Three young girls smiling side-by-side wearing show shirts

Ultimate Show Shirt Style and Sizing Guide for Equestrians

The right equestrian show shirt can elevate your entire competition outfit, boosting your confidence and performance in the saddle. But finding the perfect show shirt can be a little tricky if you don’t know what to look for. In this guide, we’ll walk you through what makes a great show shirt, key features to look for, and how a show shirt should fit.

What is a show shirt?

A show shirt, or English show shirt, is worn by equestrians during competitions, particularly in disciplines like dressage, show jumping, hunters, equitation, and eventing. These shirts are designed for comfort, breathability, and fashion. Show shirts provide a polished appearance while adhering to the formal dress code of various equestrian events.

Equestrian show shirts are typically made from moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics like cotton, polyester, or a blend of both. Some brands use patented technical fabrics like Air-Conditioned Yarn (ACY) and Icefil to help boost rider performance. Show shirts typically have a collar for a traditional look and sometimes long sleeves to provide sun protection. Some show shirts may include additional features like mesh panels for extra ventilation.

Equestrian show shirts can vary widely in style. They may be traditional white for hunter and equitation competitions or more colorful for show jumping and dressage. A show shirt is designed to be worn comfortably under layers since riders often wear jackets or coats over their show shirts during competitions.

Types of English show shirts

Equestrian show shirts come in various styles and designs to suit different disciplines. Below, we’ll break down show shirts by discipline.

Dressage show shirts

Equestrians can usually wear long- or short-sleeve show shirts during dressage competitions. Riders can wear any solid-color show shirt underneath a show jacket. Subtle patterns, like pinstripes, checks, or tweed, are permitted. Shirts must be worn with a stock tie, choker, or an integrated stand-up collar.

Our recommendation: EGO 7 Women’s Mesh Top Long Sleeve

Cross-country show shirts

Riders can wear polo or rugby shirts of any color during a cross-country competition, though the shirt should have long sleeves to help reduce the chance of injury in case of a fall. Matching your cross-country show shirt with yourvest, saddle pad, and helmet cover can help you stand out on the course.

Our recommendation: Tailored Sportsman Long Sleeve IceFil Sun Shirts

Hunter show shirts

While ratcatcher show shirts were commonly worn for decades in hunter competitions, snap collar shirts are the popular choice now. White is the gold standard to wear, but conservative colors and prints are also acceptable. Stock ties are worn for formal occasions when a shadbelly jacket is required, such as during a classic or hunter derby.

Our recommendation: Essex Classics Ladies Performance Long Sleeve Show Shirt

Jumper show shirts

Show jumping shirts are similar to dressage shirts. They should be white or conservative in color and have a stand-up collar or stock tie. Jumper shirts can be long- or short-sleeved. 

Our recommendation: Equiline CamberK Women’s Polo Shirt

Fox hunting show shirts

Fox hunting is a more traditional equestrian sport with a stricter dress code. Equestrians are usually expected to wear a white long-sleeve show shirt underneath a hunt coat.

Our recommendation: Ariat Womens Luxe Short Sleeve Show Shirt

Schooling show shirts

Schooling competitions are less formal than other disciplines, but the dress code should still be observed. A solid-colored polo shirt with either long or short sleeves should be worn.

Our recommendation: Tailored Sportsman Long Sleeve IceFil Sun Shirts

Show shirt styles

Show shirts come in various styles, each designed to suit different equestrian disciplines and levels of formality. Each style offers a unique blend of functionality, comfort, and aesthetic appeal, allowing you to choose the best option based on personal preferences and the requirements of your chosen discipline.


This is a classic style of show shirt, typically worn in hunter and jumper competitions. Ratcatcher shirts feature a button-up front with a collar that can be fastened closed with a small tab or left open. They often have subtle patterns or solid colors and are made from lightweight, breathable fabrics like cotton or technical performance materials.

Ratcatcher shirts were once very common to wear during hunter competitions but have fallen out of style in recent years. Ratcatchers were a show shirt that came with two collars and was often worn on casual fox hunting days. Over the last decade or so, these have disappeared for the most part with the dominance of snap collar show shirts.

Formal show shirt

Formal show shirts are typically worn in equitation and higher-level hunter and jumper competitions. A crisp, tailored appearance with a traditional button-up front and a stand-up collar characterizes them. Formal show shirts are typically white or lightly colored with a white collar and white cuffs. These shirts often feature hidden buttons or a placket to create a seamless, polished look under a show coat.

Show polo shirt

Some disciplines, like polo and certain casual show events, allow riders to wear polo-style shirts instead of traditional button-up styles. Show polo shirts typically have a collared neckline and a zip or button-up placket but offer a more relaxed fit than formal show shirts. They are often made from breathable, moisture-wicking materials suitable for warm-weather riding.

Stock tie shirt

Stock tie shirts are designed with a high neck to accommodate the stock tie, and they often have a hidden or mock button-up front to maintain a polished appearance under the stock tie.

Technical base layer

Riders may opt for technical base layers as their show shirts for disciplines prioritizing performance and athleticism. These shirts are designed to be worn under a show coat and provide moisture-wicking, muscle support, and temperature-regulation properties. They come in various styles, including mock necks, quarter-zips, and sleeveless designs.

