Saturday, August 19, 2017


I worked a lot of hours last week, and the upcoming week doesn't look any better. This makes blogging difficult, so I am even happier than usual to have a good guest post to share today. Thank you, Lauren, for tackling the surprisingly controversial topic of matchy matchy performance entries!

Match-a-Palooza - Does Matching Tack Mimic the Real Showing World?

by Lauren Mauldin

These days, I am potentially the worst kind of model horse enthusiast. My previously crowded shelves are down to three lonely traditionals and a "I really am going to finish him" one day mini resin. I admire the hobby from afar with blogs and Facebook, and occasionally butt my head in on a discussion about performance live showing... which I haven't done in almost ten years.

So yeah, I'm that person.
My minimally matchy jumper entry from 2009, but I'll be the first to admit that this isn't 100% representative of today's jumper ring 
While I haven't tacked up a model in forever, I've spent the last six years showing my horse in local hunters, jumpers and equitation.
Lauren on her jumper, Simon
I've also photographed and groomed at many AA hunter/jumper shows, which is the top tier for USHJA non-FEI competition. This is not to brag, but more to say that I've seen a LOT of horses jump over piles of sticks
As I'm watching said horses jump around, I enjoy looking at the tack and colors they're wearing because my inner model performance shower will not die, and I love seeing everything in miniature. While I think a perfectly color coordinated entry looks fantastic in model form, there are situations where it's not the most realistic representation of the real horse world. 

My area of expertise is hunter/jumper, so this is where I'll be focusing my thoughts regarding "matchy matchy." 

Rated versus Schooling Shows?
Before I get into the individual classes, I want to talk about rated versus schooling shows and how they regard to models.

A schooling or local show is smaller, cheaper and usually closer to home. Think of it like your beloved neighborhood live show where people are super friendly, and you might try out some new setups or horses in a more relaxed, low key environment. This isn't to say that the show has bad competition or is lax, far from it! But it's probably not the one you're traveling across the country to or losing copious amounts of sleep for.

Here's a typical local show jumper...
and hunter.
The next level up from schooling shows for hunter/jumpers is rated shows, which come in 4 levels. C, B, A and AA with AA being the largest and most prestigious. AA shows are a big deal. AA shows are your Breyerfests, NAN's and regional championships. They're where people bring out the best of the best.
Here's a typical AA show jumper...
and hunter.
When you setup your model hunter/jumper entry, it would be a good idea to think about (and document!) what kind of show your entry is depicting. If it's local/schooling, there is a lot more leeway with colored tack and attire choices. Those shows tend to bring a larger variety of riders, and are less formal (therefore less colorful). AA shows are top tier, and if you're setting up giant, beautiful jumps with all the fittings -- it might be best if your tack fit the look of a top rated USHJA show.

So what are the "looks" for those top shows regarding color?

I'm not going to surprise anyone here by saying that hunter under saddle and hunter over fences classes are a color free zone. I can't think of a performance entry I've seen recently that even pushed the boundaries. In the hunter ring today, the "look" is a black, navy or hunter green coat typically paired with a white shirt, although other light colored pastels are also okay. You'll sometimes see a french blue or maroon coat in the modern hunter ring, but judges typically frown on those and they are better suited for jumper riders.
Fun fact! Your doll does not have to wear tan breeches for hunter under saddle and hunter over fences classes. White breeches are allowed in the hunters, and since so many riders show hunters, jumpers and equitation in the same day... they will not change their breeches. It's not hard to find documentation for white breeches + black coat in the jumper ring, which means you can double duty that doll and be 100% accurate.
Here is where everyone is going to say, "Jumpers allowed colored tack! It's changing! My colors are fine!"

And you're right -- kind of.

The jumpers are where it's best to ask yourself, am I setting up a local or rated ring scene? Local jumps are less ornate, with fewer fill (brush, flowers, etc) and simpler standards. Rated jumps are often branded by sponsors, have really interesting standards and look as decorated as physically allowed. 

If you have more of a simple jump and want to setup a "local" jumper entry, you can be more liberal with color.

