Hobby Hints

Getting Started

Whether you're new to the fun of showing horses or returning after a break, you'll need to be ready-to win before you compete. Your preparation includes training and practicing with your horse, and your presentation: selecting tack and clothing that are appropriate and flattering to you and your mount. Most show events are subjectively judged (the judges give their opinions) so it's important to stand out among your competition. Start by readingWhat Should I Wear?Choose a color that best shows off you and your horse from the Winning Colors color wheel. Find more information by reading the Fashion Forecast for the current year and the Western Fashion Head to Toe chapters. Preparation is the key to success in the show ring. Get started by investing in the best horse, equipment and coaching within your budget, then dedicate the time and resources needed to improve your performance. Good luck and have fun.

Back In Black

Many riders choose black because it goes with every garment color and can create the illusion of slenderness. But black chaps and hats tend to blend into the background in most arenas and dark hats can cast a harsh shadow over the rider's face and shoulders. Also, black chaps and clothing may fade in sunlight, so be prepared to wash and re-dye leather chaps occasionally. Black hats need to be kept dust-free to look their best, as do black boots and saddle blankets. Because black is the most common outfit color in the show ring, take care to coordinate your black outfit to make it distinctive and memorable. Use strong contrast hues to add interest or work with the drama of black with sophisticated accents to create a show outfit that's anything but basic, boring black.

Winning Tips

Show clothes, in color and design, are bolder than casual apparel. The judge will see you from 50-100 feet away and won't notice tiny details. He or she will see color, silhouette and coordination of rider and horse. Black is always popular in the show ring, but at least 75% of your competition will also be wearing it. Make sure that your black outfit is the most outstanding one in the arena or consider other colors. Preview your color ideas by draping a towel or other color sample over your horse, then stand across the arena to evaluate the look. At shows, find horses similar in color yours, then see which outfits catch your eye. Invest in your own success: always buy the best quality show apparel and tack within your budget, then take care of your equipment.

Dress For Success

We get many call and emails asking "What color should I wear" or "What blouse should I buy?" While the Hobby girls can make suggestions, we don't dictate what you should purchase: we don't know you and your horse in appearance, taste, ability or budget. However, you can utilize our handy "toolbox" of free tips by visiting the "Helpful Hints" header shown in the footer of our website. There you will findFAQ,Western Fashion Head to Toe, Fashion Forecast for the current year,Winning Colorscolor wheel and theWhat to Wearchart. Work with the free tools on our website to familiarize yourself with show presentation, then take the next step and educate yourself about the breeds and divisions you plan to show in. Visit shows and check out breed magazines and websites for photos. Cruise YouTube for video clips of winning rides. Study winners to understand the details of their winning performances and your homework will pay off every time you enter the show arena.

Get It Together

What does a show girl need to compete? Let's look at a selection of clothing for a competitive rider in local/regional western classes. HATS: choose a well-fitted felt for fancier looks; straw for summer and casual classes like reining or trail. TOPS: a hip-length stretch tunic top can be worn for both halter and riding classes and offers all-day comfort. Blouses are worn tucked in. PANTS AND BELTS: match belt to pants for a slenderizing effect. Use poly stretch show pants for halter events; get a second pair for under chaps if you don't like the look, or bulk of jeans. CHAPS: buy the best you can find; they set the pace for your entire outfit and should flatter every curve. BOOTS: basic roper or lacer boots are inexpensive, comfortable and safe to ride in. Match your chap color for an extra edge. ACCESSORIES: hair ornaments and an assortment of western jewelry add dash to your presentation.

What Do Winners Wear?

