If you have ever been to an English show, e.g. dressage, hunters or show jumping, you probably noticed that the competitors looked like a sea of dark navy and black show coats. The dress code for equestrian sports is defined in the USEF (formerly AHSA rule book). “That’s the way it’s always been,” is the reason you most often get when you ask why everyone dresses alike. “The judge won’t give me a high score if I show up in something other than dark navy or black.”
The first reason is true. That IS the way it’s always been since the USEF’s inception in 1917. But at a time when equestrian sports is fighting for their share of media attention and sponsorship money, isn’t it time they look at the success of some of the other popular sports like tennis, golf and ice skating?
Here’s an example of the evolution of dress in tennis:
Now here’s what’s changed in equestrian sports.
Virtually nothing, right? So what can you do? First, let’s look at the actual USEF rules.
DRESSAGE: The dress code for all Dressage tests and classes through Fourth Level is a short riding coat of conservative color.
However, it goes on to say: 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.
While the USDF may have a different rule, it is generally accepted that the USEF rule supersedes other association rules.
HUNTER: Riders are required to wear scarlet or dark coats; white shirts with white stock; white, buff or canary breeches and protective headgear.
JUMPER: Coats of any color are required.
The rules only restrict jackets to “dark colors” for Hunters and Dressage and no restriction or Jumpers. But what’s this HSV Color Scale? Every color has a numerical color so you artists and others don’t get the colors confused. For the link to the HSV color scale, click HERE. The limit for the color is a “V” value (the level of darkness vs. lightness of the color) of 32. If you enter the number 32 in the box, it will bring up all the colors that are acceptable in that range. You can click on different options along the side. As long as the lightness number is 32 or less, it is considered a color appropriate for dressage.