Wait…can you wear that color?

Sometimes the sea of black coats and gloomy faces at a dressage show makes one wonder: Is this a horse show or are we at a funeral?

A few of us bold souls in the past few years have taken advantage of the easing of the rules to branch out into other colors, but there remains confusion over what is allowed and what isn’t. Recently someone admired my lovely green show coat, asking, “is it really o.k.? I thought we all had to wear black at dressage shows.” Nope. Thank God. Black is not my best color and isn’t it more fun to have the wide world of color to choose from?

The green Animo jacket, showing 3rd level in 2014. Yes. it is show legal!

The green Animo jacket, showing 3rd level in 2014. Yes. it is show legal!

O.k., we don’t really have the whole wide world of color. We’re still limited to: “a short coat of conservative color” (for fourth level and below). THE RULES: USEF Rulebook, DR120 Dress

1. The dress code for all Dressage tests and classes through Fourth Level (see .5 below) is a short riding coat of conservative color, with tie, choker or stock tie, white or light-colored breeches or jodhpurs, boots or jodhpur boots, and protective headgear as defined in DR120.5 and in compliance with GR801. A cutaway coat (modified tail- coat) with short tails is permitted. Half chaps, gaiters and/or leggings are not allowed. Gloves of conservative color are recommended. Exception: Riders through First Level may wear half-chaps, gaiters or leggings in solid black or brown, without fringe, matching the color of their boots, and made of smooth leather or leather-like material. (Note that the USDF site says the following: “We discuss general guidelines here; and updated rules and regulations are available in the USEF Rulebook. …..Riders are dressed formally in competition, traditionally with white or light colored breeches, a light-colored shirt and tie or choker with a black or navy blue colored jacket. Gloves may be white or black. For riders at the FEI levels, a shadbelly (tailcoat) is traditional. Except for very young riders, boots are black and come up to the knee.” This seems to contradict the USEF rulebook by prescribing black/navy for jackets rather than “conservative color” (defined even further below by the HSV color scale (see #3). General consensus is that the USEF and FEI rules supersede the USDF “guidelines,” and that yes, Virginia, you CAN wear a green, burgundy, medium blue, gray, brown, or other “conservative” color jacket for rated dressage shows.)
2. For all tests above Fourth Level, the dress code is: a dark tailcoat or a dark jacket with protective headgear, as defined in DR120.5 and in compliance with GR801, and white or light colored breeches, stock or tie, gloves, and black riding boots. Spurs are mandatory for FEI tests (except as noted above under DR120.1). (See DR120.8)

Doesn't look

Doesn’t look “dark enough” to me, but I imagine he had the HSV officially checked…And don’t they look stunning.

3. 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. Protective headgear, stocks, ties, gloves and riding boots maybe the same color as the coat. For Grand Prix Freestyle only: any single color tailcoat will be allowed; striped or multi-colored coats are not permitted, and tasteful and discreet accents, such as a collar of a different hue or modest piping or crystal decorations, are acceptable. FEI Rule 427.1 states: “a black or dark blue tail coat or other dark colours may be worn within in the international HSV colour scale. Colours having a value for“V” smaller than thirty two percent (32%) according to the HSV model may be approved.”

Animo tail coat - gorgeous on that grey horse, don't you think?

Animo tail coat in a shade of blue – gorgeous on that grey horse, don’t you think?

Here’s the color tracker so you can plug in color values and get an idea of the range of colors that can work: http://color.yafla.com/?RGB=443253&Colors

THE REALITY Who has time for playing with color values online? Besides, computer monitors may not be accurate. Oh well, truth be told, I’ve been know to waste an hour (or two) online playing with color and looking at dressage coats. Yeah, well.

So let me cut to the chase: as long as it’s not too light and bright, no show official will hassle you about the color of your dressage coat.

People who don’t know (e.g. other competitors) may say, in an overly helpful voice, “you should be wearing black or navy!” Your trainer may wish wistfully that you wore a traditional black coat. But you may wear what looks good, feels good, and makes you feel confident and beautiful. You can even carry in your pocket (as I do) a copy of the DR 120 rule in case you get an uneducated Technical Delegate. I have never had anyone yet question my green coat and I’ve worn it at many 3*** shows and will until I get to the FEI levels, when I plan to graduate to this lovely grey shadbelly with crystal embellishments and matching helmet:

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 3.13.52 PM Meanwhile, to inspire your colorful jacket dreams, here are some more examples.

Kelly Casey and Golden State sporting a gorgeous blue jacket

Kelly Casey and Golden State sporting a gorgeous blue jacket

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 3.20.41 PM

For the really bold among us, how about that purple?

For the really bold among us, how about that purple? https://terrimiller.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/new-dressage-jacket-colors/

Oh, the possibilities!

10 thoughts on “Wait…can you wear that color?

  1. The shadbelly you’re going to graduate to is SO pretty!!!! I recently found this coat and LOVE it, but it might be too “matchy” on my buckskin pony (or worse, it might clash because it’s very similar to his coat color, but not EXACTLY the same…): https://www.pinterest.com/pin/19914423329029473/ The regular ol’ black coat looks good on him since he has black points, mane and tail, anyway. But someone should rock that pretty light brown coat, I think it’s a gorgeous color.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that would look AMAZING on a buckskin pony. There is an article somewhere online – I don’t think I referred to it in my blog – on matching your coat to your horse’s color. Google and see what you find. You might get some ideas. But the brown (bronze) is beautiful. There are a lot of colors you could do with a buckskin, I think…Fun to think about!


  2. What about trim on a short coat or stock tie? I just got a stock tie with red accents and was hoping i could add something to my coat but didnt want to be too bright.


    • I have seen trim on stocks, it’s not a problem. Even polka dot stocks (as long as it’s subtle, like silver dots on a white stock). You could add subtle red piping or a contrast color to your coat pockets, or to your collar. From the USEF rule book DR120 sect. 3: “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.” When you’re done, send a picture, I want to see it!


  3. I’m glad I came across this article. I’ve been making my daughter’s dressage coats for the last three years and we’ve added color. Two years ago, she won a Charles Owen Helmet at Lendon Gray’s D4K. She chose a tan helmet and so I had to make her a matching coat. She wore it to Regionals and one of the volunteers commented on how refreshing it was to see a coat of a different color. Anyway, I’m planning on an unlined one at the moment because summer shows have been unbearably hot lately. Next month, she is riding in a Versatility competition at the equine affaire which is more representative of the western rider versus english. So, I promised her a dressage coat with a little “bling” to it so she could represent her discipline with a little style. I’m hoping that she might be able to wear it to shows. I suppose if it’s conservative and not “loud”, it should be acceptable.


    • How talented of you, to make dressage coats for your daughter! I’m impressed. I used to make some clothes for my kids when they were young, but nothing so tailored as a jacket. Well done. As for color, remember that it has to be dark enough and not “too much” bling. A touch on the collar, cuffs, or coat pockets. Just an accent, that will be beautiful, without looking like she belongs in a vegas show :-). I love a little bling but one does not want to blind the judge with too much sparkle and some of them are very conservative…


      • I can understand that. I am almost done with this particular coat. She may just wear it for fun stuff like this versatility. I was practicing an unlined coat just to see how it would turn out. Thanks for the tip!


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