The results are in…

First let me thank the two judges who were nice enough to take time out of their schedules to judge the outfits for our Hunter Apparel Challenge and answer all of my annoying questions! And second to all of the customers who participated in the challenge enabling us to raise $250 for After the Finish Line! Oh and if you started following by blog since before this post (yes I can tell) then come by LA Saddlery anytime after June 1st and I will have a $15 Gift Certificate for you to use in our store!

Because it seems that most of the outfits were considered “appropriate” for the hunter arena (though there are some trainers who still insist they are not), I am going to focus my discussion on Hunter Equitation. Now please let me know if there is something out there beside the USEF Equitation Manuel that dictates acceptable attire for the hunter equitation division. I have looked everywhere for something, some shred of evidence that points to a specific navy and white uniform and I have yet to find this ellusive document. Is it like a Code Red? Is George Morris going to pop out and yell at me that I can’t handle the truth that there is no such concrete rule that dicates navy and white and that I have to accept that hunter trainers are just completely insane in their obsession with navy and white? If there is something out there, some written proof or rule, please let me know and I will concede that I have been wrong that a brown coat, a pink shirt, or some pretty buttons would be fine in the Equitaion arena.

However for now, and before I discuss the results, I just wanted to post the exact verbage that is in the official USEF Hunter Equitation Manuel:

Exhibitors and judges should bear in mind that at all times entries are being judged on ability rather than on personal attire. Riders should wear coats of any tweed or Melton for hunting (conservative wash jackets in season), breeches or jodhpurs and boots. Conservative colored protective headgear in accordance with GR318.3 is mandatory. Spurs, crops or bats are optional. Judges may penalize contestants who do not conform. When management permits Hunter or Hunter Seat Equitation riders to ride without jackets, riders must wear traditional, short, or long-sleeved riding shirts with chokers or ties. Polo shirts and chaps are not permitted except in unjudged warm-up classes. Management or Judge may eliminate an exhibitor who is inappropriately attired.

Apparently the rules for EQUITATION however are not very clear, because most people will tell you that you MUST wear a plain navy or black coat and white shirt. Period. Anything else will get you penalized, looked down upon, even “ostracized.” Yikes! I even had a customer tell me that she wore a hunter green coat back east (which btw is VERY traditional in the history of hunt seat equitation) and it was mentioned in the Chronicle of the Horse as a new fashion trend at the hunter show! Apparently a hunter green coat amongst a gaggle of navy is newsworthy. I was literally flabbergasted. Especially when there is nothing in the rules that mention color. Other than the word “conservative” which is subjective, nothing says Navy coat. White shirt. In fact I love that it says “tweed!” When was the last time you saw a tweed coat! And for all of those wondering what “melton” means, it’s a heavy wool cloth, so I will concede then that an Animo coat would not be appropriate as it’s a tech fabric, not wool based. Which proves my point you can still be a girl who plays by the rules, but can color outside the lines!

And the first sentence explains a judge is judging based solely on ability. So when my judges came to see the outfits, this was of course a very important question. If a rider was wearing any one of these 5 outfits, and was performing beautifully, would they be penalized for their clothes? And I got an emphatic “no.” They of course had their opinions, made some suggestions, and had personal preferences, but they CANNOT judge on clothing, unless something goes against the rule book (for example, a polo shirt or paddock boots) Even after explaining what the rule book said, and what the judges themselves said, my customers were still perpetually stuck in their belief that in the Hunter Equitation ring, if you stray from the navy and white norm you will judged poorly. But they then will explain if “so and so” is riding, they will always win no matter what they are wearing. And “so and so” is an accomplished and beautiful rider. Ummmm…ok then you all agree if you are a great rider it doesn’t matter what you a wearing? Then that alone proves there is no suggested “uniform” outfit in the rule book. So why do trainers still demand all of their clients to wear navy and white? That’s right they DEMAND it. Again here’s the bullying, which I believe has caused this cycle of mania around hunter equitation attire. I would love to see an uprising of hunter green, brown, and charcoal grey..hell I would love to see a lavender or pink shirt! But I am afraid people’s heads might explode!

I am sorry but this is truly madness. Really. How can you all not see how ridiculous this is becoming? I feel like I am taking crazy pills!

