Have you ever gone to a horse show or a combined driving event and wondered why some competitors look great and others are drab and boring?  Then there are the drivers that are wearing a color that does not compliment their horse, their carriage or even them.  I know that yellow is the last color I would ever wear in a competition or anywhere for that matter. So what colors go best with your horse?

Lets start with the items that are required if you are doing Dressage and Cones at a Combined Driving Event, or you are at a Carriage Driving Event.

The American Driving Society rule book states that all drivers will wear jackets, driving apron, hat and brown gloves. Grooms must wear and have the same.  The driver must also carry a whip. In a Carriage Driving Event the ladies also have the choice of a conservative dress, tailored suit or slacks.

Your dress should also conform to the type of vehicle such as Formal, Park, Country or Sporting.  Less traditional attire can be used with a Combined Driving Marathon vehicle if it is specified in the class descriptions of the show.

Now that you know what you need to wear lets talk about what colors go best with you horse and vehicle.


First of all you need to know the primary color of your horse.  For the purpose of finding what colors you should wear with your horse, your horse will be in one of the following color groups:

  1. Black – black is universal and can wear any color.
  2. Brunette (Bay, Black, White, Gray, Blue Roan) – these horses look good in bright jewel tones such as blue,  purple, pink and red.
  3. Redhead (Chestnut, Sorrel, Live Chestnut, Red Roan, Dun) – these horses look great in soft earth tones such as vanilla, buckskin, rust and   chocolate.
  4. Neutral (Buckskin, Palomino, Grulla) – these horses look good in the same colors as the redheads or brunettes depending on their exact color tone.

For Appaloosas, Paints, Pintos and other horses with over 50% body white, they will look good in purple, blue, teal and turquoise.

Now that you have an idea of what colors go best with your horse you have to decide what colors from that group will look good on you also.  The majority of my driving horses are bay.  Colors in that group include pink, which is not my best color so I would not wear it.  Also the blue would have to be the right shade for me to be comfortable with wearing it.  The idea is that you,  your horse and carriage will look as one cohesive unit.

What colors go best with your cart or carriage will also have an effect on how all of your colors will blend together. Most metal carriages can be painted any color.  Black is by far the best color  that blends well with all colors of horses and any color that you might wear.  Now if your carriage has been painted say blue or maroon, then you have to think twice about the colors in your horse’s palette that will also match.

My carriage for my bay pony is actually maroon, which is a brownish red color so it will go fine if I wear black, or maroon.

I have seen a lot of brightly painted carriages over the years, from bright yellow to all  shades of green and blue.  Most of the time these are the marathon type vehicles which for marathon is not an issue but, if you choose to do Dressage in that same vehicle, it can be a problem for your presentation score.  It can also be a problem in a Carriage Show to try and make it look cohesive.

If your carriage or cart is all wood then it is probably just stained or left natural.  These light wood colors look best with your redhead or neutral colored horses.

Horse clothing color wheel

using a color wheel can help put your look together when you are doing dressage or show ring driving

Some other things to remember is that the judge is going to be fifty to one hundred feet away from you when they are judging.  What the judge sees from across the arena is color, silhouette and the cohesiveness of the carriage, horse and driver.  Black is always a good choice but unfortunately 75% of all who show will be wearing it, so you need to stand out from all the other black drivers and this can be done with a contrasting scarf that also carries into your hat or a bright tie and pocket square for the men out there driving.

Bright colors will help you stand out from the rest but you need to be bold to wear them.  Light colors have a tendency to accentuate flaws where dark colors will minimize them. Remember that your lap robe and your hat need to go with your jacket, slacks, skirt, shirt or tie to complete the picture.

If you want to get an idea of how colors go together, go to a few carriage shows and watch what colors are being worn by drivers and ask yourself, does that driver stand out from the rest?  Will the judge remember one of the drivers over the rest and how that driver drove over the rest?  Ask yourself does the driver, horse and carriage make a complete pleasant picture to look at?

Doing this will help you to pick out the colors that go best for you and your turnout. What colors go best with your horse?