Inclusivity Matters

Photo courtesy of Milestone Equestrian.

From the magazine

Each month, The Plaid Horse is proud to introduce readers to equestrian brands that value inclusivity and diversity in their products and their advertising.

Why does inclusivity matter to your brand?

Free Ride Equestrian is committed to providing riding apparel for all body types, allowing each rider to feel and ride their best. We find it most important that each rider, no matter their size, is able to enjoy the stretch and functionality that each of our collections offer. When people think of Free Ride Equestrian, we want them to think of a brand that reaches all ages and body types.

In what areas do you provide inclusive sizing and what sets you apart?

Free Ride Equestrian offers three main collections, each offer sizing in XXS-XXL or 14+. Our materials are created to stretch and move with the rider, all while looking tailored and stylish. Our collections offer each rider, no matter their size, the options of a pull-on legging, hybrid breech, or a breech with zipper and hook closer. Gone are the days of over-stretchy tights and cotton leggings! Free Ride Equestrian offers sleek athletic materials that will hold the beautiful curves of each body type. We also offer tops that range in sizes up through size XXL with the same great stretch we love in the breeches, allowing riders to create a full outfit that they feel confident in!

What’s next for your brand?

With each growing year of our business, we will continue to strive to reach each size range. We will continue to add more size options including petite and tall lengths. Our mesh bottom breeches work great for riders that need a petite length as they are super comfortable to fold up at the bottom. We are proud of the inclusivity our brand offers and will continue to show that through sizing availability and promoting content with full figured models. We love being able to see our full-figured customers walk out of the dressing room or send us pictures with happy hearts, knowing they have found a brand they can count on to make quality items that allow them to feel beautiful and strive to ride their best!

Learn more: shopfre.com

Photo courtesy of Free Ride Equestrian

The Brand: Kerrits & EQL

Why does inclusivity matter to your brand?

At Kerrits, inclusivity matters because we care about strengthening the future of our sport. We want to increase the accessibility of horseback riding so more people can experience the joy of horses in their lives. That means we welcome and celebrate riders of all ages, sizes, colors, backgrounds, and ability levels. Inclusivity has been a pillar of our brand since the beginning. Over 30 years ago, founder Kerri Kent developed an innovative pair of riding tights built to fit, flatter, and perform. To this day, we strive to design clothes that boost confidence in and out of the saddle and work as hard as the horsewomen who wear them. And we sell them at attainable price points because we know our customers make sacrifices so they can afford to ride, and having well-designed, high-performance riding apparel doesn’t need to be one of them.

What sets Kerrits apart?

As a diverse group of women riders ourselves, we feel uniquely qualified to address the apparel needs of women who ride. Our “fit models” are Kerrits employees, and they range across the entire size spectrum. They wear-test new styles in and out of the saddle every season to ensure they fit and function. It is the Kerrits standard to carry every woman’s style we make in sizes XS through 2X. This goes for everything from everyday riding tights to our show coats and breeches, along with our lifestyle apparel brand, EQL by Kerrits. We also offer options to address other fit challenges. Our bootcut breech styles come in Regular and Tall lengths, and we’re very proud to say we recently launched a Petite line for riders 5’4” and under that is available in our full XS–2X size range. We heard from many customers that Petites were nearly impossible to find in equestrian apparel, so we spent over a year developing this line to be properly proportioned and flattering for shorter riders. This season, we also added relaxed-fit styles to give customers the option to choose the clothing that makes them feel the most comfortable and confident.

How do you plan to continue expanding your brand/advertising/messaging to include more equestrians of all sizes?

One of our goals for 2023 is to make Kerrits the most inclusive and welcoming brand in the equestrian apparel industry. We strive to feature diversity of riders across age, size, race, and ability level in our marketing, from website and emails to social media and advertising. Inclusivity is top of mind in every marketing decision, whether we’re choosing riders and models for photo shoots or finding brand ambassadors on social media. We have set aside dedicated resources, both time and money, toward being able to capture the images and video assets we need to showcase diversity and allow more people to picture themselves as equestrians. Through our Kerrits Cares program and our EQL by Kerrits donation partners, we also continue to support other organizations that make our sport more accessible. We have partnered with several organizations including Optimum Youth Equestrian Scholarship, Saddle Up and Read, and Detroit Horse Power to provide resources so more people can enjoy our sport.

