Decades of Fashion for Horse and Rider

For as long as there have been equestrian sports, there has been a changing environment in equestrian fashion. Though the styles have changed as trends and needs have changed, many of the basic principles have remained the same. Whether you would like to hold true to the classic equestrian look, or adopt a more modem style, a wide range of options are available to suit your individual taste.

The equestrian fashions your see today have their roots in a much older practice of the sport. As the horse industry changed, equestrian sports gained popularity and organizations developed, the functionality of fashion changed. Functionality, whether for Western or English riding, continues to be the underlying factor in equestrian designs.

Differences between Western and English riding have inspired very different styles in tack and fashion for horse and rider. Western riding, developed in the Western United States and Mexico , began when ranchers (caballeros) and working cowboys (vaqueros) rode for long hours on horseback working on farms and corralling cattle. These Western riders required equipment suitable for work and comfortable enough to allow long days and even nights mounted on their horse. The functionality of equipment and fashion dominated the Western style; this tradition continues to be present today.

The Western saddle is one of the most prominent differences between Western and English riding. Western riders tie one end of rope to the horn on the front of the saddle while lassoing cattle. This allows the rider to use the strength of the horse instead of their own, ultimately allowing for better control. The saddle seat is typically deeper than the English saddle and designed for comfort, while the stitching and overall make of the saddle is strong and rugged, made to withstand intense labor. The Western saddle is often the first choice for beginning riders because of the security it offers

Western clothing has a reputation for being ornamental, and for good reason. The ornate detail often found in Western fashion, from elegant embroidery to elements of silver and gold, was a symbol of luxury for the caballeros of the Wild West. This tradition has been handed down through decades, influencing the intricate detail in Western tack and fashion today.

If you plan to show your horse in the Western ring, make sure you understand the guidelines for clothing and equipment, including boots, hats and other apparel. The standards that exist in the Western ring may vary between competitions, so becoming familiar with the rules of the competition is always recommended. When you are on your own, however, riding through trails and fields, go ahead and load on as much Western detail as you’d like, and don’t forget to have fun.

English riding, though much more conservative on the fashion front, is extremely popular in the United States as well as in other countries. The formal style of English riding is most often seen in the competitive ring of English equestrian disciplines. Because the English style of riding is more old fashioned and formal than Western riding, it is not surprising that English fashion would be the same.

Fashion trends, though much slower to change in English riding, will sometimes reflect a change in color. The traditional black jacket, white shirt combination will probably never go out of style, nor will the knee-high low-healed boots, derby hats or cap, but some competitions may allow a little variety in color. For example, most English riding competitions require the rider’s jacket to be a dark color, but some competitions may allow for color choice, such as navy instead of black. Because of the strict formality of English riding competitions, however, flexibility can be difficult to find. It will, of course, depend on the guidelines of the individual competition.

The English saddle is usually lighter than the Western saddle, fitting close to the horse and allowing the rider to communicate intricate movements to the horse. In English riding the rider will literally dictate the horse’s movements through the use of physical cues and the double reins. Not only is the horse’s willingness to accept commands and agility while performing judged, the rider’s appearance and posture is closely observed. Understanding this, the formal appearance of the rider is critical.

Outside of competition, English riding can enjoy a variety of fashions and color trends. When pleasure riding or schooling, there is no reason why a little fun can’t be introduced into your wardrobe. Schooling breeches, helmets and hosiery come in a variety of colors and patterns to give your conservative outfit a kick. Boots can be fashionable too. From the popular ankle boot, to boots with lace-up detail and colors to match your wild side, there is no shortage of fun patterns and colorful trends to spice-up your riding locker.

Equestrian sports are no stranger to fashion. From the ornate detail found in Western apparel, to the conservative taste of the English riding competition, a variety of styles exist for horse and rider. Though there may be guidelines to follow when entering the show ring, there is room for expression and individuality outside of competition. Whether Western or English, original styles meet modern trends in today’s world of equestrian shopping.

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