Horse Show Tricks: How to Neatly Tie on Your Back Number

First Impressions are Key!

Attention good or bad, is attention nonetheless. Riders who march into the horse show ring neatly pressed and dressed in classic and appropriate clothing, are more likely to draw good attention from the judge. By paying attention to the smallest of details, these riders also tend to carry themselves with more confidence. The judge instantly sees how much effort they have put into their sport as compared to next rider. What kind of impression do you want to make?

In my series of horse show preparation articles, you will find all sorts of detail-oriented tips that often take very little time or money, but make a lasting impression on your judge. (At least until you leave the ring.)

Note: Actual number in pictures was concealed to show the method only. You will obviously want your number to show! ;)

Step 1
Step 1

The Invisible Tie:

Step 1

Thread the string once through the middle holes on both sides of your number from BACK to FRONT.

Wrapping the string around the sides and going through the holes twice is completely unnecessary. It can rip your back-number and will take away your ability to slide the number to the side should the judge request it in your class.

Steps 2-3
Steps 2-3

Step 2

Button all but the middle button on your show coat. Usually it is the middle button you want, but it depends on the design and fit of your coat. See “Why does it matter?” below.


Step 3

Making sure your number is right-side up, pull the number around your back and thread the string closest to that open button hole through that hole.

Step 4
Step 4

Step 4

Tie your bow. Double knot it if you feel the need.

Tie it tight enough that it lies flat in the hollow of your back, but NOT so tight that it puckers the fabric on your coat making it look like a skirt. Your coat should fit well without a number.

Step 5 - Tuck
Step 5 - Tuck
Step 5 ready for buttoning
Step 5 ready for buttoning

Step 5

Slide the bow to just inside the edge of the button hole and then button up. This sufficiently locks the bow behind the button so it cannot escape.

I do not recommend wrapping the string around your button. It stresses the thread over time and you will find yourself doing repair work at the next show. Probably when you are in a hurry!

Step 6

Give your coat tails a gentle tug to take the crinkles out. Center and straighten the number in the hollow of your back. Be sure to check it again after mounting and just before stepping into to show ring. Ask somebody nearby!

Step 5 - Button up!
Step 5 - Button up!

Beautiful! So easy. So tidy.

Speedy Tip: Put your number on BEFORE your gloves.

Smart Tip: If you have been asked to slide your number to the side, REMEMBER to switch it to the other side when you change directions AND slide it back to the middle of your back when you come in for the line-up.

Done!...Perfectly centered in the hollow of the back, straight and just tight enough.
Done!...Perfectly centered in the hollow of the back, straight and just tight enough.
Perfect! Single threading through the hole allows her to slide her number to the side should the judge request it.
Perfect! Single threading through the hole allows her to slide her number to the side should the judge request it.
Not so perfect -- Number too high makes her back appear arched and stiff.
Not so perfect -- Number too high makes her back appear arched and stiff.
Not so perfect -- Using top button hole also makes an awkward line.
Not so perfect -- Using top button hole also makes an awkward line.
Not so perfect -- Tied too loose the number sits crooked and too low.
Not so perfect -- Tied too loose the number sits crooked and too low.
Not so perfect -- Tied too snug. Coat is puckering and the number is already starting to tuck down into the waistline of her breeches.
Not so perfect -- Tied too snug. Coat is puckering and the number is already starting to tuck down into the waistline of her breeches.

Why does all this really matter, Suzanne?

Make a great impression! You’ve paid for the classes, the hauling, the stabling, the training, the braiding, and the coaching. Then why would you want to walk into the ring looking like it is just another average day at the barn?


The view from the judge’s booth:

  • Your back number is white. Your coat is dark. Your number is like a neon headlight on your back. The judge HAS to look at it because it identifies you in the class.
  • If it is crooked, you look like you are sitting crooked.
  • The little bow flopping around in the wind on your belly pulls attention away from your nice ride.
  • Tied too high using the top button often makes an odd cleavage line you don’t want, the number hangs too high making the illusion of an overly arched, stiff back; and it can also get caught in your low-rise breeches. Now that’s attractive… The bottom button gives the same arched appearance and draws attention to your tush!

Until next time… Good Luck this weekend! Show ‘em what you’ve got!


Did you check your hair? See… How to Put Your Hair Up in Your Riding Helmet in Less than 1 Minute

Did you check your horse or pony’s cute feet? See…How to Put Hoof Oil on in Less than 1 Minute


© 2011 Megan Carl - Mane Alternative

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