EV 114: dressing for eventing dressage

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!

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

13 thoughts on “EV 114: dressing for eventing dressage”

    1. I was REALLY surprised about the helmet thing. You can wear brown boots and a brown coat, but you can’t wear a brown helmet?! It seems like an oversight, honestly.

  1. yea agreed with leah that it’s odd to see some of these rules be more conservative than the usdf haha. i think the only thing that i’ve been sticking to possibly unnecessarily is wearing a white shirt under my jackets. which, as you point out, is not always a great look when the jacket comes off! plus… ya know… hard to keep clean. probably the only thing i’d change about my own set up is maybe eventually investing in a nice non-white show shirt. and maybe one day some dove breeches 😉

  2. The half-chap thing was explained to me by an FEI steward at AECs a few years ago (aka I trust her) – she said the half chaps that look like tall boots are typically okay, suede or non-looking like tall boot ones are not. I still don’t think I’d chance it, but it makes sense with the rule book wording.
    The collar thing confuses the hell out of me – I do not understand why I can’t just wear a regular show shirt with it’s magnetic collar like I did in h/j-land. Bah. I do not want another thing to fiddle with (…and get dirty).
    Also, what are the popular brands of these off-white breeches right now? I’m considering for next year…

    1. That’s basically how I interpreted the half-chap rule, but like you, I don’t think I’d even try to wear them. I think the show shirt thing is probably similar to the helmet thing- something that hasn’t been updated in a long time that ought to be addressed!

      We’re selling a lot of Montar silicone full seats in off-white. My only caution with that is don’t wear a white saddle pad with off-white breeches; the breeches will just look dirty. A cream colored or dark pad that matches your jacket is a better bet. (The eventing rulebook does not have any statements on what color or shape a rider’s saddle pad should be for dressage [or any other phase].)

  3. I hate all the vagueness and subjectivity to the rules. I prefer hard rules like dressage. The helmet thing is weird and I don’t think I’d noticed that before, but luckily I use a black helmet.

    1. I think the subjectivity in the rules is meant to help (in that a TD can feel free to make a judgement call) but it really just ends up being confusing. I’ve worn a jasper green coat in the dressage ring at a rated show in Texas, but can I count on a TD in Pennsylvania to accept it as a “dark color”? (I suppose the solution is to buy a navy coat and be done with it.) Hard and fast rules will always make someone cranky, but I think that’s preferable to having a lot of confused people.

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