DR 120: dressing for dressage

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.


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.


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.


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.


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?

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

21 thoughts on “DR 120: dressing for dressage”

  1. I love this – and also love the info on colored shirts! I had inklings about the rest but the colorful shirt was new to me. I only ever do schooling stuff anyway but some schooling shows take themselves more, ahem, seriously, than one might suspect lol. This is all great info, thanks for sharing!!

    1. Now, I’ll advise that the eventing rules for dress (EV 114) are a little more conservative than straight dressage:
      -No half-chaps allowed
      -You’re only allowed to wear helmets that are predominately black or dark blue
      -Coats must be a “dark color” or tweed
      -Shirts must be “of conservative color, with stock and pin, or choker, or tie”

      Obviously, this leaves the interpretation of what’s a dark color and what’s a conservative color up to the TD. My jasper green coat and black show shirt were 100% fine at the last rated event I went to, but your mileage may vary. Of course, if you’re at a regular dressage show, wear something exciting!

      I’m always a little jealous of how fancy you always look at your schooling shows! No one dresses up here, and I can’t decided if I’m happy about it or not, haha!

  2. I love this! I don’t show recognized (yet), but I bought a fun coat and show shirt at Rolex. I need a stock tie now…..

    1. Style Stock has some really fun options! The polka dotted ties are cute, and I have a gray metallic floral one that looks stunning with my green coat. Ambitious people make them out of all sorts of materials, but I’m um, not very crafty.

  3. Love this post! I had no idea that colored shirts were actually permitted in recognized competition without a white stock tie to cover them up! Even at schooling shows, I see most people riding dressage tests in white-on-white when coats are waived. Interesting to know that things can be spiced up a little and still be within the rules! I may have to make some more-fun shirt purchases in the future…

  4. I am not the rules guru (and I bow to your expertise), but I seem to recall that you were allowed to match your boots+coat under the new color rules. My evidence is that I’ve seen a lady show PSG locally in a navy shad with gorgeous navy boots and no one said boo. I know there is some weirdness about riding an international test at a national show. Maybe that plays in?

    1. You might be right, because I SWEAR work has sold oodles of navy boots to people who wanted them to match a shadbelly. Surely not everyone buying navy boots is schooling in them. The FEI rules don’t say anything about boot color, so I’d assume you can wear whatever you want. I also can’t imagine an official making someone go change their tasteful navy boots, but who knows.

      1. From DR 120:
        “At all test levels, riders may wear jackets in other colors within the international HSV color scale, as described in
        FEI Dressage Regulations, Art. 427.1. Contrast coloring and piping is allowed. Protective headgear, stocks, ties,
        gloves and riding boots may be the same color as the coat”

        So if your coat is navy your boots can be too (same rule as in Canada)

  5. I am IN LOVE w/ my Grand Prix coat w/ burgandy trim and black/white poka-dot stock tie. Stephanie and Horse of Course can certainly make you look SHARP and it goes well w/ both of my horses.

  6. Oh I actually thought all the things you said are not true — White on white, stock tie required, black coat. This post makes me happy, because if I end up in a dressage barn or something I can wear clothes I feel more comfortable in if I ever end up showing!

  7. Interesting. I just had a read through some of the DR 120 rule. Many of the rules are similar to Canada’s dressage rules, but there are some interesting differences.

    1. Canadians don’t get the option of an “integrated stand up collar”, we have to wear some kind of tie
    2. Coats aren’t optional at any level of Canadian competition unless the judge specifically waives them that day. (I have always been so confused by blogger photos at schooling/low level shows with no jackets, I finally understand!!)
    3. In Canada gloves are required, not optional (which I think is dumb, I hate wearing gloves)
    4. In Canada spurs are optional at any level (I don’t get why the US requires them above 4th level)

    There’s a few tack differences too. It’s definitely important to know the rules!

  8. This is so cool! And great to know about the coat colours. Though I will admit to probably sticking with navy myself. The only other thing that I would add to this is that you should always check with the TD or PGJ when in doubt. Anything that is unclear will be “at the discretion of the ground jury”, so you want to make sure you have anything unclear sorted with them before you dance into the ring with it. Most of the time the PGJs I’ve worked with have been very relaxed and kind and more than happy to answer a question, and you can always leave a note with the office to check in with PGJ and call you back when they find him/her.

  9. I would love a powder blue coat, but I don’t think I am brave enough! I have been eyeballing Kerrit’s seafoam colored coat for with our brown tack, but again I am not sure if I am brave enough!

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