Monday, October 19, 2009

Bling it on!

Again, a million topics to post on went through my head this weekend. Again, I did not jot the ideas down but this one just crept into my thoughts and I think everyone, exhibitors and judges, has an opinion. This is mine.

Attire in the Western Show Ring
I'm asked all the time what I think of the amount of silver on saddles, halters and bridles. Many times I am within earshot, most likely on purpose, of people making comments about so and so's glossy lambskin and rhinestone outfit, gawdy and otherwise. Whether anyone believes or not, I do not judge a HORSE show as a beauty pagent. Unless you are wearing flannel pajamas, I am not staring at your attire. I do not care if you look like an easter egg or a bland dinner salad. Truly I am judging what I need to judge. Whether it is the conformation of your horse, your horsemanship and execution of a pattern or the movement of your horse for pleasure riding.
There are some tricks to make yourself and your horse hide or enhance specific areas. As we all know, dark colors can shed a few pounds for people. If you don't have the quietest hand, I'd say leave off the french cuffs. If your horse has a really nice looking face and expression, don't use the widest, heaviest silver donned halter you can afford.
I do get offended when I hear comments like, the judge pinned by the amount of silver on the saddles. Or, Ann had custom glossy smooth lambskin chaps with a matching shirt and little Suzie only had a plaid cotton shirt & jeans, so that's why Ann won. Give me a break! I can't even tell you what someone was wearing if it was a pleasure class. I can tell you who schooled too much in the class. See-sawing the reins and staring at the back of their horse' head looking as far from having a pleasurable ride as driving down a dirt road in a car with no shocks.
If you are riding an individual horsemanship pattern, I can tell you who knows the difference between an oval and a circle but most likely, I cannot tell you whether they wore chaps or not. Your attire is not what is on my mind even as I look to see the effectiveness of your aids and your position over your leg.
If you are wearing something so loud and so gawdy that it draws my attention to you, you better know how to ride! I look at everyone who comes into the ring. I may only look at a green unsuitable pleasure mount moving like it's in the starter shoot to run down a steer once to catch the exhibitor number but I will look at everyone.
I have to say, too much will draw attention but it will probably not be the attention you want. The most extreme example of too much that I have come across was at a western mixed class show. There was a woman who had a very nice horse which placed well in pleasure classes but it was very hard to see her horse. Why? She wore a cowboy hat that was completely adorned on the underside of the brim with rhinestones and there was a tiara around the crown of the hat.
When the show was over and I saw the woman at her trailer, I couldn't resist. I went over to her and asked what the hat was about. She said, she always wore that hat because she couldn't afford the silver saddles and crystals custom show clothing. I replied that she had a nice moving, suitable horse to ride, she only needed to meet the show attire minimum requirements. She asked me if the hat had helped her be seen and I said no, it kept my eye above your nice horse. Honestly, I don't know how she saw out from under that brim. It was blinding! Had she taken it off and held it towards the sun, a huge fireball would have pelted out and blinded me! She told that the hat did what she thought.....get her attention and she would continue wearing it. It had become lucky to her.
I think if she qualified and won a high point award from that series, that they buy her a hat in leiu of a trophy.
You can wear it but it doesn't make you a better rider. If you want to stand out, train your horse, practice your riding and you will stand out. If you want a lot of silver tack and crystalized outfits, that's fine. But you better have something to show if you really want everyone looking at you! So bring on the bling! Unless it blinds me, it won't change my decision and I doubt it sways any other judges' minds either.
Oh and next time you place or think someone else placed because of glitzy silver and AB rhinestones, ask your show secretary, manager, steward or whomever is halfway in charge of your show to please ask the judge for a moment of their time. I think you'll find out that no one else' tack or attire was the reason for the placings.

The above picture on today's post is from the 2006 American Paint Horse Association Vegas Horse Show. Ms. Thompson, the rider in the picture was riding in the gambler trail class. Her outfit was used as an example of extreme outfits but was perfectly appropriate for the venue and class she was riding. I thought ya'll might enjoy seeing it.


  1. You've covered how you feel about the rider's look, and the tack used on the horse, but I'm curious if any thought is given to the look of the horse in the class.

    Where I used to show in my youth, you didn't dare show up without trimming your horse's fetlocks, ears, bridle path, and muzzle, or with a dirty horse. Basically, your horse was spotless.

    Where I show these days, at least in the open shows, people pull their horses out of the pasture and haul to the show for a day of fun. Some of the horses are muddy and hairy, and it is quite obvious that no effort was made to groom the horses in preparation for the show.

    I would expect a horse in this condition to be marked down in showmanship, but what about other classes? Would you give preference to the groomed horse? What about horses that are too thin?

    Thank you, and I enjoy reading your blog!

  2. You are one of a few then. I've been told numerous times (in open shows) that "my clothes weren't fancy enough for the occasion." Though plain, I met the requirements.

  3. Jennifer, It's a shame that a judge would tell you, you weren't fancy enough in chosing your attire. That is a sign of a very poor judge. I've had people ask me many times about placings vs. silver tack or crystalized attire. Silver and crystals will never win a class in front of me unless they are showing the best horse for that particular class.
    When you encounter a judge that says you aren't fancy enough, go to your show manager or secretary, ask who the judge is and ask them if that judge will be returning to their shows. You may also suggest more knowledgable people they could hire for judging their shows. Maybe there is a list of judges in your area. If there are any clinics for judging, including senior 4H judging team members, in your area, there is most likely a list. I apologize for anyone hired to judge a show that considers silver and bling in their placings. That is just wrong and they should not be judging if their preference is such. I know alot of judges on the east coast if you would like a reference. I also know of alot of resource lists that maybe you could submit to your local shows' manager/secretary and maybe they could pick from them next time. Just drop me a line and I can send it along. Or if I remember I'll make a post of those resources.


I am just one judge with one judge's opinion. Almost all of the classes I judge are based on the rules of USEF & AQHA. Judging a horse show is very subjective to the interpretation of the rules. Please keep this in mind when commenting.