What to wear at dressage competitions

  • You’ve learnt your test, practised your movements and your horse is all set for your debut together, but do you know what to wear for dressage competitions? If you’ve found yourself on this page, it’s likely that you’re either gearing up for your first dressage test or you’ve been out of the game for a while and are feeling a bit rusty. Sometimes knowing what to wear can be a bigger worry than remembering your test, but we’ve got you covered with a list of exactly what you need for unaffiliated, low level tests as well as some info about what to wear if you’re having a crack at affiliated competition.

    If a competition is “unaffiliated”, it means that it’s not associated with British Dressage (BD), which is the governing body for the sport in the UK. Unaffiliated shows tend to have more relaxed guidelines, but some will follow BD rules, so it’s best to check the schedule or contact the secretary/organiser if you’re unsure.

    BD have strict rules on dress code at affiliated competitions – if you’d like to know more, skip down to find out what you can and can’t wear for affiliated dressage. Otherwise, keep reading for the lowdown on what you’ll need for your first dressage test.

    What to wear for dressage competitions

    In short, you’ll need the following items, but we’ve got lots more information on the specific rules and levels they apply to if you keep scrolling:

    • riding hat – this should be up-to-standard (See our guide to the best riding hats)
    • riding boots – you can wear either long or short boots and gaiters are optional. (See our guide to the best long boots)
    • breeches – while traditionally these were light in colour, British Dressage rules now allow darker colours too. (See our guide to the best competition breeches)
    • show jacket – in any solid colour or tweed at lower levels. (See our guides to the best show jackets and best tweed jackets)
    • show shirt – long- or short-sleeved with white round collar or appropriate collar for a stock or tie. (See our guide to the best show shirts)
    • stock or tie – it’s up to you, but stocks are more common (tradition suggests to wear white with black/navy jacket, coloured with tweed)
    • gloves – must be worn, and look smartest in the same colour as your breeches. (See our guide to the best riding gloves)
    • saddle pad – a white square is smartest. (See our guide to the best dressage squares)

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    What to wear at an unaffiliated dressage show

    You won’t go wrong if you adhere to the affiliated rulebook, as described below. However, the dress code tends to be more lenient at local unaffiliated shows. Whatever level you’re entering, you’ll want to be smartly turned out in show jacket, breeches, stock or tie and gloves.

    If you want to check if a particular item is appropriate – for example, a bolder tweed or the colour of jacket – contact the show secretary to check that it is permitted.

    One item that is essential whatever the code, is a hat that meets the current riding hat safety standards.

    What to wear for affiliated competition

    • For introductory to advanced medium tests (including FEI junior): uniform, short jacket or tweed coat with correctly tied stock/white round collar or shirt and tie, with a protective hat
    • Advanced tests and upwards: option of a tailcoat or short jacket both with protective hat, and correctly tied stock or shirt and tie. Forces uniform may be worn with protective hat (or protective service hat)
    • Body protectors may be worn


    • Tailcoats, short jackets and waistcoats may be any solid colour
    • Modest patterns or pinstripes, coloured collars, contrast piping and crystal decorations are permitted
    • Tweed is permitted
    • Navy jackets with red collar and white piping are reserved solely for British team riders
    • In regular competitions, competitors may ride with a fitted waistcoat instead of a jacket
    • For championships, regionals, Area Festivals, Premier Leagues and High Profile shows, jackets must be worn unless the judges and organiser have given permission for competitors to ride without jackets. In this instance, riders must wear a fitted waistcoat
    • Plain, dark-coloured or transparent waterproof coats may be worn in wet weather


    • Can be long or short-sleeved in a solid colour
    • Must fasten at the neck with a tie, white round collar or correctly fastened stock


    • A protective hat must be worn at all times when mounted, with harness correctly fastened
    • Top hats are no longer permitted
    • Hats and hat covers may be any conservative colour
    • Completely mirrored hats are not permitted
    • Hats must meet one of the following standards:
      • British – all PAS 015 (2011 and subsequent updates)
      • European – VG1 or EN1384:2023
      • American – SNELL E2016, E2021, ASTM F1163 2015 and subsequent updates
      • Australian and New Zealand – AS/NZS 3838 2006 onwards
      • Hats wearing the BSI Kitemark or SAI mark in addition to published safety standard are strongly recommended


    • Breeches or jodphurs should predominately be of a solid, single colour. Dark-coloured contrast seats are permitted.


    • Compulsory


    • Conventional riding boots, either short or long
    • Gaiters may be worn with short boots as long as they are the same colour as the boot and are not suede or fringed


    • Permitted at all levels; no longer mandatory from advanced level and upwards. For FEI competitions, refer to FEI rules
    • Must be worn as a pair (except for side-saddle classes)
    • Must be made of metal, which can be coated
    • Spurs with smooth rotating rubber, metal or plastic ball on the shank are permitted
    • Comb spurs are not permitted
    • Shank must point towards the rear and end must be clearly horizontal or pointing downwards
    • Dummy and correctly fitted swan-neck spurs are permitted
    • No restrictions on type of shank
    • Rowels which have points must have rounded ends


    May be carried at:

    • All qualifiers, including Quest
    • Quest regionals and championships
    • Warm-up classes at championships
    • Young horse/pony (4, 5, 6, 7yo) qualifiers
    • Young horse/pony (4yo) championships and semis
    • Premier Leagues and High Profiles (but selectors may request a whip is not used)
    • Ladies riding side-saddle may carry a whip at any time
    • Para riders may carry whips appropriate to their dispensation certificate

    Not permitted at:

    • Championships, including Area Festivals, regionals, music, nationals and winters
    • Associated Championships (including Forces Equine)
    • Combined Training Championship (dressage phase)
    • Young horse/pony (5, 6, 7yo) championships and semis
    • FEI young horse tests

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