Rail Shirt

Hi guys! I need a rail shirt this year, and I know how to sew clothes so I plan on making my own. I really have no idea what color to do though. I have black chaps and a black hat (I would be willing to get other colors though) all brown tack and a bay horse.

So I’m wondering, what looks good with a bay horse and brown tack? Should I go all black? Or do a color for my rail shirt and black chaps and hat? (I was thinking lavender). What do you think of light brown chaps and hat?

I really love this rail shirt and want to copy it with purple instead of teal, what color chaps and hat goes with it do you think?

Thank you so much for your insight! I really want to make a good picture in the show ring this year, and have no idea what the styles are!!

Don’t know in rail, but in reining I see bay horses with riders in black hats, chaps and boots and a subdued medium red based shirt.

Hobby Horse has a color chart you can use to pick matching horse and rider’s colors.

Don’t know in rail, but in reining I see bay horses with riders in black hats, chaps and boots and a subdued medium red based shirt.

Hobby Horse has a color chart you can use to pick matching horse and rider’s colors:


Maybe that could help you decide.

I am seeing a grey base color shirt with lots of blue trimming and swirlings in various colors. Are you wanting to start with a purple or lavender base shirt and do the same kind of trimming? Are you skilled with adding the decorations to the fabric, or paints to get the scattered random dots and blots of color? I can see the cost saving in doing it yourself, buying such shirts is quite expensive. Even buying those jewels and stones to add yourself, is going to add a lot to the cost of shirt, plus your time.

Purple and lavender both would look good with black hat and chaps, or brown hat and chaps, over brown tack. Maybe stay with a black or brown saddle blanket, same as the chaps.

How bay is your horse? Bright red, orange red or dark bay almost black? I ask because we have seven bay horses, all in slightly different shades of red or the black/bay colors. Horse color can be part of the picture too, in contrast to colors you wear.

Red and black looks awesome on a bay!!!

Definitely check Bluey’s s suggestion of Hobby Horse, the color chart is very helpful. Also, if you go to their apparel section and look at chaps you can click on a color and that color chap appears. They also suggested color matching chaps and hats and to be aware that many other riders will coordinate with black, so perhaps think of color in regards to chaps and hats. I clicked on purple for chaps and it was a bit much!

What about your saddle blanket? Since you sew, it might be easier to find a show blanket you like, than get fabric to match the blanket.

I showed a bay at APHA shows and always wore black chaps, black hat, and red rail shirts and jackets. I think red is stunning on a bay, but really most saturated colors can work. Think saturated purple, not lavender…too pale for the striking color of a bay. Stay away from earth tones, browns, etc. I wouldn’t use a brown saddle pad, either. Go with black. As suggested, look at Hobby Horse.

I don’t know how old you are, but usually Jr. riders will be the ones to
wear colored chaps. Amateurs tend to go for more conservative chaps, and that’s black, grey, sand, chocolate, etc. If you go with a color your leg had better be perfectly positioned at all times! You will stand out, which can be really good, or really bad.

But a lot also depends on what type of shows you’re doing. Again, at the Hobby Horse site they have a chart that describes the attire for different types and levels of shows.

You’re lucky you can sew. You’ll save yourself tons of money. Have fun.

Before you make the time commitment to sew and embelish it, check with this lady and see if she can send you photos of something you like. Nice show clothes at good prices.
She attends our shows in Colorado - Cheryl Kilker.


C’mon now! You know we need PICTURES of your gorgeous horse to make an educated recommendation for a rail shirt color! :wink:

You’ll want to pick something that complements both YOU and your horse. Black chaps and hat are always classic and you can’t go wrong with it.

Thank you so much everyone for your replies! What do you all think of chaps that aren’t suede? Are those okay for the show ring? I currently have suede but was thinking about going with a different kind of leather.

@Bluey: Thank you for linking to that chart, it’s very helpful!

@goodhors: I’m thinking either start with a lavender base and add the jewels on top, or start with a gray base and put lavender jewels on top. Not sure which would look best! Yes, I am able to sew the details, I don’t think it should be too much trouble as I have been sewing clothing for a while. It takes me about 2 days to sew a dress, so I’m thinking it shouldn’t take too long to sew a rail shirt. Thank you for your thoughts, they helped me a lot!

@saddleup: I’m 16, I don’t think I would be daring enough to do colored chaps! Why do you think brown would look bad?

@bleau159: Ok! I will post a picture of my horse. I think lavender looks good on me, though I’m not sure about her, so here 'ya go, tell me what you think everyone!

Sorry for the odd pictures, when I started looking I realized I must not take a whole lot of pictures of her! She’s a rescue mare, so we’re not exactly sure what she has in her, and as you will see in the pictures she’s gone through some rather awkward stages since I got her. She came in fat, and then during show season got really trim, and now she’s fat again! Hope these help color-wise though!

Sara, very fluffy and fat last fall:


A front view:


Sara last summer looking awkward in braids:


Another awkward picture:


During show season. This one has a filter on so she looks a bit redder then usual:


Hope those help, thanks so much for your help everyone!!

That is a really pretty mare and shapes up so nicely when fit.

I see many showing with skin-out chaps, not suede and they look fine.

The trainer I have worked with in reining has black shiny chaps she uses on horses of all colors and she always looks nice.

Your horse being a darker color makes it easier to match than the reddish bays tend to be, most any colors you want to use will look fine, I think.


Thank you! Yes, she does, she really surprised me during show season she shaped up so well.

I was thinking of doing the shinier looking chaps, I think they look really nice. I don’t like how dirt sticks and shows up on suede, especially black! :eek:

I think she should look pretty good in most colors as well, just having a hard time visualizing. I don’t want to put a lot of work into a shirt and find lavender stands out too much. Thanks for your help!!

I’m thinking either start with a lavender base and add the jewels on top, or start with a gray base and put lavender jewels on top.

Do not use a gray base for a bay horse. IMO, that will not blend well at all. I would most certainly go lavender base.


I think you are right. What about brown chaps and a lighter brown base shirt with lavender accents?

How about the deeper purple with lavander accenting? Horse changes colors from dark to lighter bay, purple could look very nice at any stage of colorations.

I would hang your proposed base colors, purple and lavendar on the fence with chaps centered, holding one side of each color down. Then walk to the other side of ring and turn to check the colors. Who shows best? Take a photo with no enlarging. Then walk on to the futhest point away of the ring, check colors again, take the picture of chaps and fabrics.

What you see with your eyes, photos, is what the Judge sees as the color to draw their attention. Which color shows up best? Much of the tiny contrast details are invisible from any distance. So that base color can make or break your shirt in making you show up across the ring or down in the corner.

I messed up a couple outfits I had worked hard on. Real nice up close, but just a blah blob of color in the photo from a distance. So disappointing, but you learn from your errors, don’t repeat them.

Pretty much any color goes with a bay, but if it’s a dark bay “jewel tones” or more hot colors such as pink or red might be pretty. If it’s a slightly lighter bay, burgundy, purple, blue would all be pretty.

Do people ever have two toned chaps? Thought it might look pretty to have black chaps but with your main shirt color integrated at the edge (like a rope edge) just to tie them in or maybe a little bling on just the edges that you could change out to match your shirt color? Something to make generic black chaps that many other’s would be wearing to stand out (without making it too obvious).

Actually, I see this at Arab shows quite a bit. Not sure if it’s a thing anywhere else, though.