If you're going the rated route, it's best to be conservative.
The vast majority of jumper boots are black & white, brown, or sometimes solid white. Currently, fleece is out of style but I keep hearing "it's making a comeback" so who knows. If you go very high end (look for custom Equifit D-Teq boots as an example), you can add small accents of color to your horse's jumping boots. This means, color wise, it's super realistic to get away with small piping on leather open fronts but I have never seen solid colored boots or loud colored boots in AA jumpers. Never. 

Also, make sure your model is wearing some type of "open front" boot to be the most accurate, because jumpers want the horse to feel the pole with their skin if they hit it. This is why you don't see polo wraps, galloping or other all purpose boots very often in high level jumpers.

Bell Boots
Solid colored bell boots are not seen in the jumper ring at the AA level. I know they're cute, and I know they look really great with the matching saddle pad... but you won't see them on serious competitors. Why? Well in real life, the plastic that those wild colored boots are made of is actually pretty stiff and will rub horses raw. High level jumpers stick to a more gummy plastic which is either black or tan, or they might go for fancier, more technical bell boots which are almost always black. 

Saddle Pads
Rule and function wise, there is nothing saying you can't walk into the jumper ring with a solid pink square pad... but people just don't do it. Most pads in the AA jumper ring are solid white, grey or black with colored trim, monograms or a barn logo. You will see the occasional solid "conservative" color, which is usually hunter green, navy or burgundy. 
For pros, you'll often see their sponsor's logo embroidered on the pad and the trim colors matching that company's branding.
Where things get a little more interesting are the half pads. A few years ago (and you'll still see a lot of them), Ogilvy half pads became the rage. This is where conservative hunter/jumper folks got their kicks in color wise. You'll see Ogilvy pads in all kinds of color combos with really bright trim accents. Something really popular in the jumper ring is a charcoal half pad, with hot pink trim. So if you're a color person and you want your jumper entry to pop, look around for Ogilvy color combos.

Like saddle pads, there are no rules that say people can't have a solid pink bonnet -- but it's very rare that somebody does. Bonnets do have more color variation than saddle pads though. You'll see solid colors ranging from grey, burgundy, different blues, browns and black. White is rare, but does happen. 
Where bonnets shine for jumpers are with their trim. Anything goes here. Bright colors? Yes! Sparkle? Absolutely! If you go conservative base color + bright trim, you're going to be golden for the AA jumper ring.
Rider Coats
Here is some really good news for color lovers -- colored jackets are all the rage in the jumper ring right now. Current popular colors are teal, maroon and bright blues... 
but I've seen orange, neon pink. I've seen everything, which means there are no limits for models. 
Fancy, colored stirrups are totally in right now. They're also very inexpensive, so some riders may have one set in their favorite color... and some riders might have six different pairs! These are usually a really pretty metal, metallic look and the most popular colors I've seen are pinks, blues and teals.
But what can match what?
If you're being the most realistic to what you see in the real AA ring, I'd follow this simple rule: Don't match everything.

  • Match boot accents to saddle pad, but not coat or bonnet.
  • Match coat to bonnet trim, but not to saddle pad.
  • Match bonnet & saddle pad & stirrups, but not the identical color for the coat.
  • Match coat & stirrups, but not saddle pad & bonnet.
  • Match bonnet, saddle pad & coat, but use neutral boots.
Here are some examples:
Let's wrap up this matchy matchy manifesto:

At the end of the day, you can do whatever you want, as long as you stay within the rules. And the rules themselves? They're quite liberal... especially for jumpers! 

I think it's just a question you ask yourself as a competitor with model horses -- do I want to match what's happening in the real horse world, or make an entry I'm totally giddy about? I can't answer that for you. 

Showing, whether real horses or models, should be fun. If you love matchy matchy colors for model horses, do it! Sometimes I want to match my jumper up a little, and I do that too! He has "outfits" for our jumper classes, but they do stay within the conservative norm of our sport.

It's about what makes you happy, and what makes you excited to tack up the horse -- real or fake!


  1. Mostly I'm just here for Lauren's pictures haha but yea. The actual matchy matchy ness really does seem reserved for local circuits. And. Uh. Eventing lol

    1. That's the best part about eventing. Can't wait to get my OTTB bright purple everything.

  2. Wow. Super useful. I'll see my purple-everything eventer with different eyes.