The Fashionable Horseback Rider


New Equine fashion I'm happy to see.

Recently, I have run into more and more people that put a higher importance on their equestrian fashion than their riding ability or horse sense. I don’t think this is a new phonomenon; in fact it is something that has driven and even standardized the industry in so many ways.

Of course, I’m speaking primarily of the English equestrian. The western world has a whole different fashion “problem”. But the true conformaty of the hunter, jumper, and dressage world is utterly mind numbing. It isn’t just in the show ring either.

The barns are riddled with drones. All wearing similar colored breeches, coats, sweaters, hats, helmets, and of course….black tall boots.

I for one have at least tried to stay out of tall boots as much as possible. Sure, I know, in the ring I have to wear them.  But, if I’m not showing, I am wearing chaps.  Full chaps.  I have preferred them my entire 25 years of riding.  Even when I have questioned my chap wearing for comfort reasons, I have refused to follow the path of conformity.  I would rather have some minor discomfort than look like everyone else.

Full chaps do have their benefits.  They keep me cleaner; it seems that without the chaps I would have very, very dirty pants every time I left the barn.  Full chaps also offer an extra layer of warmth in the cold months and don’t feel any hotter in the warm months.  I wear jeans under my chaps which makes for less changing. Also, I have found wearing breeches in non-horsey public often draws attention to myself – which I try to avoid.

The downside of full chaps, well especially when wearing jeans, is that the seams rub, and my knees are full of bruises and “wear” marks from the jean seams being squeezed in one place or another. Another problem I have is that my chaps never seem to stop stretching, which creates a looser, less protective covering again causing rubs, sores, and often defensive riding to protect a certain part of my leg.  

Some people think that equestrian clothing should adhear to tradition, not comfort. I’m not one of them.

I have a pair of half chaps.  I use them and like them, but prefer the feel of a tall boot over the not-as-good-feel of the half chap.  Again, when I wear half chaps, I wear jeans.  This confuses the average equestrian as I don’t look “traditional” and am not dressed “properly”.  But, breeches are for the ring.  I don’t want to wear tan, beige, (rust – do they still make rust breeches?), or black.  Yes, I know they are making more colors and interesting patterns now; such as plaids, blues, and greens.  But, I don’t like a waist that sits just below my boobs.  Sorry, it is almost 2009; low rise pants, or hipsters, have been around since the 60’s and really became the “norm” in 2001.  They are more comfortable, and breeches should come more readily available in this “style”.  Yes, they make them.  But, the majority of low cut breeches are relatively high cut.  Sure, they don’t sit under your boobs, but they still come to or above the belly button.  Not so much low cut in my opinion.

The low cut thing isn’t fashion for me, it’s comfort.  Some people think that equestrian clothing should adhear to tradition, not comfort.  I realize that, but they don’t make 100% wool hunt coats anymore.  I remember heat stroke when I was a kid; I had it severly 3 times.  100+ degree weather, riding in 3 classes in a row, WEARING A WOOL HUNT COAT!!!!  So, the wool thing has passed, why not pass on the pant/bra model of breeches?

Now for my tall boot rant:

Tall boots are a tradition.  Sure, I get it.  But, fit and function are #1.  I for one have a difficult time buying tall boots off the shelf that fit me properly.  I have custom tall boots.  Yes, it’s true.  But, I am not a custom tall boot snob.  I have them because back when they were purchased (about 17 years ago!), they didn’t make fancy zip boots, talls, slims, wides, regulars, shorts.  It was your shoe size and that was it.  So, having the pencil legs that I have, with fairly large feet, every tall boot could fit three of my legs in them.  Therefore, I had to go custom.  

I still have those boots now.  They don’t have a zipper.  I actually have to pull them on AND use a boot jack (or my husbands ass) to get them off.  But, they are old, they have patches from the holes that have worn over the years, and they really don’t fit all that well; plus, I would like more comfort.  I just don’t think tall boots are comfortable.  They aren’t made to be comfortable; they are made to be traditional.

Did you know that these uncomfortable, traditional boots are worn by some people primarily for fashion?  Yes, it’s true – the tall boot is “in”.  Well, for people that want and can spend a couple hundred dollars for fashionable footwear.  Der-Dau, a custom bootmaker, has an equestrian section that includes riding, polo, and FASHION!  Custom boots are anywhere from $800-$1400, and they actually have a market for fashion.

Okay, so I’m not going to get too worked up about that, because well, I just can’t fathom spending that amount of money on something that I wear for an evening out.  But, that’s a whole different story…

Lets get back to equestrian fashion, function, and of course, tradition.  Der-Dau makes a custom riding boot in pink.  I feel like this is something I need to do – get a custom dressage boot in pink, and start showing dressage.  I don’t believe it states a color of boot in the rules; it only states “dress boot” as apposed to a field boot – though it has been a long time since I read the rules of the dressage ring; I would love to see the outrage of a pink booted competitor.  But, I would have to be really good, and I don’t think I can handle the tedious minutia of dressage to be REALLY good.

Competing or not, a pink, blue, red, green, or yellow tall boot would be fun to wear. I have seen my fair share of completed Der-Dau custom boots and I will have to say, they actually do look comfortable. But still yet to see any finished in a different color. If I had the money to drop on a pair of boots, there is no doubt I would get myself a pair of Der-Dau custom tall boots in a fun color. And yeah, probably pink. And if I did have custom pink tall boots, I think I might wear them everyday. Maybe even to bed.

Then I stumbled upon these new tall boots to hit the market.  Woohoo, something different, something practicle, something fun!!!  Something NOT SO traditional.  The Tretorn Riding Boots.  I would love to try these.  The $750 pricetag is a bit much for me, especially not having heard any good, real reviews.  I would really like to feel how these boots fit and perform.  They are different; they even come in RED!!!  Wow, how untraditional is that?  My kind of boot, and a perfect boot for 2009!  Lets break the tradition and try to just be good riders with practical, useful equipment!

One more new tall boot I found was by Nike, the Ippeas. Nike is maybe ashamed of them – possibly not ready to market them -and they are definitly not for sale. I searched high and low.  But, these are a little more on the traditional side (as opposed to the Tretorn Riding Boots) though with some not so traditional functions.  Screw in spur, different looking heal, and I’m hoping…different colors!! I would really like to ride in these to see if the function is there.  

Sure, for me in some ways, getting one of these new boots would serve the purposes of fashion.  But only because I want the stuffy, uptight equestrian world to embrace change and focus on riding instead of tradition.  Being different IS okay.