Inclusivity Matters

Kosnoff (@kateattheingate_ on Instagram) wears the Haystack Sleeveless Quarter Zip Top. Photo by Mipsy Media.

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

“Clothing has the power to…make us feel at home in our bodies…and in the case of equestrian sports, make us feel at the top of our game.”—Street & Saddle’s Katelyn Woodburn

The Brand: Street & Saddle

Thoughts from Street & Saddle Founder Katelyn Woodburn

Bodies come in an astounding and beautiful variety of forms. When I started my equestrian clothing brand, Street & Saddle, my main aim was to celebrate that fact. The last eight years has been a brick-by-brick journey towards not just the sizes we offer, but the imagery and marketing that accompanies the clothing.

My motivation to embark on this was simple: I was angry (and still am) at the body dysmorphia and poor self-esteem that women experience because of unrealistic expectations of how they should look. And as an equestrian, it felt strange and unsettling that the pursuit of strength and skill had to go hand in hand with an ideal waist measurement.

Photo courtesy of Street & Saddle.

Executing the goal of providing size inclusive riding gear was not a simple undertaking. I was scoffed at repeatedly, and had trouble finding technical designers who were willing to work with larger sizes. With the help of some supportive industry experts, we moved everything in-house: design, manufacturing—the whole process. By doing so, we were able to start offering free custom sizing. This added huge value for our customers, and also for myself as a designer, getting the chance to talk directly with people about their needs. We now offer sizes XXS to 5X, in a mix of equestrian and everyday apparel from riding leggings to sweaters, tanks and jackets.

Clothing has the power to kickstart our confidence and make us feel at home in our bodies…and in the case of equestrian sports, make us feel at the top of our game. Our closets are far from the full sum of our mental health, but a pair of breeches that make you feel like a million bucks can absolutely help start the day on the right foot.

However, clothing can be a huge pain point for riders. For many plus size equestrians, there simply aren’t enough options and variety. And only seeing models of a certain (slim) size in marketing and catalogs serves to add further feelings of exclusion. “It’s hard not to feel like an outlier when you rarely see your body type represented on the back of a horse,” says Kate Kosnoff of Kate at the In Gate, an equestrian photographer and influencer. “And that can honestly take away from the joy that is riding.”

And while so much progress has been made in this area in the last few years, there’s still a long way to go. “The narrative that this sport is only for a certain kind of person is tired and played out,” adds Kosnoff. “Equestrian brands have the responsibility to put avariety of body types in their products, plain and simple.”

Representation of body diversity goes beyond just being able to tell how a piece of clothing would look on you.

“Including people who are plus size normalizes our existence. We exist in this sport, whether people like it or not, and we deserve to exist here,” says Stephanie Kallstrom, hunter rider and USEF “r” judge in training. “Multiple people reach out to me on my social media daily about how they hide in the equestrian world because of their body. Some have quit riding because they don’t feel safe in the sport and it’s not worth the emotional hell.”

Photo by Shane Yu.

As riders and athletes, we absolutely owe it to ourselves and our horses to be as fit as possible. But “fit” can vary in appearance from one person to another. “You absolutely can be fat and fit,” says Kallstrom. “People are more concerned about the ‘look’ of someone’s body than their effectiveness as a rider.”

Though an image on social media or a brand adding another size to their offerings may seem like a drop in the bucket, these changes do make a difference. “My presence on social media gets a lot of hate messages,” Kallstrom adds. “But plenty more people are passionate about horses and support this community without exceptions.”

Today, The Plaid Horse is featuring trail blazers of apparel inclusivity within our sport. It gives me great joy that there is not just one, but a whole group of brands working on making the equestrian world a more welcoming and inclusive place.

Kosnoff may summarize it best: “Horses don’t care what you look like or what the number on the tag of your breeches is—if you are kind to them, they are kind right back. We would be smart to follow their lead.”

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