Despite working at a dressage-focused tack shop, volunteering on the board of a dressage club, and being friends with mostly dressage queens, I’m really an eventer. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. (Self-identification is a post for another day.)

A couple of months ago, I examined the rules for dress for recognized dressage competitions. Now, I want to take a look at what you’re allowed to wear for eventing dressage; it’s more conservative than you’d expect in a sport known for its wild cross-country get-ups.

The dress code for eventing is laid out in EV 114. Let’s examine.


From left to right: Horze Allison Shirt in Navy; Kerrits Hybrid II Shirt in Gray; Montar ESS Shirt in Black

The rules specifically state shirts must be “of conservative color”, which is pretty subjective. I’d define “conservative” as a dark color (like navy or black) or white, but you could argue that light, muted colors are also conservative. When jackets are waived, sleeved shirts with collars are allowed, but must still be of a conservative color. As in dressage, I’d recommend against wearing a white show shirt with white breeches.


Left to right: Horseware Competition Jacket in Berry; RJ Classics Monterey Softshell in Green; RJ Classics Foxy Hacking Jacket in Brown Plaid Tweed; Pikeur Roxette in Navy

EV 114 states that coats are required to be a “dark color or tweed” and that “tail coats are not permitted” (unless you’re competing at Intermediate or Advanced- then tweeds are not permitted, but tail coats are). I’ve never seen anyone wearing a tweed at an event, but I have seen plenty of black, navy, dark gray, burgundy, and hunter green coats. I would imagine the inclusion of tweeds is due to foxhunters that helped grow the sport (and probably write the rules). Navy is almost always my recommendation for coats, as it looks good on almost every horse and rider!


Breeches should be a light color or white. Off-white breeches seem to be gaining popularity with work’s dressage clientele- they’re a little softer in tone than white and are sometimes more flattering. Regardless of what color you choose to wear, always try on your breeches before show day and see how they look in natural lighting. If they’re see-through, invest in a capri-like undergarment or a new pair of breeches.


Rules regarding boots in eventing dressage (from Beginner Novice through Preliminary) are slightly unclear to me. The rule states, “Boots- black, brown, field, jodhpur or a black or brown full grain smooth leather leg piece and matching leather boots. Chaps and/or half-chaps are not allowed.” I was under the impression a half-chap is a smooth leather leg piece; does USEF have a different interpretation of a half-chap than I do? Possibly? At any rate, wear your field boots and you’re sure to be safe.


Unlike dressage, eventing requires riders to wear some sort of neckwear with their shirt (unless coats are waived). “Stock and pin, or choker, or tie” are all permitted. You can break out your Pony Club and foxhunting-approved traditional stock tie, wear a pre-tied style, or go really old-school with a shirt and ratcatcher collar.

Gloves are optional through Preliminary level, and must be a dark color, tan, beige, or white. I typically see eventers wearing black gloves in the dressage ring, which is always helpful for masking any unsteadiness.

One of the more conservative rules in eventing dressage is the helmet rule: helmets must be “predominantly black or dark blue”. Gray or brown helmets are not permitted! Someone certainly needs to get a rule change proposal going.

Is there anything in these rules that surprises you? I was definitely surprised that eventing dressage rules are  more conservative than pure dressage rules! I always think of dressage as full of stuffy traditionalists, but maybe it’s the eventers that are stuck in the past!