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Chapter 5
VESTS

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Learning to select western vests can completely change your show ring presentation. You'll impress the judge and add maximum versatility to your show apparel collection as you ride in flattering, comfortable vests. Pair a pretty vest, like this Kareena from Hobby Horse, with a bright blouse and colorful saddle blanket to make a winning impression in the show ring. Shown: Kareena Vest
Western show vests are versatile, comfortable, slenderize your figure, and may be your best show apparel investment after a quality hat and chaps.

Layered over coordinated blouses or classic western shirts, vests can completely change the personality of your show presentation, create a tailored, professional impression for the judge, and add maximum versatility to your existing show apparel wardrobe.

A vest is usually more casual than a jacket or blazer, and allows you freedom of movement in your arms: an important consideration in active classes like reining and trail, or if you're riding a young horse two-handed. As well, vests can insulate your upper body in chilly indoor arenas, yet allow body heat to dissipate through the arms and open necklines if you're showing in hot or humid weather.

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Fabrics with shine and texture make lovely vests that bring beauty to the show ring, like the Mattie vest from Hobby Horse. Fitted seams trim the rider’s torso, yet the vest allows more freedom to move than a jacket when riding a hackamore horse two-handed.Shown: Mattie Vest
An important question is "When do I wear a vest?" The answer is ‘Whenever you like!” Although vests come and go in overall popularity in the show ring, their undeniable comfort and slimming nature make them an evergreen choice for show folks- and a good investment too. A classic black vest- perhaps in a sparkly textured fabric- paired with a crisply starched white shirt is simply always in style at any level of competition.

Choose a vest style appropriate to the level of showing you plan to undertake: while embellished vests with rhinestones, chain, applique and jewel trims are currently the rage at bigger shows, you might look overdressed in one at a small, casual schooling show.

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Vests are versatile, comfortable, and slenderizing in any western show event. Here, Hobby Horse’s Icicle vest tops a crisp white shirt and pairs with black show pants and hat for a big drama with a small horse. Shown: Icicle Vest
Also, think about which blouses you'll wear under your vest and which jewelry or scarf you'll use to finish off the neckline. Try to echo the colors or design of your vest in your saddle blanket, too, for a completely put-together look.

When considering show vests, remember the long, lean, fitted silhouette you're trying to present in the show ring. Vests should be long enough to cover at least the top edge of your waistband at your center back when you are mounted. Otherwise, your shirt may work its way out as you ride. Vest armholes should be fairly snug and fitted, as should the bust line, to prevent gapping.

And whether your vest’s neckline is scooped, a V, semi-square, or something in between, consider that neckline a visual frame for your scarf or jewelry at the throat to perfectly finish off your look.

Most fashion vests are made to be worn loose and hang open--they never look smooth buttoned or zipped up like vests you’ll wear in the show ring. It's worth investing in a garment designed to fit while you're riding a horse, not walking down the street. Look for princess seams (long curving vertical seams that build bust-curves into the vest) for a more fitted vest than one made with simple darts.
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Whether show vests are simple or sparkle like Hobby Horse’s Indie vest, they should fit trim through the body, be long enough to cover the top of the rider’s chaps, and finish with a pretty scarf or jewelry at the neck… and don’t forget a coordinating saddle blanket.. Shown: Indie Vest
Consider the vest's back too--the judge will see you from the back at least as much as the front. Avoid "coffin clothes" that are highly embellished on the front and plain in back. They look unfinished as you lope around the ring, instead of providing 360 degrees of decoration or drama.

Ranch class riders appreciate vests for their true western roots and ability to add a historical touch to any presentation. Consider an embroidered bolero style, embossed velvet with a hint of Victorian opulence, or perhaps a workaday suede that any range rider would be happy to pair with a wild rag and their favorite chink-style chaps.

Even if you compete just a few times a year at club level shows, a vest that you can wear over a variety of tops for different looks will trim up your figure, add color or texture to your look, or simply make for a change of pace from blouses.

Remember, you'll never get a second chance to make a first impression, so strive to create a winning impression the moment you ride into the ring!

FREE DOWNLOAD! It's show time... and time to look at what to wear this year. Use Hobby Horse's FREE Personal Fashion Worksheet to vet your wardrobe and get Ready-to-Win!
Next: Chapter 6 - Pants, Belts and Buckles


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Writing or riding, Suzanne Vlietstra enjoys horses and their people. Vlietstra is president of Hobby Horse Clothing Company, a show apparel manufacturer, and also the caretaker of an assortment of lawn ornament horses.

All materials are copyright 2017 © Suzanne Vlietstra and cannot be reprinted or used in any way without express written permission.