TACK COORDINATION FOR THE SHOW RING
TACK COORDINATION FOR THE SHOW RING
Think about your tack and saddle blankets as part of your show wardrobe. All the pieces of your attire and your horse's tack should 'go together' as accents for your performance.
Show folks spend thousands of dollars on western show tack, but don't always consider the role their tack can play in coordinating the look of horse and rider. We tend to buy what's trendy or new, rather than what looks best on our horse or what flatters our show clothing and caballo. A little attention to tack, though, can add a great deal to the impression you create in the show ring.
Show tack should be beautiful, should harmonize with the horse's coat color, and should complement the overall impression created by horse and rider. Consider these scenarios:
Think about your tack and saddle blankets as part of your show wardrobe. Clothing, tack, and saddle blankets should create and reinforce a subtle theme that you always strive to create, whether it's one of a no-nonsense professional, a feminine, flowery presentation, or a ranchy western feel. All the pieces of your attire and your horse's tack should 'go together' as accents for your performance.
If you're a petite showgirl, don't seek tack with massive, masculine southwestern-styled silver unless you are in love with truly in love with the look. Likewise, a man's tack can be bolder, perhaps with horsehair, oxidized iron, or other heavier accents.
From headstall, saddle, vest and blanket, all colors harmonize beautifully with this palomino.
A smaller-scaled headstall and appointments perfectly suits this petite horse and rider team.
Basketweave saddle tooling creates an impression of sturdiness and reliability, while fine floral tooling feels feminine, intricate, and detailed. Capture your own personality in your show tack, because that beautiful tack should be something you are proud to use for years to come.
Not only should tack flatter the horse and rider, but it should be appropriate for the event it's being used in: there's probably no such thing as an 'all-around' saddle any more. Before investing in any tack, study show win photos in magazines and online to see what nuances of color, design, and trim you see on winners in your favorite classes, then don't stray too far from their look in your own presentation. The trick in the show ring, as in life, is to look like you belong, yet look just a little better than your competition.
Color and silhouette play a role in tack selection, as they do in show apparel. The shape of a headstall or halter buckle, as well as the cut of a saddle's skirts, can create an impression of femininity or of masculine strength. The color of tack—while fairly limited—creates different effects too, for instance either highlighting silver or hiding it, and either blending with the horse's coat or creating a possibly distracting contrast.
Let's consider a current tack trend in depth. For more than two decades, light-colored western tack has been popular, but ponder whether pale tack is always the best look for every horse loping around the show pen:
Pale tack provides minimal background contrast to silver accents
This two-tone leather headstall favors the horse's dark bay color and serves as a high contrast backdrop for its silver trim.
Light-colored leather flatters sorrel, chestnut, and palomino horses, but can turn pink or pale brown over time.
So, think twice before you stack a pale pink saddle, dripping with silver, on a dark bay horse. Consider getting more bang for your silver buck by using a darker headstall and saddle, with even minimal silver, on that same horse, or look for pale tack with darker leather accents for extra versatility on a variety of horses.
Remember too that all pale leather will eventually darken when exposed to sunlight, but the fashion police will never pull you over if your saddle is a few shades darker than the next rider's...in fact, they just may stop to admire your pretty silver, because they can actually see it!
It's better to search for and find a quality hand-made saddle with terrific leather, sterling overlay silver, and genuine sheepskin padding made on a real rawhide tree that will fit you and many horses in the years ahead, than buy a flashier, cheaper saddle that's all glitz and no guts.
As with show apparel, invest in the very best show tack you can find, even if it means second-hand. Quality saddles and tack hold their value well over time and are usually a better value than bargain tack made from cheaper grades of leather. Look for dense, fine fibers rather than a stringy consistency at the sides of cut leather pieces, flexibility when the leather is bent, and a great feel in your hand in better leather goods, and trust brand names that have been in business for many years.