Above Photo: Coco Fath soaring over a High Junior Jumper fence at Devon in her Tucci dress boots and Samshield helmet.
By TPH Intern Jordan Cobb
From the time I started bopping around cross-rails on my fat, half-leased medium pony, I stuck to the status quo. Looking around the limited scene at the local horse shows and mimicking the older girls at the barn, I deciphered what the “uniform” was. Every show day from then on, I wore an RJ Classics Coat, plain black paddock boots, black leather garters, a simple black Charles Owens AYR8, plain tan breeches, and a thin brown leather belt with a golden bit on the side. The most daring I got was a light lavender show shirt, which was replaced by plain white if I was doing the beginner equitation that day. My bows allowed for some individuality in the beginning: my mom would buy ribbon at the local craft store and tie fresh bows each time. During a visit to Pony Finals the next year, I fell in love with the bows of one vendor there- perhaps because they were beautifully made or perhaps because everyone was wearing them- and replaced the one individual aspect of my wardrobe.
In the subsequent years as I moved up the to the AA circuit, I adapted my “style” to fit a new uniform. I switched out my cheap plain breeches for a fleet of the classic low rise Tailored Sportsmans, phased out my lavender show shirt and replaced the white ones with their Essex Talent Yarn counterparts, and toned down my bows. It wasn’t a bitter goodbye, and I didn’t have a desperate need to “fit in.” I was simply evolving to present myself best for the new task at hand, and my job description as a hunter rider didn’t include being noticed. I subscribed to this philosophy with no resistance and, in doing so, I bought into “equestrian anonymity.”
As the uniform carefully evolved, my style endured subtle refinements, each restoring the perfect “Wellington wardrobe.” I had so easily agreed with the notion of appearing identical; it was an unspoken force of consumer control, and I didn’t seem to be the only one blindly following. In an under saddle at indoors, given a margin of error of perhaps two riders, everyone was adorned in the same uniform with a couple options for mix and match. For your show coat, it seemed you could choose between Charles Ancona and RJ Classics. For your pants, you could choose between Animo and Tailored Sportsmans. For your helmet, you got a whopping three choices: Samshield, Charles Owens, or GPA. For your boots, you had a choice between Parlanti, Tucci, and Fabbri. As I did at indoors that first year, I adhere almost religiously to these options. The brands are high quality, comfortable, elegant, and simply make me feel the most confident showing. Maybe that’s how the majority of the people feel as well, and maybe a revolution of stylistic individuality would appeal to a small few, but I can’t imagine it.
I always admired the few big name riders who sported their own stylistic signature: Maddie Schaefer wore her brown Charles Owens, and Gia Rinaldi has her green Charles Ancona Shadbelly. Of course, they aren’t radically defying that status quo, but I have always admired the subtle confidence of their statements. I’ve long held the belief that I’m not a big enough rider to “get away with it.” It’s a toxic mentality, but it’s a result of the silent culture of AA Circuit hunter and equitation fashion.
Yet, the question remains. Is this style simply the most elegant and for that reason has stood the test of time? Is it best to fit in- to the tee? Or is a little flare the key to being spotted in a massive crowd? Is the fabled subtle competitive edge of the right look worth erasing your individuality? Perhaps individuality is defined by more than attire.