Friday, July 20, 2012

Memoirs: A Horse Girl Gets Dressed Up

I am somewhat embarrassed to say that the last time that I bought show clothes was when I was in high school, which was almost fifteen years ago.  Last year, I was forced to finally buy new high boots to replace my boots from high school, because the straps for the boot pulls snapped.  They didn't snap just from use and age.  They snapped because I was trying desperately to pull my calves into the space occupied by the boots.  By the laws of physics, no two things can occupy the same space, although my budgies constantly try to occupy the same spot on a perch, so something had to give.  The boots lost.

October 2011, First Level with Mr. Harley: I was deliriously happy just to have comfortable boots to wear at this show.  It could only have helped my riding, as it is difficult to concentrate and relax when your feet hurt.

When I took Harley to a local dressage schooling show in October, I vowed that if I should enter another horse show in the future, I needed to purchase some new clothes.  My jacket and my new boots were fine, but the rest of my clothes were outdated (dare I say discolored?) at best and downright uncomfortable at worst.

Waiting for a Training Level class in 2008.  Harley and I had been a team for just over a year, but those clothes and boots had been with me for over a decade.  Unfortunately, the relationship between me and my clothing had grown thin (pun intended).

Showing Blue in 1999, First Level.  Different horse but the same clothing!  Notice how my foot is too far in the stirrup?  Those boots were always a little too big in the foot.  I think this compromised my feel in the stirrups.  I had about an inch of empty space at the toes.

And The Mare a couple years later, also at First Level and in the same clothes again.  This was before I received the white gloves from my trainer.  Those were a honor to be gifted.

On Harry in 2003 in the only Introductory test that I have ever ridden.  Recognize the clothes?  At least dressage clothes are meant to blend in so the emphasis is on the horse and rider.  Black and white never really go out of style.

Harley's first horse show ever in October 2007 and I am in the same clothes, yet again.  We went out for Training Level, because I felt that Intro was not going to keep his attention and I did not want to compete against some friends who were new to dressage shows.

I just like how cute Harley looks here.  He seems to be asking, "Am I doing this right?"

My husband and I with a good shot of my duds.  How those pants have stayed white, I have no idea!

The white, full-seat breeches that I own were a gift from my original trainer.  They were an expensive pair with real leather for the seat and inner legs.  Unfortunately, this meant that they were not breathable and the fabric was really too thick for summer horse shows.  They looked really nice and they were too good quality to waste in the closet, so I continued to wear them at the occasional horse show that I attended.  To the manufacturer's credit, they still look new.  I will keep them forever and may wear them again, but for now they have been replaced by "cheap yet tasteful and, most importantly, summer appropriate" clothing!

I chose a white show pad (all-purpose style so that it doesn't dwarf Harley or my saddle), cotton full-seats, a microfiber, breathable shirt (hallelujah!), a pre-tied stock tie with pretty, delicate lace, and a new show bow to attempt to contain my mane.  Harley isn't the only one with some wild hair!

I still need to try everything on to see if they fit, but so far I am happy with the products, which I received having only viewed them in the online catalog.  SmartPak is so fast with delivery and has lots of reasonably-priced merchandise.  I also get a break on some items, because I purchase SmartPak supplements for Harley.  Needless to say, I am a SmartPak fan.

My original (and discolored) show bow and stock pin.  Look how stretched out the hair net is!  I absolutely cannot tuck my hair under my helmet.  I would need a larger-sized helmet for that and probably some headache medicine.

In addition to my black coat (a gift from Mom) and my yearling boots (although they don't look new anymore), I will continue to use my original stock pin, which my Mom bought for me when I was a little kid taking lessons, and the white, leather gloves, which my original trainer also gave to me for shows, and my velveteen helmet, although I keep the velveteen concealed with a smooth, black cover.  I have to remain a little old-school.  People already think that I look younger than I am, so I do not want to appear to be a total noob because all my clothes and gear are new.  Hopefully, my riding will lend some clue, but you never know!

This was not an expensive pin, but I think it is totally classic in its simplicity.  My Mom bought it for me at Ruthie's Tack Shop in Whitehouse Station, NJ, which used to be the closest tack shop in the days before online shopping.  I could spend hours there.  I remember my Mom would promise to take me after a visit to the dentist, which I really despised.  As a kid, I bought my first saddle from Ruthie's, my velveteen helmet, my grooming kit, and my first paddock boots all with savings from my allowance, birthdays, and holidays.

It seems an old expression is in order.

"All dressed up with no where to go."

I may be able to remedy that situation.  I am looking to visit a new site for a dressage schooling show.  There are many things that must fall into place before that can happen, such as transportation arrangements, and, of course, the weather has to cooperate, which is no small thing these days.  We will see!


  1. With all your new clothes I hope you can make it to a show to show them off!And don't worry about looking young someday you will be VERY happy about that, trust me on this one.

