Riding attire has progressed somewhat from the days of baggy breeches and hairy tweed jackets. In recent years, more attention has been paid to the finer details and, even though the disciplines maintain strict rules about what you can and can’t wear in the ring, fashion is creeping into the horseworld.
“I remember a time when there was little choice for competition wear,” says TV fashion guru and rider Ashley Rossiter. “But these days, equestrian brands are becoming more savvy. Trends from the high street trickle down and translate into the equestrian market.”
While eventers, at least in the cross-country phase, can put their own stamp on their clothing with instantly recognisable colours, there have been few big trends since the sport’s inception.
Dressage riders, renowned for their style, may stick closest to tradition in their overall look, but in terms of attention to detail, they are often at the forefront. Diamante stock pins, the highest cut boots and subtle jewellery — all common sights in dressage.
In showing, standards have changed vastly. A look in H&H’s picture archives shows some of the riders of top-class ponies from the 1940s to the 1960s wearing badly fitted clothes, their numbers tied on with white string and their hair not tied back. Now, things are very different.
But show jumping has seen as big changes. Gone are the days when the girls always wore black or navy jackets and the men sported red. Now, any colour goes —with the new BSJA jacket showing how different things have become. And as for the must-have hats costing hundreds regularly spotted in show jumping classes, are these being bought because they’re ultra-safe or fashionable?
Show jumper Charlotte Platt is one rider who values looking good in the ring. “I love fashion, so when I see a competition jacket with some cool detail — like a bit of diamante on the collar — I want it,” says Charlotte. “When you are in the ring, you’re judged on your performance — but looking smart and feeling good about what I’m wearing adds to my confidence.”
But, for fashion expert Ashley Rossiter, it’s not all change on the wardrobe front. “I do love tradition, and there are certain disciplines that will probably never stray too far from their classical roots. But by combining a fashionable edge with quality cloth, cut and design, it’s possible to create new designs for competition wear that won’t scare the judges, and will add to the overall look.”
So whether you’re the sort of rider who pales at the mention of the word “bling” or you’ve just bought an entire new wardrobe in this season’s shapes and colours, there’s plenty of choice.
See Horse & Hound’s selection of the latest “must have” items of competition clothing for the show ring, dressage arena, jump-off and cross-country phase in today’s issue (1 February, ’07)