Show shirt materials

Show shirts are typically made from materials that prioritize comfort, breathability, and moisture-wicking properties to keep you cool and dry during competition. Some of the most common materials used for show shirts include:


Cotton show shirts are comfortable in various weather conditions and are often favored for their classic look and feel. They can be woven for greater structure or knit for better stretch and flexibility.

However, pure cotton shirts don’t offer the same moisture-wicking capability as synthetic materials, so they’re not always the best choice for hot weather. Some brands offer cotton and synthetic blends, so their show shirts feature the best of both materials.


Polyester show shirts are lightweight, quick-drying, and often have a bit of stretch for added comfort and mobility. They are a popular choice for riders who prioritize performance and easy care.


Nylon is lightweight, durable, and resistant to abrasion, making it suitable for rigorous equestrian activities. Nylon shirts often have moisture-wicking properties and sometimes feature mesh panels for added breathability.


Spandex or elastane is often blended with other fibers to add stretch and flexibility to show shirts. These materials help shirts conform to your body’s movements without restricting mobility. Shirts with spandex or elastane are popular for disciplines requiring high athleticism, like show jumping and eventing.

What to look for in a show shirt

Finding the perfect show shirt for your chosen discipline requires careful consideration. Here are a few features you should look for and consider in your next show shirt:


Opt for a shirt with stretch properties or strategically placed stretch panels to provide freedom of movement in the saddle. This will allow you to perform at your best without feeling restricted. Choose materials that feel comfortable against your skin while providing the support you need as you ride.

Performance-enhancing features

Choose a shirt made from breathable, moisture-wicking fabric that draws sweat away from your skin, keeping you dry and comfortable during intense competitions. Mesh panels are also an excellent addition to show shirts, significantly increasing airflow. Staying dry helps you regulate your body temperature and prevents chafing.

UV protection

Some show shirts offer built-in UV protection to shield your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, preventing sunburn and reducing the risk of skin damage during outdoor competitions.

Learn more: 5 Reasons Why Equestrians Love Sun Shirts

Collar and closure

Ensure the shirt has an integrated stand-up collar or a collar that can accommodate a stock tie or choker if the dress code requires it. The closure, whether buttons or a zipper, should be secure and easy to fasten.

Fit and tailoring

Look for a shirt with a tailored fit that flatters your body shape without being too tight or loose. You should be able to wear the shirt under a fitted show coat without any bunching or bulges. The length should be appropriate for tucking into your breeches or jodhpurs, and the sleeves should reach your wrist bone when your arms are extended.


Even though show shirts should generally have conservative patterns and colors, that shouldn’t stop you from finding shirts that match your personality and personal style. Plenty of acceptable show shirts feature pretty crystal embellishments or fun patterned collars. Just be sure to avoid shirts with excessive embellishments or logos that may distract from your overall appearance in the show ring.

How should a show shirt fit?

An English show shirt should fit comfortably and allow for ease of movement while helping you present a polished and professional appearance. Here are some guidelines for how an English show shirt should fit:


The shirt should fit snugly across your shoulders without being too tight or restrictive. It should allow for freedom of movement, especially when you reach forward or raise your arms. The shoulders shouldn’t bunch or feel tight when you wear a show coat.


When extending your arms, the sleeves should be long enough to reach your wrist bone. They should fit smoothly without excessive bunching or pulling, but they should not be so loose that they interfere with your movements.


The collar should fit comfortably around your neck without being too tight or loose. It should also accommodate a stock tie or choker if required by your specific discipline’s dress code.


The shirt should be long enough to stay tucked into your breeches, even during intense riding. However, you don’t want the shirt to be too long, as it will bunch up and create unseemly wrinkles.

Overall fit

The shirt should have a tailored fit that flatters your body shape without being overly tight or baggy. It should follow the contours of your body without pulling across the chest or abdomen.

How to measure yourself for a show shirt

Measuring yourself for an equestrian show shirt is crucial to ensure the right fit. Follow these steps to get your show shirt measurements.

  1. Chest: Use a flexible measuring tape to measure around the fullest part of your chest, typically just under the arms and across the shoulder blades. Ensure the tape is parallel to the ground and not too tight or loose.
  2. Waist: Measure around your natural waistline, usually the narrowest part of your torso. Keep the tape comfortably snug but not tight.
  3. Hips: Measure around the fullest part of your hips and buttocks, ensuring the tape is parallel to the ground and not too tight or loose.
  4. Sleeve length: Extend one arm straight to the side at shoulder height. Measure from the center of the back of your neck to the point where your wrist meets your hand.
  5. Neck: Measure around the base of your neck, where your shirt collar typically sits. Allow some room for comfort, but ensure the tape is not too loose.

Once you have these measurements, compare them to the size chart provided by the brand manufacturer of your choice. Keep in mind that sizing can vary between brands, so make sure to refer to the specific sizing guidelines for each shirt. Additionally, consider the fit you prefer—some riders prefer a more tailored fit, while others prefer a looser fit for comfort and ease of movement.

Remember, finding the perfect show shirt is about more than aesthetics—it’s about selecting a garment that enhances your performance, keeps you comfortable, and showcases your personal style in the arena. Whether you opt for traditional elegance or modern performance features, prioritize quality, fit, and functionality to ensure you shine brightly in every competition. 

Don’t forget the rest of your competition look! Browse our extensive selection of English riding apparel today to find your next show outfit.

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