Show fashions don't change with each season like street apparel. Quality hats and chaps should last you for years and most show clothes will be fashionable through several show seasons. Gently used show clothes have excellent resale value too-- "recycle" to stretch your budget. Style lasts forever, though trends come and go. Plan ahead, trust your instincts and invest in quality. Confidence and good taste are what make an outfit work. Use color and silhouette to create outfits that look sharp from a distance and that flatter you and your horse. One base color with one or two accents is interesting, not overwhelming, to the viewer's eye. Dramatic fabrics and trims lend theatrical flair to your show presentation and look great from a distance. Accessories are the finishing touches that reflect the wearer's personality. Remember: though trends come and go, good taste is always in style.

Make An ABLE Show Plan

Success in the show ring starts with a game plan made months before you and your horse set hoof in the arena. Remember this acronym (ABLE = "Assess your tack," "Budget time and money," "Lean into your plan," "Enjoy the journey") to help you dress — and train — for success. Assess your current situation. This may include a professional evaluation of you and your horse for training suggestions, conditioning, and presentation.Assess your tack and wardrobe— even your truck and trailer — so you know what still works and what needs attention before your next show season. If you regularly work with a trainer, set written goals with their help. Budget time and money to move toward your competition goals. If you want to qualify for a championship show, you'll need more time and money to make that happen. If your goals are for local success, then you can plan accordingly. Write out your financial budget and commit your time budget to a calendar, and adjust both budgets as you progress. Lean into your plan. Track your successes and areas for improvement in a horse show notebook, and stay on top of your progress. Get help from experts if you need it, study your competition or other champions in show videos and magazines, and use your own schooling videos to review your progress. Enjoy the journey. Keeping notes about your progress will reward you for planning and budgeting, and will remind you about the people and experiences you've had throughout the show season. You may find that the awards were less satisfying than the friendships strengthened and lessons learned along the way.

Winning Ways

You're being judged on your appearance in the show ring, so it's vitally important that you don't overlook any detail in your performance or turnout. Dress for success by carefully planning your show wardrobe. It will give you extra confidence each time you enter the arena and save you time and aggravation in the long run. Test drive your equipment by staging a "dress rehearsal" to check the look and fit of your show tack and clothing a week or two before your first show of the season. Have a friend take a snapshot or video as you school your horse so you can see the impression your turnout creates. Do your homework first, study your competition and then start with quality basics to build a versatile show wardrobe instead of just buying a bunch of clothes.

How Much Does It Cost?

Good show clothing is not an expense, it's an investment in your success; look like a winner to become one. For a local show, you may spend as little as $100 for a few things to spruce up your daily jeans and boots. Borrow a belt and buckle, hat and saddle blanket from an instructor or friend. Budget about $1,000 for chaps,hat,show blanket, boots and tops for western show wardrobe at regional level shows. If you're showing at the state or national level, you may spend much more; custom-made designer outfits can cost thousands of dollars. Remember that quality basics will last for years, and also have excellent resale value- check bulletin boards, newsletters and the internet to buy or sell "experienced" show apparel.

Show Apparel Care

Hobby Horse clothing will last for many years if treated kindly; it's not unusual to see our outfits on their third and even fourth owners. Dust and dampness shorten the life of all clothing and tack so brush off dust before storage and allow air to circulate around items when stored. Hats: store hats in hat carriers. Use soft-bristled brushes to remove dust. If your hat gets wet, allow it to air dry. Felt hats will require tune-ups from a hatter to look their best. Clothing: follow the manufacturer's directions on care labels. Most apparel can be hand-washed and air-dried; if unsure, contact the maker. Always clean garments before long-term storage. Chaps: leather chaps can usually be washed and re-dyed; Ultrasuede is machine-washable. Boots: keep boots polished, use boot trees in storage and allow them to air out after use.

Style File

While show riders should strive to look unique in the arena, there's always a fine line between looking great and looking "wrong." Here are some tips to help you find your own great show style. What's your skill level? Don't hide in the crowd, but don't draw too much attention until you have some experience in the show ring. What's your budget? Plan to buy the best pieces within your budget but don't go crazy over a single fancy garment until you've got your qualitychapsandhatin hand. Where are you showing? Dressing in classic good taste is always appropriate, while being over the top at a local level show may backfire. What do you want to minimize or emphasize? A realistic review of your riding strengths and weaknesses can help you dress for success. What makes you happy? Regardless of your skills, budget, or strong points, your riding apparel should help you feel strong, confident and beautiful when you show.

