When I began working at The Horse of Course, I didn’t imagine I would become a de facto technical delegate and spend time advising competitors on what they can and cannot wear in USEF sanctioned competitions. However, I find myself re-reading DR 120 at least twice a week, and frequently reassuring customers that it’s fine to wear a gray coat or reminding them to remove their stock tie when coats are waived. I thought it might be fun to put together a post about some of the topics about which I’m often asked.

Shirts

All totally legal. [From L to R: Iago Italia, Iago Italia, Asmar Equestrian, La Valencio, La Valencio]

Shirts are, by far, the thing I’m asked about the most. A large segment of the population seems to be operating under the assumption that a competition shirt must be white. Not so! There are no restrictions on shirt color, so go nuts. White-on-white is rarely anyone’s best look. If a teal shirt with bling accents makes you cringe, try a tasteful navy. You’ll like it.

Also 100% fine. Stock tie not required. [From B Vertigo]

Another major concern for competitors are shirts that feature a ruffle on the front. Customers will ask in a confused panic about if they’re still required to wear a stock tie if their shirt has frills and ruching. The answer is no- DR 120 states that coats should be worn with “tie, choker, stock tie or integrated stand-up collar”. Most show shirts these days have integrated stand-up collars, so stock ties are almost totally ornamental anyway. Your ruffles won’t get you disqualified if coats are waived, either.

Coats

One of my favorite custom short coats! [From Grand Prix]

Coat rules have relaxed considerably in the last few years, so it’s no wonder people have questions about them. Many, many competitors are under the assumption that only black or navy coats are allowed in dressage. That’s not true! Dressage riders can wear a rainbow of colors; DR 120 states “riders may wear jackets in other colors within the international HSV color scale, as described in FEI Dressage Regulations, Art. 427.1“. That article explains that any dark colored coat is permitted as long as its V value is 32%.  That gives riders a HUGE range of options- you can play with the HSV scale on colorizer.org; simply set the V value to 32 and go wild! The Horse of Course has done short coats and shadbellies in French blue, burgundy, royal blue, brown, and hunter green.

Seriously, go bonkers on your coat. [From Iago Italia]

Contrasting piping and accents are also permitted on coats, and there’s no stipulation on how many buttons are required (or what color they should be). As a matter of style, the trend is currently toward shorter, more European-looking short coats; that’s not a rule either, but no one looks good in a frock coat they sit on every time they post.

Boots

At Introductory, Training, and First Level, riders are allowed to wear paddock boots and half chaps in black or brown. The rules don’t make an explicit statement about colors or decorative elements on tall boots other than to say that in tests above Fourth Level, riders must wear black riding boots. DR 120 also doesn’t address field boots, dress boots, or what stiffness a boot ought to be.

The black boots shown here are all dressage legal, but the colored ones are only suitable for schooling. [From Konig]

Many competitors opt for some sort of fun decorative element on their boots, like a row of crystals or crocodile leather on the tops.

Accessories

Fun navy polka dots look cute with a navy coat. [From Style Stock]

I don’t field too many questions about accessories, but every so often someone asks if a certain stock tie is permitted. Work carries an enormous variety of stock ties in many patterns and colors- all are allowed in the sandbox! There are no rules stipulating neckwear guidelines other than those that tell competitors when and when not to wear it.

Royal blue with elaborate neck design? Totally fine. [From Sybarite Equestrian]


Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive guide and it isn’t a copy of the rulebook. I hope this post will encourage you to be creative and fun with your dressage attire- the modern sport really allows for some expression of personal style!

What’s your dressage attire look like? Are you very conservative, or do you like to incorporate colors and bling?