In My Boots: 2012 western fashion forecast

Is glitter in or out? What about fringe? What about glittery fringe? Kristen Kovatch doles out some sound western show-ring fashion advice.

From Kristen:

While I try to avoid the collecting of material possessions for the sake of just having stuff, I do keep a list of “Things to Buy” in case I should suddenly become independently wealthy and/or someone offers me five figures for my cow horse. The list includes things like “matching show coolers” (will my pleasure horse and my cow pony ever be at the same show? No. Does it matter? No.), “silver show halter” (my pleasure horse is not showmanship trained… yet), “matching Himalayan salt Likits” (CHECK! Done!) and “new show shirt.”

That’s actually at the top of my list for this show season: I’ve been poring over the pages of my Hobby Horse catalog for 2012, eyeing up the new tunic-tops and horsemanship blouses (and wondering why on earth the vest is coming back into style). Truthfully, the local show scene I’m planning on doing really doesn’t require a $500 shirt to make a statement; I could easily wear a tidy button-down and my very-worn suede chaps and get away with it. On the other hand, I’m a professional horseman now (eep!) and in the western world, I need to start to look the part.

So back to Hobby Horse I go. Their website conveniently includes a run-down of the 2012 fashions: “Color!” “Fun with accessories!” “Coordinate with your horse!” “Rhinestones and elaborate designs!” Truthfully, the styles for western pleasure are not much different from what they were in 2011: bold designs, bright colors and, of course, glitter. If anyone tells you glittery fringe on your sleeves is cutting-edge, tell them they’re deluding themselves. No matter what the designers tell you, fringe will never be cool.

Glitter, yes. Fringe, no, Glittery fringe, double no.


Horsemanship, on the other hand, is transitioning to a more subtle look: solid-colored form-fitting blouses are becoming more common, bringing the emphasis away from the best-dressed and back onto the best rider. I’m happy that this change is taking place, making horsemanship a true test of riding skill and not an elaborate pageant. No matter which style riders choose, horsemanship tops should always be tucked in and hair should be netted in a neat bun at the nape of the neck, right beneath a clean and well-shaped hat. No other detail will do as much to improve an overall show look than attention to hair and hat.

Dressing for reined cowhorse, my other event, is much simpler: my Wranglers and a button-down are as formal as it gets. My horse wears plain and workmanlike tack (though I do like to add white boots and polos for appearances’ sake). We are judged purely on our ability to perform, which is refreshing after an entire season of getting my collegiate horsemanship riders to effectively dress themselves to accent their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. When I go to a team penning it’s even less formal—I leave my horse’s tail bagged and I’ll wear whatever I happened to grab that morning.

But for this summer? My first time in six years entering the show pen, just me and my horse and my glittery outfit?

Fortunately, I work at a university with a great art program. In the back pages of Hobby Horse, they’ve listed a selection of solid-colored tunic tops. Buy and decorate your own! One of my freshman art majors armed with a Bedazzler and a few thousand Swarovski crystals should be able to get the job done for me.

Kristen was an English major at Alfred University and was then hired on after graduation as the western teacher and trainer at the university’s Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center. She would joke on that irony but her students don’t find it very funny any more. Kristen coaches the varsity western team, teaches classes in western riding and draft horse driving, and keeps several of her own horses in training on the side. She shows reined cow horse and also shows western pleasure and horsemanship for fun. Between her horses and her students, Kristen is never short on stories to tell. Some of these stories can be read at her blog at She has also been published in Today’s Equestrian and Take the Reins.

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