It’s super fun to walk through a tack store and snag that beautiful pair of leather open front boots. The stitching is pretty, and the color matches your saddle. Plus when everyone else has a pair, it’s hard not to want them too.
Even if all the cool kids are using it, sometimes following the crowd does more harm than good. It might be nice to fit in, but when it comes to the equipment you’re using on your horse, less is more.
In fact, less will always be more. Using a Pelham when a D-ring snaffle will do is too much. It doesn’t show a rider’s ability to pilot their horse effectively. Putting a sheepskin pad on top of another pad because it looks nice takes away from the overall picture of the horse and rider.
When you’re in the ring at a horse show, the point is to show off your horse. With a nice hunter, you’d like to think you wouldn’t need leg protection or “gadgets” because of their easy disposition and good movement. In the equitation ring, the guidelines for tack are different – which isn’t to say you should overdress your horse.
A good rule of thumb is: if your horse doesn’t need it, don’t put it on him. There’s no reason to dress your horse in garments he doesn’t need.
Not all horses need to wear boots. Most horses don’t need a figure-eight noseband to strap their mouths shut. Open front boots aren’t necessary on horses who don’t need leg protection. See the trend?
By the way, a judge can tell a difference from “fashion” tack to necessary equipment. Do you know why you use the equipment you load your horse up with? Be sure you use what you need, and ditch the rest.
If your flavor of the month is sheepskin-lined open front boots, can you explain what they do for your horse? If the answer isn’t to gently protect your horse’s sensitive legs, then take them off. This goes for any equipment your horse doesn’t have a need to wear.
To top it off, if your horse doesn’t need it and you don’t know what it does for your horse, there’s a possibility of using the equipment wrong. If you’re using tack that doesn’t fit or isn’t serving its purpose in the show ring, the judge will notice. You could even be penalized for it.
There are some pieces of equipment which are truly necessary in the show ring. In the Equitation ring, protect your horse’s legs if they need it. Use your figure eight noseband if your horse will go better in it. Your horse carries his head high, and doesn’t quite know where to put it? Sure, wear the standing martingale. Be sure to know why you’re using the tack you’re using, and you aren’t just slapping it on your horse for the sake of it.