Choosing a suitable outfit for the leader in lead rein classes can be a difficult decision. And, if you have a pony which you intend to show as in mountain and moorland or show hunter pony lead rein classes as well as show pony classes, then two outfits may be required.
In all lead rein classes the leader walks alongside the pony’s nearside shoulder, will a couple of feet between leader and pony. From this position the leader should not cover up too much of the pony and is close by in case their small jockey needs steadying in the saddle.
The pony should be wearing a suitable bridle (see your showing society’s rules to check what a suitable bridle is) with a leather lead rein attached to the noseband. The lead rein should never be attached to the bit.
The female leader
Whichever class you decide to compete in suitable footwear is most important. Female leaders are reminded that it is impossible to look elegant trying to run in open toed sandals in a muddy show ring, besides it being rather painful if you pony stands on your toe.
Sensible shoes which are unlikely to be lost during the individual show are the order of the day, while long riding boots or smart jodhpur boots are a popular choice when the weather is poor. Also tights are more likely to stay in place while you are running than stockings or hold-ups.
If you are competing in either mountain and moorland or show hunter pony classes then the overall impression should be tasteful and suitable for the country.
For show pony classes the leader’s outfit can be a little more flamboyant, but remember you do not want to draw judge’s eye away from the pony.
The outfit will normally include a hat, shirt, jacket, skirt or culottes (in preference to trousers for women although some do) and sensible shoes.
Hats should be securely fastened as it is not only embarrassing if you lose one but can be dangerous if it flies off and frightens the ponies.
The colour of your hat is personal preference. If you wear the same hat all season it gives you a consistent identity which helps the judges recognise you, which can be used to your advantage.
In general skirts, culottes or trousers should be comfortable and easy to run in, while not being too loose and flappy. Dark colours are often a good choice, especially for lighter ponies or those with white socks.
Although gloves are not essential they make the overall appearance neater and are help protect your hands should the pony take fright at something.
Hair should be kept tidy and a leather-covered cane should be carried. If you think your pony may spook then I suggest you do not carry one at the show but do practise with it at home.
The male leader
Although the majority of show pony leaders are female, some men also enjoy getting involved. The majority of male leaders wear either a smart suit with a bowler hat or a tweed hacking jacket with a flat cap.
It is vital that the leader, whether male or female, is no more noticeable than the rider and pony, to prevent distracting the judge’s eye.
Once you have decided on an outfit, ask a friend if the overall appearance is tidy, correct and pleasing to the eye.