Tradition Versus Trends in Eventing Attire

The jacket I recently wore at Twin Rivers H.T. Photo by Leslie LaBraque.

From military uniforms and formal long coats to high tech fabrics and bling, where is the future of eventing headed?

We’ve seen an evolution over the years. Top hats to safety helmets, in not just velvet but a variety of textures. White breeches to variations of white or beige. Shorter jumper coats in not just black or navy, but bright blues and other untraditional colors. Shadbellies with not just traditional yellow tips, but tips of any color. Wool to washable, breathable fabrics. Unique stock ties. Cross country attire that distinguishes you from other riders. And bling, everywhere from helmets to browbands, pads and even saddles.

Should we change some of the rules to allow more individuality? Move in the direction of the jumper world, where more is color allowed other that traditional black and navy in stadium? It appears to be changing by trend. I am seeing the envelope being pushed from that of tradition to modern day ‘I want to show my individuality through color and fashion.’

Let’s start a conversation. I believe we can still honor the sport’s tradition and allow for change as long as safety is the most important aspect.

Some would say this is a distraction, but we have seen this shift succeed in other disciplines. An example is in the western performance shows, which I witnessed transition back in the ’70s and ’80s from very conservation colors of grey, brown and black to the current fashion of the more color and bling the better, on riders and horses alike.

In my neck of the woods here in California, at the ripe age of 12 I learned how to sew so I could make my own equitation one-piece suits, as I hated my shirt coming untucked. We went to colorful ultra suede instead of trying to dye leather that was expensive for chaps. To get my hat to match the chaps, we chalked our wool cowboy hats. I was way ahead of my time. And wanted to stand out, because I wanted the judge’s attention.

My mother and father owned a complete western store, and mom and I started getting questions from other competitors asking where I bought my show clothes. Which was the beginning of our own custom work. Folks were ready for a change from the mundane.

So can we stick to tradition of the physical act of performance and safety and move into the 21st century with regard to individuality in eventing attire preferences?

Leslie LaBraque has been eventing since 2005 and currently competes at the Prelim level with her horse, Falkonet, on the West Coast.