Stuart Hollings: ‘Short show jackets look ridiculous’ *H&H VIP*

  • Napoleon Bonaparte commented that “fashion condemns us to many follies”.

    He is certainly correct regarding the modern-day trend for short equestrian jackets, not only seen in the show ring but also on the international showjumping circuit — they look ridiculous.

    This subject has raised its ugly head on several occasions when I’ve interviewed judges for a “Meet The Judge” box in H&H’s showing pages. One pointed out that on a practical level, this is why some show horses ride badly after taking a dislike to the more traditional jacket length favoured by many judges.

    As children have a tendency to grow, much to the chagrin of both trainers and parents, it’s not only the pony but also the jacket that can look outgrown by the close of the show season. In my day these garments were nicknamed “bum-freezers”.

    The difference nowadays is that this is integral to today’s design in creating a slim-fit look, with sleeves that are tighter and shorter in length to allow for more exposed shirt cuff. And, crikey, some of the bolder tweed cloth on show would make a bookmaker blush.

    I remember the good old days of taking trips to London to purchase a made-to-measure jacket from Bernard Weatherill. Initially you were made to sit astride a dummy horse while being measured, not only for the jacket but also the sleeve length as you adopted your riding position. There’s a lot to be said for this rigmarole that produced these garments of a lifetime.

    One leading tailor with 40 years of experience recently told me that he now insists that some showing mothers sign a disclaimer form before they leave the shop.

    “Although we try to talk the customer out of a tightly fitted jacket for their child, they still return months later complaining that the made-to-measure jacket is too small,” he said.

    There has been much discussion lately about adults looking too big when showing small native ponies. Once when I was judging, this image was made worse by a rider in her late teens wearing a jacket which was far too short. When I pointed this out, she joked about showing off all her assets.

    I was not amused — a show rider should only be noticed for the right reasons.

    Off with the whiskers

    Talking of which, in the letters page of this publication in the spring, one title caught my eye: “Stubble, no trouble” (letters, 3 March). However, the subject matter was about riding across farmers’ fields and not showing riders forgetting to have a shave before competing…

    Call me old-fashioned, but designer stubble and beards do not look good in the ring, especially when hats with chinstraps are worn.

    It’s a similar scenario to not turning yourself out immaculately for the ring after spending hours preparing your horse, and it would take a fraction of the time to “de-whisker” yourself in comparison to trimming your mount.

    Regional qualities

    Could this be the latest trend to hit the circuit? A “Great Yorkshire” tweed is being launched this week at the Harrogate Show in the form of men’s jackets — with “Yorkshire born and bred” woven under the collar. Which Society will follow suit I wonder?

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 14 July 2016