Not long ago it was a novelty to see someone riding in breeches. Throughout middle and high school the trend was blue jeans – ripped, dark wash, light wash, boot cut, flare- everyone rode in blue jeans. Of course paired with your finest American Eagle or Abercrombie were Ariat boots and half chaps. Circa 2004 ROOTD: Aeropostale polo, Low-rise Abercrombie jeans with distressed rips, Ariat rhinestone western belt, Ariat suede half chaps, and Ariat heritage laced paddock boots (they had yet to discover zippers). Oh and your polo didn’t actually get tucked into your jeans; it was strategically ruched above your rhinestone belt, which worked well if you had a long torso, but for us squat individuals the bunched shirt just looked like a mistake.

I wasn’t cool enough to have the Ariat chaps, just the paddock boots, and majority of my jeans were from the local thrift store, because my mom wasn’t about to fork over $60 for a pair of jeans to wear at the barn. I had this one pair of GAP jeans that had 0% stretch in them, but they looked cool, so I rode in them and my ability to post the trot was greatly restricted along with my circulation.

Breeches were exclusively for the show ring and considered eccentric for lessons. They came in only one style, high rise, which you could practically hike up to your bra line. The other item you rarely saw anyone wear was tall boots. These were the days prior to zippers, pull ons only. Who would willingly wrench those suckers on for a hack? No one. Once they were on, they remained on your legs for the entire day- you only wanted to rip your heel off once a day. I will say that I made some of my closest friends trying to get boots off. You were up close and personal yanking on a fellow rider’s heel and foot, rigorously wrangling the boot from their leg- it gave us a sense of comradery, a pain we all shared at the show regardless of the ribbons.

I used to be terrified of wearing breeches and boots, because it meant competition. The night before, I’d gingerly lay out all the items. Gray hunt coat (ebay purchase), Dublin breeches, royal blue show shirt (complete with ratcatcher collar that seemingly was always lost), tie-die boot socks, and polished tall boots (on loan from a friend). They’d sit on my desk chair staring at me and making my 13 year old nerves run thin. They seemed to taunt me, “Don’t fall off…Don’t chip like last time…Rusty is going to be bananas tomorrow.” The sight of them brought back every show day horror.

Shows are 100% mental. You are not doing anything different than you have done in lessons or hacks.

Think about it.

You are going to jump some jumps. Have you jumped some jumps recently? Yes.

Okay, you are going to walk, trot, and canter in the ring. Have you walked, trotted, or cantered in the ring before. I hope so.

It took years and some good laughs to get over my fear of show day apparel, but it comes with time. Though I will say the advancements in spandex and zippers have made riding much more comfortable– it’s the small thing in life that make the greatest difference.
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