In hunter and equitation classes, most people wear either navy, dark green, or gray jackets, all with or without narrow pinstripes (black jackets are also acceptable, but rarely seen); light-gray or medium-gray breeches (although rust, canary, or fawn breeches are sometimes worn); black dress boots or black field boots, with the boot tabs, toe caps, and spur rests all being optional (brown is the traditional field boot color, but is rarely seen these days); white or pastel-colored shirts, with pale pink and blue seeming to be favorites; a black, velvet-covered helmet with either a leather or clear plastic chin strap (or a brown helmet if it is to be worn with a brown field boot); dark leather gloves (avoid leather imitations at all cost, for they usually slip when wet with rain or perspiration); very sheer hairnets for females, with the net matching the rider’s haircolor as closely as possible (these can be obtained from most drug stores); black riding crops and spur straps to match black boots, or brown riding crops and spur straps to match brown boots.
In the USEF Rule Book, equitation attire is referred to as "appointments.” The Rule Book states: "Exhibitors and judges should bear in mind that at all times entries are being judged on ability rather than on personal attire. Riders should wear coats of any tweed or Melton for hunting (conservative wash jackets in season), breeches or jodhpurs and boots. Conservative colored protective headgear in accordance with Article GR801.3 is mandatory. Spurs, crops, or bats are optional. Judges may penalize contestants who do not conform." (Note: Article GR801.3 deals with riders wearing a harness–i.e., a chinstrap–in order to secure their helmets on their heads.)
Some of the language of this rule is archaic to riders today, so I’ll explain it a little further. A “Melton” is a heavy-weight, smooth, woolen fabric. Also called “melton cloth,” it was first produced between 1815 and 1825. Named after Melton Mowbray, a town in Leicestershire, England, it was often used for overcoats and hunting jackets. As for “conservative wash jackets in season,” I believe this refers to lighter-weight, washable coats for the warmer months–probably cotton or linen in the early days of hunting. Now, however, the typical winter riding jacket is still a wool one, while the summer jackets are usually a lightweight polyester, often with a blend of a stretchy material, such as Lycra.
The general thing to remember when choosing attire for an equitation or hunter class is to keep it conservative–no bright colors or wild patterns. From experience, I’ll tell you that a dark, navy-colored jacket is the best all-around color. It looks great on any horse, and this is important if you have to switch horses in an equitation competition. Also, darker colors in coats, helmets, and boots make you look thinner and more formal, and dark-colored gloves help conceal the movements of your hands, enhancing the concept of “invisible aids.”
As for attire in hot or rainy weather, “When management permits Hunter or Hunter Seat Equitation riders to ride without jackets, riders must wear traditional, short-sleeved or long-sleeved riding shirts with chokers or ties. Polo shirts and chaps are not permitted except in unjudged warm-up classes. Management or Judge may eliminate and exhibitor who is inappropriately attired.”
In the hunter division rules, the only references to attire are to "formal attire" and "ladies side saddle attire," so the restrictions in the equitation division (especially the references to "conservative" clothing) have usually been applied. The "formal attire" rules for hunter classics and appointments classes are as follows: "Riders are required to wear scarlet or dark coats; white shirts with white stock; white, buff, or canary breeches and protective headgear…. In classes restricted to junior exhibitors, protective headgear must be worn in accordance with GR801.”
Also, “When management permits Hunter or Hunter Seat Equitation riders to ride without jackets, riders must wear traditional, short-sleeved or long-sleeved riding shirts with chokers or ties. Polo shirts and chaps are not permitted except in unjudged warm-up classes. Management or Judge may eliminate and exhibitor who is inappropriately attired.”
In the jumper division, you often see white breeches, but the other attire is usually the same as for equitation and hunter classes, except in classes offering more than $25,000, in which case the riders wear “formal attire,” which is described in the Jumper section of the USEF Rule Book as follows: “Formal Attire. Black, blue, green, grey, scarlet or similar coats are permitted; white or fawn breeches; a white tie, choker, or hunting stock, and a white or lightly colored shirt must be worn. Shirts must have a white collar and white cuffs.”
Also, “Management, at its discretion, may allow competitors to compete without riding coats. If a riding coat is not worn, riders must wear a shirt, with a collar or a choker, neatly tucked into riding breeches. A windbreaker jacket or raincoat may be worn if conditions require. In all cases, riders must appear neatly attired to appear before the public or be subject to penalty of elimination by the judges.”