For centuries, classical dressage riders have strutted their stuff in top hat and tails. But should riders have the freedom to wear what they want to complement the new safety-conscious crash hats?
As the FEI dressage committee prepares to make its recommendations to the Sports Forum next month (27-28 April), we’ve taken to photoshop and put dressage star Spencer Wilton in an array of less traditional outfits. Is this what dressage of the future could look like? Let us know what you think below.
What does H&H guest editor Richard Davison think?
Dress codes is an issue that’s sure to divide opinion, so we asked this week’s guest editor Richard Davison what his thoughts on the matter were:
“I often wonder what the outside world must think of dressage riders in our competition garb.
“The evolution of smart, modern safety hats is a logical development, but coupled with a Dickensian tailcoat, doesn’t it look weird?
“Can you imagine if Olympic downhill skiers wore their crash hats with the jackets and plus-fours of their sport’s early days? They would look farcical.
“And the restrictions on colour choices between our dressage hat and coat also seem at odds with each other. You’re hard pressed to find a hat that isn’t shiny or blingy these days, yet currently the rules for coat colours are very restrictive.
“Showjumpers are using more modern designs which aid performance, and in a far broader range of colours. This can boost a team’s pride and identity or provide additional insight into an individual rider’s personality, which is intriguing to both media and spectators.
“But in the past, riders such as Carl Hester and Isabell Werth, who have experimented with individual coat and hat colours, have come up against the rule book.
“Reading this piece, the judges (reassuringly) deny that they take clothing into account when awarding marks. I’m all for respecting iconic logos and symbols, but shouldn’t innovation, modernity and individual choice be permitted too?
“When I was young, every aspiring showjumper wanted to wear a red jacket, which symbolised you’d reached a certain level of competition, like today’s tailcoat in dressage.
“The red jacket has for a long time now been replaced by other more relevant performance-based goals, although, if you want, you have the choice to wear it. Is individual choice such a bad thing?”