Learn more: kerrits.comeqlbykerrits.com

Photo by Kristin Lee.

The Brand: Milestone Equestrian

A chat with Shelby Dennis of Milestone Equestrian

Why does inclusivity matter to your brand?

Inclusivity matters to my brand because growing up in the horse world, I noticed a major lack of representation and often felt on the fringes of horsemanship due to my lack of ability to afford certain brands and fit in with the rest of the show world. I’m biracial—my father is Black—and despite being very white-passing myself, my hair made me standout in a crowd as I have textured curly hair. Even the simple fact of me having different hair from so many of my peers made me feel alienated. My natural hair was much quicker to be viewed as messy, unkempt or unprofessional. Because of this, I learned to assimilate by frying and straightening my hair on a near constant basis despite the fact that it didn’t make me feel happy or good about myself.

I genuinely cannot remember a single time I ever saw any model with textured hair, or a model of color for that matter, in equestrian magazines or brands for the entirety of my childhood. Until social media blew up, I literally did not know there were other biracial riders and riders of color to the extent that there are in the industry because I never heard about them. If I’d grown up and seen models who looked like me or my family members, it could’ve provided me comfort and confidence in being my authentic self and learning to love my natural hair, my culture, and who I was, instead of indirectly being taught to hide it and be ashamed of it.

I am incredibly privileged compared to a lot of the horse world and even still, I experienced situations that made me feel othered in this industry. I know that equestrians of color, plus-sized equestrians, disabled equestrians, and LGBTQ equestrians experience a lot of this in our industry and in starting my own brand, I wanted to put more of an effort into providing representation and support of minority groups of people who are often made to feel invisible or unwelcome in our industry.

Everyone deserves to feel good in their own body and to show up as their authentic self. They deserve to see models that look like them and to have their presence in the industry known instead of hidden. I hope to increase inclusivity in the sport and allow for people to feel more comfortable in their own bodies through my brand and my social media because I don’t want anyone to grow up feeling unheard and unrepresented. There’s room for all of us in this industry and we all deserve equal recognition, support, and access.

In what ways is your brand inclusive?

Our clothing sizes in most of our apparel are offered in sizes XS to 4XL. I’ve also tried to do most of our apparel patterns to be compatible for unisex sizing if you size up, as clothing really doesn’t have a gender and no one should feel obligated to have to choose between a binary when selecting clothes. They are just clothes—inanimate objects that you place on your very animated and dynamic body to give them life. I have also started doing equestrian ball caps with satin lining to protect curly and textured hair. I never realized just how much damage unlined hats could do to my hair until recently, and I know that a lot of equestrians of color struggle with damage to their natural hair because of how our hats and helmets are lined. The satin lining is much gentler on textured hair and doesn’t result in the same amount of frizz and breakage a sun lined hats can.

With pricing, I also try to be inclusive by keeping prices affordable, offering frequent discounts and sales and trying to offer a wide range of clothes to serve for the empowerment and comfort of people of all types. Many of our apparel options are also made with recycled fabrics.

How do you plan to continue incorporating inclusivity and diversity in your brand?

I hope to continue to expand my brand so I can offer more products and diversify sizing even more. I think that it would be beneficial to start to offer sizes in Short/Tall and Slender/Curvy cuts to further allow people to select the perfect sizing for them as there is so much variation in what an equestrian looks like. I think offering sizes like this would open the door for people to get a “semi-custom” fit without the same price tag. So, this is my goal as we continue to expand and funds allow.

Additionally, I hope to start offering bursaries, scholarships, and more sponsorships to riders. I think that accessibility is a huge hurdle in the horse world that is so difficult to overcome and I don’t believe that a rider’s lack of financial privilege should deprive them of access the horse world. There are so many amazing horse people we are likely missing out on due to their inability to enter the sport in the first place, or even if they do, the inability to stay in it or get platformed and seen in the way they need to.

My hope is also that if I start being what I hope to see in the industry, other brands will look at what’s being done and be inspired to do the same. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our equestrian community could offer meaningful opportunities and inclusivity to enrich our sport?

Learn more: shopmilestoneeq.com

Photo courtesy of Milestone Equestrian

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