Guide to How to Correctly Fit
English Horse Show Clothing and Riding Apparel
When you begin assembling your show clothes you must first consider the finished look. Riders in competitions are mostly judged from the side and the back. Equitation riders must show clean lines by having perfectly tailored apparel. Ideally, every rider should be essentially identical to the other competitors so that their riding ability and equitation will stand them apart from all of the rest. Poorly tailored apparel will cause distractions for the judge, and will in the end, take away from the rider’s score. Every piece of riding English apparel and horse show clothing has a proper fit, as outlined below.
Ratcatchers fit correctly when the shoulders seams are in line with the outside edge of the shoulders. The choker collar should be fitted but not uncomfortably tight. When trying on for fit, the sleeves will measure at least 2 inches too long when they are unbuttoned and hanging over your hand. The reason for the extra length is so that the back of the ratcatcher does not pull when the sleeves are buttoned and you put your arms forward to jump. When the sleeves of your riding shirt are buttoned, the cuffs should be snug and not be able to pass over your hand. After you put on your show jacket, about 1/4” to 1/2” of the shirt cuff should show when your hands are holding the reins. Be sure to monogram all collars with a complementary color or wear a stock pin.
People come in all shapes and sizes, and so do breeches. Breeches are designed to be worn with tall boots or half chaps and paddock shoes. Most breech manufacturers offer both regular and low-rise styles, short regular and long lengths. Signs of a properly fitting breech are that the suede patches are correctly placed at your knee, and the waist does not gap in the back. Pick a length that suits your body type. Be sure there is enough room to tuck in your ratcatcher without lumps and bumps showing. Beware of low-rises that are too low! The fabric in the calf should be snug but not so tight that you risk cutting off circulation below your knee. Remember to coordinate the color of your breeches to your show jacket, and wear a belt. Lastly, be sure to read and follow breech cleaning instructions on the clothing label.
Jodhpurs come in many shapes and sizes as well. Jodhpurs are designed to be worn with paddock boots. The cuff of the jod is worn over the paddock boot, and the elastic at the bottom goes under the boot. The length of the inseam of the jodhpur should measure to the floor plus 1 inch while wearing your paddock boots. Children’s jodhpurs should fit comfortably at the waist and leg. If the jodhpurs are too baggy, the garter strap makes the pants bunch around the knee. To check to see if the leg length is correct, have your child put on their paddock boots and then pull the cuff down to the floor behind their heel. It should easily reach the floor. That gives them enough room to be able to stretch their heels down without their pants riding up. Remember to coordinate the color of their jodhpurs to their show jacket. You might need to wear a belt and garter straps if you are in a horse show. Lastly, be sure to read and follow Jodhpur cleaning instructions on the clothing label.
A show coat is the single most visible item of your competition apparel. Properly fitting a jacket can easily improve your equitation. Square fitting shoulders and a narrow waist is the key. Show jackets are available in short, regular, tall, slim, husky, endowed and plus sizes. We fit a coat from the shoulders down. When you put on your jacket and button it, we should be able to pinch fabric at each shoulder. The outside of each shoulder of the coat should be about ½” wider than the rider. That way, when you put your arms forward over a jump, you will not rip out the back of your coat. Make sure the waist of the coat actually hits you at your waist. The waist of the jacket from behind should fit well, but not pull. Extra fabric across the back will cause your jacket to bunch when you tie on a horse show number. Have the back seam taken in by a tailor if the coat is baggy. The length of the jacket is equally important. It should just pass the bottom of your bottom. When seated in a saddle there should be 1 1/4” of extra fabric lying on the saddle. Another way to check length is to stand sideways at a mirror and bend at the hip and go into jumping position. Your coat needs to cover your bottom, but not flop over it. Jacket sleeve length is measured at 1” below the wrist bone. After you put on your show jacket, about 1/4” to 1/2” of shirt cuff should show when your hands are holding the reins. Shorten or lengthen sleeves accordingly.
The most difficult fit of all tends to be tall boots. Poorly fitting boots are a distraction to everyone who sees them, especially judges. Field boots are available in many calf heights and widths. The length of your calf determines the height of the boot. Wearing socks, we measure you from the back of your knee to the floor. Then add 1- 1 1/4” to establish the correct height. The boot is measured down the back strap to above the heel. The extra height is so that when the boot breaks in and drops down, the boot will not look too short. The extra wrinkles in the ankle will help provide room to put your heel down, without pulling the field boot down your leg. The foot of your boot must be the correct size as well. Cramped feet get cold and boots that are too big pose a challenge in equitation. If your boots are too large on your feet, you will put too much boot through stirrup in order to have it sit on the ball of your foot. Children should not wear tall field boots until a proper fit can be achieved.
Paddock boots are worn by adults as everyday riding boots and by kids for schooling and horse showing. Choose your paddocks by determining how tough they need to be. Do you wear them everyday or once a week? Are they your show boots? Do you want lace fronts or zippers? Paddock boots are available in synthetic and leather. In order to determine if your child’s paddock boots fit, have them stand up and push their toe forward into the front of the boot. See if you can slip your fingers in the boot behind their heel. One finger’s width is a good fit. Two fingers are about half a size big. If the boots are too large on their feet, the rider will put too much boot through the stirrup in order to have it sit on the ball of their foot. This can also cause a safety problem - no rider wants to get their foot stuck in the irons. If you are buying paddocks in the fall, add a second sock for warmth in the winter, when you are fitting them. Then, by spring, when your child’s feet have grown, their paddock boots will still fit with a single pair of socks.
We at Maryland Saddlery believe that a correctly fitting helmet is your most important piece of equipment. Your specific head shape will determine which helmet you will eventually purchase. You should only consider an approved helmet. These helmets meet or exceed the ASTM F-1163-01 and 04a/SEI certification testing standard set by the equestrian industry. How correctly your helmet fits your head will determine its level of safety. Helmets that are too small or too large may not function correctly during a fall and may not protect the rider's head. Every ASTM F-1163-01 and 04a/SEI riding helmet fits differently, because of this, a professional sales person at a reputable Saddlery, near where you live should be the one to fit you. We feel so strongly about this that we do not sell helmets online.