A Shadbelly is a type of riding coat worn in certain situations by Fox hunting Members, dressage riders, eventers (in the dressage phase of the higher levels), and occasionally by other hunt seat riders. Shadbellies are also standard attire for the Show hack classes at certain breed shows in the United States and Canada. The coat is considered an element of very formal riding attire, and its use is therefore reserved for the most formal forms of equestrianism.
When used in the classic hunt, they should not be worn by youth riders, despite the current trend and availability.
The shadbelly coat is part of a formal wear category known as the tailcoat. The male version of the shadbelly is sometimes called a "weaselbelly." The single word "Shadbelly" was also once spelled "shad belly", and the coat is also sometimes referred to as a "swallowtail." Essentially the space between the original two-word spellings has been removed, but not their meaning.
The design is historically linked to the United Kingdom, where Beau Brummel popularized the style for daywear during the Regency period. By the 1860s the formal tailcoat was used almost exclusively for formal evening wear. European Royalty wore the coat for formal occasions and portraits as well as for riding horseback. The Amish and Quakers wore the shadbelly to church functions.
Though the word tuxedo is used in American English to include the shadbelly or swallowtail coat, in British English, the word "tuxedo"refers only to the dinner jacket. Today, "swallowtail" and "shadbelly" are used interchangeably for fox hunting in the United States, but "shadbelly" is the primary term used in various horse show disciplines.
A shadbelly is usually black in color, although navy is becoming popular, and deep green is also occasionally seen in some nations. It has tails, double buttons, and either is worn over a vest of canary yellow (a "waistcoat" in the UK), or, particularly when worn in hot weather, has false yellow points peeking out under the cut away front, to simulate the look of a vest. Generally a white shirt with a ratcatcher collar and tied stock tie (a type of simple cravat) is standard. As a general rule, a shadbelly should be worn with a top hat, white breeches and black riding boots, which complete the formal look. Ideally white gloves should also be worn for a fully correct turnout, though many riders will wear black gloves to make their hands appear quieter.
The earliest use of the concept of a "shadbelly" coat goes back to biblical times when Chaldean priests wore coats representing the body of a fish.