Details in the Digits

Trainer and clinician Mark Stevens teaches you how to correctly attach a show number to your saddle blanket—and boost your overall presentation in the show pen.

As a competitor in a large rail class, you must ensure the judge has a clear view of your identification number. If he has to spend too much time deciphering your number, he’ll likely pass you by to focus on a competitor whose number he can clearly read. Plus, poor number placement makes you look sloppy and unprofessional.


Here, I’m going to give you tips on pinning your number to your saddle blanket for Western performance classes. If done correctly, saddle-blanket number placement presents a clean, professional appearance, and helps you stand out in the show pen. First, I’ll explain why shirt number-attachments can be problematic…

Shirt-Attachment Negatives 

Some competitors choose to attach their numbers to the backs of their show tops with safety pins. However, safety pins can damage expensive show attire; they detract from your show ensemble; they can become distorted by wrinkling, or obscured by long hair; and they can easily become detached by a loose pin or a rip. Also, when the number is attached to your back, the judge must wait for you to pass him to read it. This translates to extra work for him, and his attention may move to the next competitor.

Better Option? Saddle – Blanket Attachment 

Attaching the number to your saddle blanket makes for a cleaner appearance, with less chance of obstruction. You’ll attach the number to both sides of your blanket, so the judge can clearly and quickly identify you tracking in both directions. 

Here, I’ll explain correct and incorrect number placement on a saddle blanket…



If safety pins aren’t attached correctly and securely on both sides of the number, it can easily become crooked, for a careless appearance. Also, notice how the number’s bottom right corner has edged over the right end of the blanket. When attached too far to the blanket’s edge (closer to the horse’s hip), the number will appear to bounce up and down as the horse moves, especially at the jog—which makes it harder for the judge to read. 

The result is sloppy and unprofessional; plus, the number covers the blanket’s concho detailing.



Here, the number is straight, evenly aligned with the bottom edge of the blanket, and is placed approximately 6 inches from the right edge of the pad. Positioned here, closer to the horse’s center and away from his hip, the number will remain “still” while the horse is in motion. Placing the number in this center area makes it easier for the judge to read because it appears to “float,” instead of bounce, as your horse moves. Bonus: This placement can also help your horse appear more round, and deeper strided. 

Making sure the number is resting flat against the blanket, attach it with safety pins on both sides (left and right). You can reinforce it with clear packing tape (on the backside) for additional security. 

For a further professional appearance, trim the number from its bulky, rectangular shape, and round the squared edges.

Mark Stevens is an international clinician and coach, and has led a number of breeds and students to world and national championships. Mark owns and operates his training facility, Springwater Farm, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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