I've always wanted to show western, nothing big though. I've been told that to show western, you need those fancy silver saddles and tack. Do you really need all of that to show, even if it's local beginner stuff?
No it doesn't not. You are concerning yourself with upper levels, beginners are a different story. In fact the opposite might even be true, if you show up in high end gear, all blinged out, a judge might expect you to perform to that level.
Absolutely not! For 4-H shows around here, lots of people show in everyday, simple tack. Heck, I've won a Grand Champion two years running at fair in gaited classes with my plain black Wintec Western all-rounder!
Make sure your tack is clean and that you and your horse are turned out nicely. No respectable judge would pin a mediocre, fancily-clad horse over a solid, simply-dressed pair.
^^This is Lenox and I reining this year at fair. My saddle is nothing special, same goes with my bridle, but we were well-turned out and looked acceptable because everything was clean and tidy.
I have watched many local shows and can tell you that the fancy dressers don't win at local levels. We had several girls that used the local training shows to "practice" for the upper level APHA shows. They had blinged-out tack, fancy clothes, the works. Problem was, they treated it like a lower-level show and didn't ride their best. I don't think any one of them placed any higher than third (usually in classes of 6-8 riders). I remember one show this lady riding a mustang in her old well-cared-for (but somewhat beat-up) trail saddle and a bosal with mecates won. Why? Because they rode their best, plain and simple. They met the judge's expectation of what a WP horse and rider should be. The girls on their shiny, body clipped APHA mares with their silver-trimmed saddles and headstalls, and sparkly shirts came in 3rd, 4th and 6th, if I remember correctly.
Just make sure your jeans are clean and pressed, your shirt is clean and pressed, your horse is clean and well groomed and your tack is clean and fits properly. As a matter of fact, a lot of riders even in the bigger shows are wearing a solid colored shirt (Worthington brand from JC Penney) with a neck scarf......no bling.
As a open show judge, a fancy silver saddle and great outfit might warrant a rider a look from the judge to start, but if the rider or horse performs poorly no amount of bling is going to make it a winning ride. When judging I rarely pay much attention to the tack unless it is filthy, poorly fitting, incomplete or incorrect for the class. What does really bug me though, is tack/handling that not appropriate/illegal for the class that the rider is in - ie two handing in a curb bit with barrel racing reins in a western pleasure class. Different shows/associations (4-H, AQHA, Pinto, etc.) may have different rules regarding tack. My suggestion would be to become familiar with the rules for whatever classes you would like to enter and make sure you have all of the required tack and know what is and is NOT allowed.