BY JESS CLAWSON
There are as many ways to be queer as there are queer people in the world. When it comes to degrees of how out and proud to be, my style is to dial it up to 11. Rainbows everywhere! The new eight stripe flag is so fetch. I put them on saddle pads, in my trailer windows, and even tattooed on my body. I also have my favorite Audre Lorde quote, “Your silence will not protect you,” tattooed on my arm—so it’s pretty clear where I stand on being out.
When my friend Susan Benson from Somerset Equestrian Trading showed me that Boy O Boy Bridleworks has introduced a new rainbow belt into their line, appropriately called Proud, I knew it was the piece I needed to display my pride while looking cute this show season (and let’s face it, forever, because you can pry this beautiful belt out of my cold dead hands).
Amanda Hood founded BOBB when a Lyme disease diagnosis meant she needed to restructure her life. She grew up a horse crazy kid whose non-equestrian parents were baffled by her obsession. Amanda was lucky to get a pony as a kid, and did everything from fox hunting to the show hunters with him.
As she grew in the sport and moved to the jumper side, she started making ribbon browbands fashioned after those she saw in Ireland. “My mother was appointed ambassador to Ireland when I was in graduate school and I would go visit her there,” she explained. “I always loved the ribbon browbands they’ve been making for centuries to match the yard or team colors. People in the states would always ask me where they could buy them, so I would just make them one.”
After her Lyme diagnosis, Amanda’s husband encouraged her to spend time in England to study leather work with a master saddler. She started making belts to match the browbands, and before she knew it, the tack stores were calling to ask about stocking her wares.
Amanda named her new company after her show jumper, Boy O Boy, who is now enjoying his retirement. He inspired her browbands: “He’s small and pony-like, and I thought he would look great in a ribbon browband like the Irish ponies wear.” Now she names the patterns of the belt weaves after her horses. The most popular, she says, is Dealbreaker, named after her current amateur owner jumper.
The rainbow belt I coveted is called Proud. “I’ve been wanting to make one for awhile, and then a friend asked me if I would do it for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall,” Amanda said. “The timing was perfect.”
It’s a beautiful belt, with BOBB’s scrupulous attention to detail and careful measurements. The leather itself is really lovely, durable without being stiff. When these belts first came on the scene, I didn’t get it. I thought they would be flimsy and fall apart, but I could not have been more wrong. The belts are made to last forever, with careful finishing and high quality materials, right down to the thread.
They also look great on, adding a touch of flair to an outfit without being overwhelming. It’s perfect under a jacket in the hunters or paired with a great sunshirt for schooling or the jumper ring. I wore one to a horse trials recently, and the compliments were non-stop.
“Anyone can wear it, from those who want to express their pride or their support to pony kids who just love rainbows,” she explained.
Amanda was also kind enough to make me a matching browband for Mo, and let me tell you, the grey backing and the colors are perfect for him. I think these would look really great on a horse without much in the way of facial markings, too. The quality on the browbands is just as good as on the belts, and now I get to match my main dude.
Amanda hopes that those pony kids will learn the value of pride and of appreciating diversity in the sport and in life. She grew up in New York City around LGBTQ people and feels a connection to Stonewall and the movement for queer rights.
“I like the idea of little pony girls who like rainbows wearing it and their gay trainer wearing it at the same time for different reasons. I like to see little kids understanding that people are different and that’s great and important,” Amanda emphasized. “It’s important for kids to start learning about identity–their male trainer may be married to a man, for instance. It’s really important to treat people equally from the time kids are little to make it clear that they should be fair and egalitarian to people. I hope the belt is a small part of that.”
I’m proud to be part of it too, representing the spirit of Pride with my beautiful belt and browband all year. Get yours on her website.
About the Author: Jess is a professional historian and educator who lives in northwestern Virginia. They completed their undergraduate degree in English at William & Mary, and did their masters and doctoral work at the University of Florida. Jess is an event rider with a passion for thoroughbreds, and has extensive experience in community organizing around queer identities, racial marginalization, and labor.
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