As the sport of riding has evolved, so has its apparel. Once, riders wore helmets that were thin and offered little protection. At another time, they added clear plastic or elastic head straps to keep the helmets on their heads. Now, technology has enabled more advanced equipment that offers more protection and comfort. However, as these classics have evolved, are we losing some of the formal notes that made the sport so dignified?
When I first began riding, I used a plastic helmet with a bright turquoise spandex cover (it even had running horses on it). my half-chaps were weird colors, and I wore leggings or Kerrits breeches and Dr. Marten’s boots with flowers on them: I wasn’t exactly the image of classical equestrian style.
But as I evolved in my riding, I began to pick up on the more classic and effortless styles that were associated with the sport, and adopted a velvet hunt cap and proper leather boots. My only caveat from the more traditional look, was when I exchanged my velvet hunt cap for a sportier GPA, and later and more subtle Charles Owen GR8.
Now as I compete in the show ring, I’ve begun to see some competitors quietly step out of the traditional silhouette in favor of Samshield helmets, Antares helmets, and snap collars on show shirts. Some have even been so bold as to done GPA show jumper jackets in the hunter ring. At one point, ‘blinging out’ show helmets had been all the rage, and competitors were promptly banned from blinding judges with their sparkly monstrosities. I may be entirely too young to claim to be ‘old school’, but I think some of these ‘modern’ or ‘aerodynamic’ changes have abandoned their classic equestrian roots in exchange for flashier and ‘sportier’ looks. Whether this is to denote that equestrianism is more of a ‘sport’ an less of a ‘show’ I can’t quite tell, but god I wish riders would quit wearing speed-air helmets into the hunter ring.