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Polos, Trials and Shows: How to Dress and Act Properly at This Year’s Equestrian Events

There are a variety of equestrian events happening throughout the UK and around the world this year. From the Olympic games in August to the Blenheim horse trials in September and the King George VI steeple chase in December. Each event attracts a variety of individuals, including horse types, high-class socialites and even the occasional royal or two. If you’re invited to a polo match or a horse trial, however, would you know how to dress or even how to behave? Here are a few tips that will make these social events a lot easier to handle.


What to Wear

What you wear to a horse event greatly depends on the type of event you’re planning on attending. Polo matches and horse trials for instance, are typically casual. At these events, you’ll find a large range of horse lovers who simply wear what they like and sit on the grass to watch the show. Often outside, these events call for casual attire like jeans, but also give you the opportunity to wear some of your more stylish button-downs, polos and tweed jackets, adding a country flair to the country setting.

Events are typically casual as well, though not as much as a horse trial or polo match. Think business casual for eventing. Here you’ll look appropriate in jeans or chambrays, but you can also dress up your attire with chinos or suit trousers. Men’s tweed jackets and blazers are common at these happenings.


The main events, where men’s suits and ties are required, are the major tournaments and finals. Many, like the Audi International, Cartier Queen’s Cup and the Veuve Clicquot Gold Cup are big social gatherings. They only occur a few times each year, but they demand the right attire. Here it’s common to see men dressed in well-tailored and pressed suits. When considering your ensemble for these social events, consider how you would dress for a summer wedding. Linen and light colours are appropriate when it comes to suits.


Horse Etiquette

Aside from your attire, there are certain things you need to know before going to a horse event, especially if you’ve never been to one before.


  • Don’t Frighten the Horses- This is perhaps the number one rule of any event, whether it be a polo match or a final. Loud colours and loud noises can scare a horse, even when it’s highly trained. Be careful about what you wear and what you do around them. During show events, especially those indoors, you may be seated on metal bleachers. During the competition, keep in your seat. The noise from the bleachers may spook the horse as you get up or sit down. Wait until the round is over before you exit.


  • Be Careful What you Say- You never know who you’ll be sitting next to- it could be the owner of the horse. Keep the jeering and pointing to a minimum.


  • Keep Your Enthusiasm Under Control- It can be very exciting to see a horse you’re rooting for succeed through a string of flying changes, but you should never yell or clap until the round is complete during dressage and hunting events. This can not only spook the horse, but will also get you looks of disapproval from the rest of the audience.


  • Turn off Your Cell Phone- In 2002, during a Wimbeldon championship, a man’s cell phone went off during an important moment in the finals. On national television, the man became famous, and not in a good way. Every eye, from the players’ to the rest of the crowd, was on him. Don’t make this embarrassing mistake. Turn your cell phone off prior to the competition and keep it off.


  • Don’t Bother the Judge- This is essential both during and after an event. Keep your conversations to a whisper as not to distract the judge from watching the horse in question. If you don’t like the results, don’t go up to the judge and talk to him or her after the event is over. The rider is the only one who can speak to the judge if he or she believes something went wrong.


  • Don’t Assist- Not every competition is flawless. Riders fall sometimes and must get back up on their horses and finish the event. Don’t try to assist them unless you believe the rider is in danger or they specifically ask you for help. If you do, they may be disqualified from the event.


  • Participate in the Divot Stomping- This tradition goes back years, to when polo matches were an army game. The army wives did it out of respect to the individuals who had offered up their land for the game. Today, the tradition continues. It’s considered rude to not participate.


  • Meeting Celebrities- Today’s big equestrian events are attended by many different types of people. If you’re lucky, you may spot a celebrity or two in the crowd. You may even end up sitting near one. The best rule of thumb here is to ignore them. This isn’t the time to pull out your camera or ask them for their autograph.


  • Royal Encounters-  Some horse events are attended by the Queen, and there’s a good chance you’ll meet her. Her Majesty always attends the Cartier Queen’s Cup near Windsor. In fact, she hands out the prizes each year. If you do meet her, take off your hat and bow your head as she passes by. Address her as “Your Majesty” first, then “ma’am” after. A bow of the head is appropriate for meeting Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge as well. If she happens to offer her hand and say how do you do, you should take her hand and say the phrase back.


Thinking of attending a horsey event in the future? Make sure you know what to wear and how to act while you’re there. These events are excellent social occasions that vary when it comes to attire. Know when to wear jeans, button-downs and tweed jacket and when summer suits are a better option.

By Brook Taverner 15 August 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments