We all have our favorite brands of equestrian gear. But sometimes it’s hard to find precisely what you want. And I always feel like I ride better when I feel like I look better. You know, collared shirt, tucked in, with a belt. So for our friends who make the gear we love to wear, here are some of the things that always get my attention when I’m shopping:
Comfortable — The stuff we wear when we’re schooling doesn’t have to make us look like fashion models. Comfort is paramount! So please cut the arms a little looser. Make the shoulders a tad wider. Don’t over-taper the shirts. We’ll save that for the show ring.
Body Types — I’m over 50, and I’ve had a child. So my hips are substantial. So are the “girls.” I’m not “plus” sized, but I’m no size zero either. There are some brands that I just can’t buy because everything is cut for a 15-year old rider with no curves, thin thighs, a flat chest, and a frame that’s wickedly skinny. Please be more accommodating of various body types.
Shirt Collars — I’ve heard George Morris enough times that I just don’t feel right riding in a shirt that doesn’t have a proper collar. Those quarter-zip styles don’t always pass muster with more conservative instructors. And they often flip themselves up in the middle of a ride, which can be annoying. I’d love most of the quarter zip shirts out there, if they only had a collar.
Sleeves — There are basically three types of sleeves: sleeveless, short sleeved, and long sleeved. Please consider offering the same shirt in all three sleeve types.
Tech Fabric Polo Shirts — It’s pretty easy to find long-sleeved tech fabric shirts, which boast SPF protection. And I love them. But it’s tough to find short-sleeved tech fabric polo shirts for the days when the weather is warmer. It doesn’t have to be fancy or fashion forward. Just a basic, solid color polo made from a fabric that will dry quickly, and wick moisture away from your skin.
Zip Front Breeches — I get the whole “smoother line” argument in favor of pull on breeches. But when you wear them for many hours a day, a zip front is just more practical, especially when you wear a belt.
Pockets — Breeches need pockets. If you ask my horse, they need to hold a good handful of treats. But the truth is that I need a deep pocket that can hold a proper cell phone without it popping out, or my truck keys. Please?! Bonus points if you make it easy to get into those pockets when I have gloves on!
Wider Belt Loops — Some of my favorite belts are pretty wide. But not all of my breeches have belt loops that can accommodate. So I wind up having to wear a skinny belt, and not loving the look.
Jacket Pockets — All schooling jackets and vests need pockets. The point of them is to keep us warm when it’s colder. But it’s maddening to walk around the barn all day with no pockets.
Schooling Gloves — It would be wonderful if schooling gloves came with a soft fabric on the back of the hand. You know, something suitable for wiping the sweat off my face mid-ride.
Colors — For those of us who are all matchy-matchy, it’s hard to find complete outfits for both horse and rider that match. Shirts, gloves, belts, saddle pads, and polos are a good start. For those who are a little more devoted, it would include ear bonnets. It’s not just solids, either. For instance, I ride in the Maryland Horse Trials, and my saddle pads have ribbon trim of the Maryland state flag. I have a C4 belt to match. Now, where would I find an appropriate matchy Maryland flag shirt? Also, be willing to be a little bolder about seasonal colors. Brights, neons, jewel tones — bring it on!
Visibility — Speaking of my Maryland gear, half the reason I went for it was because it would be visible on cross country. My family always says it’s hard to spot me: riding a dark bay horse, wearing a lot of black. So something striking and unique is always a welcome add for my cross country gear.
Holidays — Just for fun, I’d like to have a complete outfit for both my horse and me that go with the holidays. Not the super obscure ones, but Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or Independence Day would be fun. I’m not talking shamrocks and hearts thing, just an appropriate color.
Fundraiser Appropriate — For instance, I need a very pink shirt for the Ride for Life, which is a rated dressage show that supports a local breast cancer charity. I’m sure others have charity shows that have a particular “look” about them.
Fun — Please remember that we spend so much more of our time schooling, rather than showing. Don’t get stuck in a rut of solids. Patterns are fun too! Don’t limit yourself to basic geometrics, or only equine inspired designs. Some of my current favorites shirts are like abstract paintings. Seasonal themes are fun too.