it’s time to take a look at the latest trends across the disciplines.

The top brands of show apparel—whether budget or luxury priced—deliver what professionals demand. You can find clothes that give you comfortable fit and easy-care fabrics, in fashions that are show-ring ready.

HUNTER JUMPER

High-tech apparel helps you ride in concert with the motion of your horse. Moisture-wicking fabrics stretch with you and keep you cool at any level of competition. For all-day wear at the showgrounds, check out the new show shirts. Arista offers hunter shirts in Cool Plus fabric. Tami George explains, “The fabric doesn’t pill or snag like some wicking fabrics. It’s better quality and will hold up for years.” These shirts come in nine solid colors, with ratcatcher chokers, and in sleeveless, short sleeve, and long sleeve styles.

Kerrits has designed its new Ventilator shirt, in short or long sleeves, with a 10-inch front zipper for rapid cooling. For additional “zoned” cooling, the shirts have ventilating panels of mesh fabric in areas where you heat up more. The shirts are lightweight and dry quickly. You can add a choker or stock tie over the stand-up collar.

Essex Classics introduces a new men’s show shirt in white or floral pastel in a CoolMax/cotton blend. Essex is known for more formal shirts, and the French Cuff Collection gives male riders the option of wearing cufflinks to show. Low-rise breeches continue to appeal to fashion-conscious riders across the disciplines. Tailored Sportsman, the most popular brand in the hunter ring, has added a low-rise design to its product line. The Irideon product line includes the new Bellisima breeches of a breathable performance fabric. In either knee patch or full-seat, these feature four-way stretch with body-contouring panels. The Bellisima has a tailored waistband and elastic at the ankle, eliminating the need for bulky hook-and-loop fasteners.

If you’re looking for a hunt coat, Equine Athletics has new models designed for the active hunter-jumper rider. “This coat still stays with tradition,” says Karla Schmidt of Thornhill USA. “It’s a wool blend with lycra to stretch. By adding the comfort [of lycra], you don’t tear the lining of your coat. There’s zero restriction for freedom of movement.” The new hunt coat comes in a navy blue windowpane or pinstripe pattern.

DRESSAGE

Dressage continues to reflect the European influence in styles and colors, although show breeches remain white. Look for a tailored fit, that Continental flair, in both coat and breeches. In show jackets, Goode Rider has a new dressage coat built for a stretchy fit. It’s made of a cotton/rayon/lycra four-way stretch microfiber. Match the coat with the zip-front Ideal show shirt, of cotton/lycra knit. Princess seams fit your figure. For a different, Euro-inspired look, try the Arista Modern Competitor show jacket. This style, made of a lightweight stretch fabric, replaces buttons and lapels with a full-length front zip, covered by a placket and topped with a stand-up collar. Slash pockets complete the look. It’s available in black or navy. In full-seat breeches, look for fabric and fashion that deliver comfort and support. TuffRider’s new styles include the low-rise Prestige, made of a new stretch cotton microfiber. Devon-Aire offers its TR-10 full seat breeches using a 90-percent Tactel, 10-percent lycra blend for high-tech moisture management.

For a different construction in a full-seat style, consider Fun in the Saddle (FITS). These breeches are made with segmented deerskin leather panels. Tiny perforations improve grip and breathability. The crotch eliminates binding with no leather or center seam. FITS also includes a patented Powernet ab panel to flatten the tummy.

Ariat has constructed its new full-seat show breeches with patented systems that conform to your body. The V3 in the waist stretches to your shape, to accommodate your hip angles opening and closing when you jump. The Calf Fit System reduces pressure points under your boots, and helps support your calves. The smooth fit eliminates hook-and-loop fasteners under your show boots.

WESTERN PERFORMANCE

Show attire is distinct from Western street fashions. Women’s garments focus on style and eye-catching colors. Men stick with the tried-and-true staples, shirts and jeans, although riders are discovering the benefits of athletic shirts. For show or arena events, Western attire is more formal than ranchwear, and not as trendy as “urban” Western styles. Hobby Horse Clothing Company has been a leader in designing figure-flattering women’s show apparel. Suzanne Vliestra described her fashion forecast as “Shape, shade, and shine. Shape is body-conscious. Blouses are important for shape.” The new Chocolate Allure tunic and Quill jacket are good examples. “As riders are aging, the jacket gives a smoother transition to the waist,” says Vliestra. She adds, “A vest also slenderizes the rider’s middle. You don’t want the ‘muffin top’ effect when you get on the horse.”

As for trends, she cites interest in earth tones, and adding shine through metallic and textured fabrics. If you want to look unique in a crowded show ring, opt for a shirt that’s almost a “custom” garment. An example is the Atlantis Limited Edition blouse with its metallic appliqué. Other Hobby Horse blouses feature metallic threads, tiny sequins, or Swarovski crystals. “Think theater and drama,” advises Vliestra. “You’re onstage, and the judge is at a distance.”

Male riders rely on less flash, choosing traditional brands such as Cinch, Wrangler, and Roper. These old favorites retain their popularity. From Wrangler, you’ll see riders in the ProRodeo blue jeans and PBR black jeans. The classic Cinch style is the original relaxed fit green label jean. Shirts are another story. Guys can now choose more performance-oriented woven shirts for strenuous activity. Cinch Athletic shirts are tapered to fit, with plenty of room in shoulders and chest to allow free movement. Choose this style in a brown pattern with butterscotch accents, or a cream plaid with pockets.

Among the traditionally styled shirts, the Ariat spring line of men’s Western shirts features a range of color schemes in variations of soft plaids. The Torrey and Tehama buttondown styles are constructed of blended cotton yarn dye patterns. Shirts feature underarm gussets; when worn roping or riding a reining pattern, the shirt will stretch without pulling out of the rider’s waistband. For ventilation, the shirts have poly mesh at the upper back.

Western wear brands often affiliate with top riders. One example: reiner Dell Hendricks and Roper Elite Team rodeo contestants wear shirts with the Roper logo. Roper has updated its Classic Yarn Dyes shirt collection of solids and plaids.

Hats also remain largely traditional. Western riders choose felt hats in silverbelly and buckskin as well as black. For those who think safety, Troxel just launched its newest Western-themed safety headgear: the Cheyenne helmet. The shell is covered in black leather, and stitched in fancy patterns with blue or pink thread. Troxel’s previous Western design, the Spirit, has sold well to Western riders. The company has added a larger size.

In boots, the ostrich leather vamp continues to be popular. Bootmakers are also showing the square toe this year. “They’re coming back in style,” says Barbara McFarland of Double H Boots, whose styles are aimed at cutting and reining riders. The boot has a moisture treatment system, so the boot can breathe. A polyurethane sole adds comfort for riding and walking. Following the square-toe trend, Nocona introduced its BToe styles. Justin has added a new AQHA Lifestyle boot collection.

SHOW IN EASY-CARE FABRICS

When you’re at the show, you don’t have time for laundry. Thankfully, modern sportswear fabrics require less care. There are other benefits. Modern fabric treatments resist stains. Case in point: Tuffrider’s “power-stretch” Kashmere low-rise, full seat breeches combine Teflon-treated cotton and lycra woven fabric. Even a show coat can be easy-care; Goode Rider’s new dressage coat is made with a stain-resistant fabric.

And if you really want to keep your show clothes clean, try the new cover-ups from Kerrits. The Flying Change jacket and pants are made of lightweight, breathable fabric. In addition, the pants are windproof and water-resistant, to protect those spotless white breeches between classes. Ready to shop? Start hitting your favorite tack store or Internet outlet—and get ready to wear the newest show clothes this season.