Recently, I was at a competition and for a change wasn’t judging. In between coaching my clients there were few minutes of down time to visit with others and enjoy the view. Passing by our stalls, from a few stalls down was a” horsey friend” who had some time off from her tack shop and was following her passion of showing her lovely dressage horse. We cheered her on as we passed by. Having a tack shop she has access to the latest and greatest of whatever is out there on the market. All of us couldn’t help noticing her outfit and tack which was undeniably “pretty” as she headed for her dressage test.
She had a two tone brown saddle which was very noticeable and unique. Cream britches with the dark stripe up the middle of the leg, lemon cream gloves and shirt, a luscious brown riding jacket, a very fancy cool brown safety helmet, and I am not sure, but maybe brown boots. It was a lovely fashion statement and she truly looked pretty. Did I mention her horse? I am sorry I was so enthralled by the clothes and the tack I can’t remember the horse exactly… and that is my point.
As a judge, I see approximately 50 rides daily at competitions. You can just go ahead and throw your tomatoes at me now because I will tell you straight up I am still an advocate of traditional black and white clothing and subdued tack. Please understand, I would love to wear the clothes my friend had on if I was teaching a clinic but not if I was riding in one, and never in a show. You see, here is the reason why I won’t wear them; I only saw her. In equestrian sports it is supposed to be all about the horse. It has been our culture for hundreds of yearsto revel in the beauty of our steeds not to rival them. As the human partner in this equestrian duo we are supposed to be invisible. We are there to show off and enhance our equine partner’s strength, suppleness, power and majesty with the hope of looking effortless and fading into the background ourselves. Is it too much to ask of our all too human selves not to be the centerpiece for once? Are we so narcissistic that our equine partners are now hardly seen?
Quiet, subdued well-fitting clean clothing (PREFERABLY BLACK AND WHITE) is a great key to letting our equine partners be seen. If you just can’t deal with black and white be sure to be mono-chromatic and subdued.. Too many colors is really distracting. When people are busy looking at your clothes they are NOT seeing your horse.
As a judge, I can tell you that LINES on your clothing, such as contrasting piping on jackets or collars emphasize movement of the body. Black piping running down the seam of the middle of the thigh is a bad idea. First and foremost, I don’t care if you are emaciated. It makes the leg look large. In addition, the line draws the eye and points out leg position problems or movement (unless, you are a fabulous rider, your rider score for seat/position just went down!) That stripe on your britches points out a chair seat easily at 200 feet or more.
Hair bun accessories are best kept dark or the color of your hair. Riders cannot see the back of their heads to realize that a white covering on the bun of hair under a blue or black top hat or derby is akin to a bouncing bunny tail and ones with sparkles just accentuate the problem. Distracting yes, but many a nodding headed rider is pointed out by their own hair bun. Rider score is lowering…..
Plain black or brown tack (bridles and saddles the same color if possible) with white pad is clearly best. Gray horses look great in all black tack, silver bits, and black pads until they get to FEI where white saddle pad is required. (A white pad can make a flea bitten gray or a roan gray look dirty).
Yesterday, I had a dun horse with a burgundy saddle pad trimmed with gold and black tack; the bits, etc. were silver and the rider’s jacket was charcoal gray. The rider wore a black helmet, white britches with the black stripe. I’m sorry, it was ugly. It was a sunny day and this talented horse had a wide rhinestone brow band on the bridle. The sun kept glinting off it and blinding me. THAT was really annoying. Worse, the horse had a poll tilting problem from evasion of bend and the rider carrying the hands unlevel. Wouldn’t you know that brow band pointed it out continuously? You just couldn’t miss it even when they were way up at “A.” I tell all my riders to leave glittery stuff at home and large jewelry is out. Think about this. The next time a rider passes you by, where did your eyes focus? Was it on the clothes? If so, you didn’t see the horse.
READ MORE ABOUT AUTHOR BY IDA ANDERSON NORRIS