Dress for Success

On Friday, I had a free ride on my main man Audio. Best day ever, right? Wrong. Woke up late, threw on clothes to stay warm, and ran out the door without eating. It’s less than ideal to start a ride unprepared, but at least I had my breeches. Which had gigantic holes in the upper inner thighs. Whatever. Close contact was going to feel extra close today. Then, after I got to the barn and tacked Audio, I was putting on my schooling boots (some really lovely Ariat Heritages) and the zipper on the right boot busted. There was just no budging. I tried for ten minutes and even broke the zipper pull. All I had were my Middleburg All-weather brown boots. But they were stirrup safe, and I had paid for this ride so by george I was going to have it. The problem with using these big, clunky boots is that my spurs would not fit over them. Okay, so time to test my leg, and I can carry a crop. No big deal. When we got to the arena, I flailed like a monkey in a medical lab and Audio was just not having it. I got so over-exerted attempting to do no-stirrups in boots with no worn in grip that I needed to pull off my sweatshirt, which did not fit over my helmet.

Alright, Universe. I’m done. I get it. Appearance makes a difference.

Now, I’m not saying you need to show up to hack your horse in white breeches and tails. What I am saying is that dressing well makes a difference in your whole mentality. If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you ride well. If you ride well, you want to continue that mentality so you dress well for your next ride. I’ve previously worked for a trainer who required us to lesson in polos and that our boots must be polished. I even got kicked out of a lesson because my polo had a big chocolate stain on it. Not only does it show your instructor respect (which is very important), it makes you feel proud of how you’re presenting yourself. Riding is about presentation. It’s not necessarily fair, but it does make a hugeimpact in a sport all about looks.

So why am I rambling on about clothes? Truthfully, I hate clothes. I could totally sit naked in my room and watch Netflix all the time and be happy as a clam. But I understand their importance. As Mark Twain said, “Naked people have little influence over society.” This applies to life and especially riding horses. (Seriously, naked show jumping looked painful as all get out.)

When it comes to lessons, a good rule of thumb is dress professionally but comfortably. It may be fun to ride in cheer shorts and a tank top, but is anyone going to take you seriously? Absolutely not. You and your instructor will both appreciate more effort into your appearance. I’ve been super guilty of not following this rule lately, but to be fair, my polos don’t fit. 😦 To impress your instructor, show up in clean breeches. At the very least, wear a solid colored shirt. Athletic t-shirts, like Under Armour, are great for this. The less distracting, the better. Your instructor wants to focus on you, not your clothes. Really want to make a good impression? Clean your boots and chaps! Tuck in your shirt. Wear a belt. Clean leather is happy leather. And tucked in shirts are actually safer, especially in western riding. Plus belts are a great way to catch loose horses.

As far as schooling is concerned, be it at home or at the show grounds, my rule has always been don’t embarrass my trainer. Show grounds are a hot bed for picking up new clients. Would you really want your trainer to put up a bill board of you looking a hot mess in navy blue riding tights with checker print on the side and a cherry red baseball tee? Of course not. So why would you want to be the live action bill board at the horse show? Don’t be that rider. Class it up.

In the show ring, obviously you need to follow the rules of the class. If it’s hunters, coordinate with your horse. If it’s equitation, wear a coat. If it’s jumpers, wear a collared shirt. Make sure you know if coats are waived before you go in for the hack. PLEASE have your gloves on before you go in for your over fences portion of your medal. The important rule of the show ring is have some style. Remember, you’re competing to be noticed, here. This is where pinstripes come in handy. It’s a nice, subtle way to add some color. Blingy belts are nice in the jumper ring and equitation ring, but maybe keep things more traditional in the hunter ring. Maybe your helmet makes you unique! For example, Amanda wears a traditional hunt cap styled helmet.

How Not to Dress (Photo copyright Jessica Makuck)

How Not to Dress (Photo copyright Jessica Makuck)

How to Dress for School/Lesson (Photo copyright Morgan Workman)

How to Dress for School/Lesson (Photo copyright Morgan Workman)

Hunter/Equitation Ring Appropriate (Photo copyright Morgan Workman)

Hunter/Equitation Ring Appropriate (Photo copyright Morgan Workman)

Jumper Ring Appropriate (Photo copyright Morgan Workman)

Jumper Ring Appropriate (Photo copyright Morgan Workman)

Hunter Appropriate (Photo copyright Morgan Sollenberger)

Hunter Appropriate (Photo copyright Morgan Sollenberger)

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5 thoughts on “Dress for Success

  1. Love this. I use to just ride in a baggy ole t-shirt and some jeans or breeches but now I realize how much of “dressing for success” or “fake it till you make it” 😛 factors into my mental mindset. I definitely try to be nicely put together when riding, makes me feel good. Also, can’t hurt to have some stylish riding clothes, right? 🙂

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  2. The trainer I used to ride with in high school would insist on all those things- polished boots, clean breeches with a belt, and a nice fitted tee or polo. Vests and fitted jackets were allowed if it was cold, but never ever a hoodie. It inspired us to ride better- we wanted to ride as well as we dressed. Even though the dress code is a little laxer at my new barn I still try to stay polished and that definitely helps my riding!

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  3. I used to ride in whatever I found first, but now I try to look a bit more put together. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I still hack in my famous Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sweatshirt, but I try to lesson in something a bit more conservative.

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