    I'm guilty of having collected some old clothing too. I even have a pair of the rust colored breeches that were popular in hunter/jumper many years ago before they went to tan. Still have my coats too and the boots which won't fit until I lose some of the weight I gained over the years since I stopped showing.

    1. I always liked the rust-colored breeches. They look great in the autumn!

      I don't mind looking young, I just don't like it when people assume that I am a beginner or don't know anything. That has gotten old!

  2. I'm glad I'm not the only one whose show clothes almost qualify as antiques! My (white, full-seat) breeches are 15 years old and somewhat annoyingly high-waisted. My black show coat is of similar vintage. I do have a newer white short-sleeved dryfit shirt, mostly because it's beastly hot here in the summers. My boots are the newest gear - I finally broke down and bought a pair this spring on super-duper sale - my old ones were at least 15 years old, far too short for my leg, and gave me horrible blisters. I'm still breaking in the new boots, but they are definitely better than the old ones.

    Can't wait to hear about the new show venue! Perhaps we will be seeing you there soon in your new finery?

    1. My old breeches have a really high waist, too. They feel like they are up to my armpits compared to other pants.

      I am not sure what is worse, uncomfortable, old boots or breaking in new ones. At least once they are broken in, you are good to go. :)

      As for the show, I hope so!

  3. I LIKE buying show clothes, but I DON'T like how expensive stuff can be. SInce this is my third showing season, I felt I "deserved" a second coat. I bought the ELT dressage coat in charcoal. I think it will look good on Speedy. Since I've done several two day shows, I have two pair of white breeches and three shirts (only one of which I really like).

    I scour the sale catalogs and buy what I can on sale with a coupon and free shipping (when I can). Quality clothes can be found at a discount if you shop around enough. Although, Smart Pak and I are also close friends. Dover, too.

    The problem with show clothes is that even if you show every month like I do, stuff doesn't really wear out so you're stuck with it for a loooong time. Someday I'l be lamenting how LOW waisted some of my breeches are. :0)

    1. I think you have already bought circles around me as far as show clothes are concerned! Now that you mention it. I would be in trouble if I had to do two or three-day shows.

      Sometimes they are too low-waisted, you know? Can't tuck the shirts in nicely.

  4. All my show clothes are "vintage", too. I only wear them a few times a year, so they've stayed nice. Well, except my boots, I wear my tall dress boots for everyday riding, so I have to replace them every couple years.

    Can't wait to see you all tricked out in your new gear!

  5. I am so glad that I am not the only one who was wearing dated show clothes. It is true that we are lucky that styles do not change much, although I saw some floral prints and pink in the catalog. I stuck with plain white, like you said. Classic. Hopefully, I am good for the next 15 years, but it is doubtful that my clothes will still fit if we have kids!

  6. New show clothes! Woo-hoo! What fun! Mine are about 10 years old but I did have to get new boots -- others busted. Of course, with my broken foot I can't wear them. aargh

    1. I am hoping that you finish mending soon!

  7. I hope you two get to show more this year, you need to show off all that hard work.

    Because I've never shown before I had to buy all new stuff (which might only be worn once this year, we'll see). Fortunately for me, I cannot stand full-seat breeches so I was able to get a pair of white, knee patch breeches for pretty cheap. VTO Saddlery all the way :)

    1. I am not a huge fan of full-seats either. I do not like being stuck in one spot, especially if it is not the spot I want to be stuck in! I have always shown in them, so I guess that I felt obligated to get them again.

      I hope you get to go out again this year. I usually find the build up to the show, so stressful that I try not to plan too far in advance. The downside is less prep time. ;)

  8. Great that you got some new show clothes - I hope you get to use it all this year! I think alot of people show in older or second-hand clothes - it is just so expensive to buy new all the time, if you only show a bit. I think it is great that you still have your gloves from your trainer and your old helmet. :-)

    I still have my tall boots from when I was about 14. I can't come close to getting them on, but I begged my parents to buy leather boots instead of rubber, so I figured I should keep them around for a long time.

    1. Definitely keep the boots! They must hold many special memories. I find it difficult to let those types of things go.

      Thanks for the lovely comment!

  9. No adult show clothes (yet), though I know exactly what I want - virtually shopping. I've got my tall boots though. After sticking with the commitment to long distance dressage lessons for a year I invested in a nice pair. At first I felt self conscious about wearing them, but once they broke in, I realized as well as looking "serious" they promoted good position.

    Your post brought back memories of the first Christmas after I finally begged hard enough for riding lessons. Santa followed the detailed list I sent him, and my first fully equipped grooming kit waited for me under the tree. A lovely antique stock pin from my aunt was another treasured item.

    There is a telling picture on my blog of my 1970's show clothes - check the flared breeches. (not to mention muddy boots and lack of hair control) I'm pretty sure I cried when my parents pulled those breeches out of the sale rack ;)

    1. Thank you for sharing your story.
      The picture of you is so cute!

      I agree that tall boots are as practical as they are serious. And agree, I think that my leg is better in them.

  10. Lovely new gear ....cant wait to see a photo of you out and about all dressed up


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