Quick Tips On Fitting A Shadbelly For The Hunter Ring

by Michelle Drum July 27, 2020 5 min read

How to fit a hunter shadbelly


With Pony Finals just around the corner, many little pony jockeys and their parents are on the hunt for the perfect shadbelly for the most formal occasion on the pony show calendar. Here are some tips to help you & your pony rider look the part!


Like any apparel industry equestrians are subject to fashion trends - what's in, what's out, what's SO last year. It can be especially hard with the junior crowd being at that age of striving to fit in and not stand out for the wrong reasons. We fit thousands of kids each year for show apparel. From their first set of lesson tights to their 5th trip to indoors. It's safe to say - we are an authority on the fit of show clothes for kids & adults too. 


Buying your first shad is nearly as exciting as graduating out of paddock boots to tall boots. It is a right of passage that every kid looks forward to. But before you snatch up that great deal on Facebook on an outgrown big-name shadbelly. There are big things to consider. 


Fit is key for that beautiful flowing look as your child lopes around the Walnut Ring in KY. No one likes that fish out of water feeling when they realize their clothes aren't quite right at such a special occasion. Your confidence takes a huge hit even if no one else notices but you.


A good fitting shadbelly should meet the following criteria. 

--The tails should hit the back of your child's knees.


--The shadbelly jacket points should sit at your child's belt.


--The sleeves should come no further than her wrist bones. 

   - There should be 1/4-1/2" of her show shirt sleeve cuff showing.


--The shoulders should fit well but not too snugly. If she hugs herself it should feel tailored but not tight to the point of prohibiting movement. She should be able to perform a crest release comfortably without restriction. 


Flags On Fit When Shadbelly Shopping

--The tails come halfway to her knees.

It's too short, she may need a size up, or a long. Some brands just have short tails, if possible sit in a saddle to see how the tails fall to make sure they are long enough. 


--There is a large gap of show shirt between her belt and the bottom of the shadbelly points. 

It's too short *or* she needs regular rise breeches for the occasion. A formal occasion calls for formal attire. 


--Her stock tie hangs out the bottom of her shadbelly. 

If the points hit her belt then her stock tie may be too long - use safety pins to tuck it up, if her points don't hit her belt the jacket is too small or the rise on her breeches may be too low.  


--The shadbelly is gaping in the back.

It's too big in the shoulders, try a size down or have it taken in by a seamstress. 


--The shadbelly has a leather lining and metal discs sewn into the bottom.

This is a dressage shadbelly, the leather and discs add weight to the tails so they sit still, while the rider is performing on the flat. When used over fences the tails bang the ponies sides and flap around awkwardly while she is jumping her course instead of flowing behind her. 


--The sleeves are above her wrist bones but everything else seems to fit.

Generally, there is enough fabric in the sleeve seams to have them let out a little bit. This is a quick fix that is not very costly and can be done quickly. 


When it comes to formal final shows it is always best to err on fit over fashion. If the fancy big brand name doesn't fit, it looks sloppy and unkempt and can ruin an otherwise beautiful trip.

Learn more about finding and fitting the perfect horse show coat.



A few frequently asked questions: 


--What are the 'points' ?

Back in the day, these high waisted coats were worn with a vest, typically a canary yellow color underneath the shadbelly. The only part visible to those watching were the points. As technology & design have evolved many companies just combined the points into the design of the jacket. Though if you look closely at some of the professionals who have been around a long time, you may see some still wear the actual vest under the jacket. 

--When to wear your shad? 

Shads are considered the utmost in formal attire out in the hunt field, as such, they are worn for the formal classic classes at rated shows, hunter derbies & for the over fences portion of Pony Finals. The model & flat phases as well as simply require your traditional classic show jacket and regular wrap collar or ratcatcher show shirt.  


--Should I wear my shadbelly for the medal class?  

No, Medal classes are judged on equitation, with that in consideration, it is difficult for you to show off and for the judges to see your beautiful position if you wear your shad in the medal class. Although a pony medal finals is a finals class, your regular show coat will best show off the straight lines, subtle aids & beautiful position the judges are looking for. 


--Stock Ties- so many options. 

Formal occasions call for white, but there is plenty of color on color tonal white pattern stock ties out there for a little flair. I am a fan of the traditional stock tie, tied with a square knot, and finished with a pretty pin. It seems very intimidating to learn the knot but it's quite simple. Right over left then left over right, it just requires practice. 

Be sure to run the pin through the stock tie and catch part of your show shirt before you pin it closed. This will keep it from flopping around sloppily while on course. There are plenty of beautiful pre-tied and bib stock ties out there that offer an equally polished look, be sure to check a mirror once you put one on to tidy up everything and make sure it is all straight. 

Not sure how to tie your stock tie? Come on by the store and we'll be happy to show you how it's done or double-check yours for you. 


Best of luck to all of the pony finals qualifiers this year. May you all have great trips and most of all have fun and enjoy the experience of it all. Stop by and see us onsite in KY between the barns & the farrier shed. Don't forget to tag me in your pictures for social media shout outs. :)  

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