You're Show Organized

Carefully planning and packing for shows will save you time, aggravation, and money when everything you need is at your fingertips. Use a horse show checklist to organize the tack, apparel, and supplies you and your horse will need ahead of time. Packing like items together: one outfit per garment bag, all western tack together, and so on. Clearly label al your gear and containers, and tape an inventory list inside of tack boxes and other closed storage organizers so you can quickly check them before they go in the trailer. Establish a routine for arrival and departure at shows and jot it down or snap a quick photo: how you set up grooming stalls or trailer area, lights, chairs, ties, etc.. Plan ahead and you'll have less distractions when it's time to get Ready-to-Win!

Growing Pains

Think about the goals of your show girl, then dress her to fit the family's budget and her horse show dreams. As your child begins showing at the local riding club, she may look fine with a simple top worn with starched jeans and western hat, boots, belt and buckle. Chaps may be optional. If the goal is winning in a competitive circuit, your child should be as elaborately turned out as the best of her competition. Note that quality children's show apparel has excellent resale value. Children's show clothes should fit trimly. If you buy or make clothes with ‘growing room,' alter them for a perfect fit and let the seams out as the child grows. Chaps,hats and pants are best purchased, but soft clothing can be beautifully made with love and learning by skilled home seamstresses.

Horse Show Checklists

You'll always save time and hassle by developing and using a horse show checklist. Each exhibitor's checklist will vary with the events and equipment they need for their particular events, as well as the location and duration of the show. Suggestion: keep a checklist in your trailer and in your tack room.

Suggested Categories:

Grooming Supplies: show, work & bathing tools: stall/tack room, trailer & clippers

Feed, Bedding & Water: as needed per horse

Tack: show and work

Clothes: show and work, head to toe, grouped by class

Office: reservations, registrations & memberships, cash/cards

Tech: chargers, camera/video & computer

How Should Chaps Fit?

Your chaps should make you look slim, feel good and ride confidently. As the most visible show garment you'll buy, chaps set the tone for your western wardrobe. Show chaps should hang snugly from your waist, not your hips and must be long enough to cover your boot heels when you are mounted. They should fit smoothly through the thigh and hip, with minimal gapping at the front of your thigh. They'll be fitted to the knee, then flare smoothly over your boot tops with no twist and the zippers sitting midway between the back and outside of your leg. If chaps fit poorly, they are difficult to alter because there are no darts or seams to work with and most seamstresses are not familiar with the fit and materials chaps require. If your weight fluctuates, consider our Split Leather Classic Show Chaps (with Personal Magic Sizing) with elastic inserts down the inside zipper or our new Chap Inserts.

Chap Shopper Tips

Chaps are the most important element of a winning western show wardrobe. They cover more than half your body, and set the tone for color and style that the rest of your ensemble should complement. Your chaps should be the most flattering garment that you own, as they'll very likely be one of the most expensive! But, like just the right show saddle, chaps are an investment that will last for years and enhance your performance every time you enter the show pen. Besides a perfect fit you'll need to consider the following points when chap-shopping: Color: black is the most popular color for chaps as it's easy to coordinate, but most of your competition will be wearing it. Do you want to blend in, stand out, or make a memorable impression with an unusual color that flatters your horse? Material: chaps are made from natural or synthetic leather. There is no ‘best' chap material, so consider your comfort, washability, and color needs to choose the ideal chap style. Trim: classic fringe with a single or double concho is always popular, but you can dress up your chaps with silver conchos and buckles at the waist for added sparkle. Consider whether your show tops will cover the chap waistband or not before you customize.

Budgets And Bargins

Make a budget for each show season by recording all your show-related expenses from the year before. Be brutal: everything from fuel to snack food, entries to hotels, lessons to fly spray needs to be on your budget. Categorize things as critical, necessary, or nice, then decide where you want to make adjustments for the coming year. Stock up on critical and necessary items if you find a bargain, and keep a little money for the fun things. With your spending committed to paper, you can start to make adjustments to afford what's most important to your success.

Decorate It Yourself

Decorate It Yourself show apparel is something we've always encouraged at Hobby Horse- buy our basics and personalize them yourself with beautiful embellishments and your imagination. With that in mind, several years ago we introduced Hobby Horse Elements including decorator-friendly classic clothes and terrific trims and glittering crystals that bring a designer look to your one-of-a-kind creative efforts. We even have a design contest each year that has produced amazing entries from simple to sublime. There's more in store at Hobby Horse, however: clever showgirls add outrageous trims to our fancier show apparel and take custom to a whole new level comparable to the most expensive designer creations. From our plain Elements or show garments to our most elaborately decorated designs, you can always take a Hobby Horse garment and make it uniquely yours by bringing more decoration and bling to the show ring. Don't be timid about adding lots more to our already accented tops. Your only limit is your imagination.

Hobbyflex And Hobbytech Fabrics

High performance fabrics finally make their way into the western show ring, in two different weights: Hobbyflex for pants and fitted tops, and lighter Hobbytech for blouses. Both fabrics are made from polyester microfiber as used in the most advanced sportswear... from Hobby Horse, of course! Integrated moisture management wicks dampness away from your skin. Incredibly soft, super-stretch weave for shapely support and all-day comfort. Vivid colors dyed to coordinate with Hobby Horse chaps and accessories. Durable fabrics resist abrasion, snags and loss of shape. Built-in soil release helps reduce staining, even with heavy use. Check out our Hobbytech blouses, Hobbyflex show pants and Hobbyflex Elements tunics and fabrics.

What Is Western Dressage

Western Dressage is a beautiful dance of horse and rider with western gaits and gear, a precision partnership that combines the worlds of traditional dressage and classical western horsemanship. With several western dressage associations gaining momentum, the guidelines and styles of the sport are still emerging. Some riders go for a full western pleasure bling thing, while others prefer the quieter look of ranch wear-inspired apparel and tack, or even show with a nod to times past, with hints of vaquero or Spanish style. What we think works best is classic clothes in colors and cuts that suit you and your horse and let you do your work in comfort and style. Vests are a great starting point because they trim your torso but allow you full range of motion as you ride the intricate patterns. Pair a great vest with beautifully tailored chaps and a hat that captures your personality, then anchor it to your horse's color with the perfect saddle blanket, and your western dressage wardrobe has begun.

What Are Ranch Horse Classes?

Ranch horse events are a relatively new division offered by different stock horse clubs. The emphasis is on presenting working horses that move freely and perform without the exaggerated gaits and constraints that have soured some exhibitors from show ring competitions. Ranch horse classes may include ranch riding or pleasure, roping, reining, cutting, cow work, trail, conformation, and versatility events that judge a horse in a variety of skills. Ranch horse classes are more traditional in turnout than pleasure show events. Bling is discouraged in favor of solid working equipment and clothing. Many riders wear simple tailored shirts, jeans, and chinks(short chaps) or batwing chaps with scarves at their neck. Hats are sometimes quirky with a bit of personalized character such as an unusual band or contrast stitching. Clean work tack is perfectly adequate to compete, and many exhibitors enjoy using high quality traditional tack including romal reins. Although there might be less silver on ranch horse tack, chances are good that the tack is custom made and of a very high quality, meant to last a lifetime. Be sure to read the rules and understand the guidelines of the club you intend to show with, because there are several groups and their rules differ. If you’re unsure, ask the show organizers what is acceptable. Do your homework, and have fun!