Competitors in the equestrian field want to look and perform their very best. Achieving high levels of performance requires the right English riding apparel, because unlike casual riding, English riding must appear sleek, refined and in control at all times. Judges not only observe the manner in which you and your horse communicate and how well you direct your horse, but also your overall appearance.
A show coat is the single most visible item of your competition apparel. It is the first thing a judge notices. Properly fitting hunt coats give the rider a svelte, trim appearance with squared shoulders and a narrow waist. Properly fitting a jacket can easily improve your eventing and showing. Loose fitting jackets have no place in riding as safety is of the utmost importance.
Here are some coat characteristics to keep in mind:
· Shoulders - When fitting a hunt coat, the jacket seam should create a point where your shoulder ends. The jacket is the incorrect size if it sits shorter or longer than your shoulder. If the seam is too short, the jacket will pull out of shape, causing it to become tight and uncomfortable.
· Waist - The narrowest part of the jacket should sit at your natural waist. If the jacket's waist is too high or too low then the rest of the coat will fit improperly.
· Length – The bottom edge of the coat is supposed to cover two-thirds of the rider’s backside. It’s better to get a riding jacket that is too short rather than too long. Long coats can easily get in the rider’s way; they also cause the rider to appear shorter than he or she really is.
· Sleeve Length - The length of the sleeves is sometimes overlooked. The best way to judge the length of the sleeves is by hanging your arms down your sides; take note where the bottom of the sleeve reaches, ideally your wrist. Bend your elbows in the jacket. How much do the sleeves slide? They should expose about one and a half inches of your cuffs.
· Button Position - In a good fitting jacket, the top button should lay near your sternum. The bottom button is not supposed to be lower than your natural waist.
· Width - While you don't want a baggy and disheveled looking coat, you do want one that is roomy in the chest area. To check this, grab the top of the coat and pull it away from your body. How far is the material from your body? It is recommended that there be two to three inches of space but no more. Now do the same test on the bottom of the jacket. The jacket should have two inches of slack in it.
The jacket you ultimately decide to choose should have a smooth, symmetrical look. The jacket is supposed to lie flat across your body; this applies to both the front and back. There shouldn’t be any bunching of material. If you feel like the jacket is limiting your range of movement or that the material itself is stretching to the point of ripping or tearing, then it is too small or too tight.
Wearing the proper show jackets during competitive events not only showcases your command of the sport but also provides the necessary safety needed in the saddle. It also shows respect for the elegance and control of English riding.