Here is just one example why I feel like I am going insane…take outfit #1:

The customer’s average score for this outfit was 6.4 out of a possible 10. The breeches fine. Good and tan. The coat, great. Nice and navy (the suede collar and piping was also navy so you couldn’t even see it.) The shirt…ugh the shirt! How four to five inches of plaid could cause so much commotion is beyond me! If only the shirt was white this outfit would have scored a ten. Really? a tiny little patch of plaid is going to incite a crowd of people pointing and designating you the hunter eq class freak? The judges actually scored this outfit the highest…apparently the plaid didn’t offend them personally…

But I can’t talk about this plaid shirt anymore because it makes my heart hurt….so on to Outfit #2, my personal favorite.

I actually thought this outfit was the most appropriate in regards to the rule book because it’s a traditional wool coat and it looks properly elegant. And the customers actually scored this one the highest too. I did have lots of comments about the lightness of the coat, but many of you thought it would be appropriate in the summer…ok I can accept that for fashion and practical reasons. The judges also liked this one.

Ah…the most talked about color…Outfit #3 and the beautiful burgundy coat.

Almost every customer gushed over how much they loved this coat. Especially the color. I did have one of the judges really hate the color..though she admitted it was just a personal taste thing. She was absolutely fine though with it being 4 buttons, and didn’t care the buttons were silver. Which I was thrilled about because I don’t know how many times I have had trainers tell me you can’t have silver or gold buttons on a Equitation Coat. Really…we are going to split hairs over buttons now?! And the four button debate…let me assure you a 4 button coat does not mean jumper or dressage. It means the rider is longer waisted and a four button coat just plain looks better on their body type. But again, there are a lot people who will argue that point to the grave! The customers scored this outfit second highest, and I think we may have sold a couple of burgundy coats too! Yeah for color!

Haha! Outfit #4..the full seat extravaganza! I got a lot of flack for this one because everyone wanted to switch out the pants..

But I have to admit, my evil plan worked, because it made everyone look at the top half of the outfit more closely because the pants were so clearly not usual hunter attire. And I don’t necessarily think they are “inappropriate” as the rule book just states, “breeches or jodhpurs” and these clearly fall into those categories. But I personally think it goes against more of a classic knee patch hunter look which I prefer. Either way everyone, including the judges, felt this coat was a great equitation coat. Wait…but it’s not Navy? It’s brown. And not even a dark brown, it’s a light brown. And it has a camel colored collar….and ORANGE piping!!! But my judges loved it for the equitation arena…hmmm….Also of note this outfit scored on par with #1, which says that a little itty bitty piece of plaid was just as controversial for you as full seat breeches, a brown hunt coat with lots of fancy details, and a shirt that was actually not even a proper ratcatcher! Ok..I am getting upset again…must stop bringing up plaid shirt. Which I love by the way…reallly, really, really love that shirt.

And the almost unanimous loser for our competition..outfit #5.

Again one of my favorites. And pretty much all of the girls at LA Saddlery’s number one pick for its pure awesomeness. But I said before I can concede that the Animo coat is not Eq appropriate because it goes against the official rule “tweed or melton”. Though technically they use the word “should” when stating what kind of hunt coat…and since the judge can’t score them based on their coat…well then this coat, or any conservative colored Animo coat “should” be fine to any person of sound mind. Which of course then excludes all hunter trainers and their minions of hunter fashion destruction. I am so going to be on some hunter trainer hit list after this…for the sake of my husband and all that hold me dear, let’s hope the crazies have a good sense of humor!

The one thing I did gather from the judges lower scores on this outfit, was they felt that all of striping detail was too much to look at, and may be somewhat of a distraction to their eyes when judging a rider. Ok, that makes total sense to me. And I did intentionally go overboard with the stripes; they can make you a bit googly-eyed. This is a reasoning I can get on board with, and will keep in mind when dressing my next equitation customer. However this outfit, even with its overall lowest score, was still number 2 to most discussed flawed ensemble. Outfit #1 and that plaid shirt won that prize by a landslide….and now I need a Xanex!

Clothes that Make the Claws Come Out!

Ok…so who would have thought riding apparel could cause some women to get super catty in their opinions! The Hunter Apparel Challenge was designed to get you all thinking about being more open minded about your hunter wardrobe, but as we are starting to hear, it is clear that many of you are quite stubborn! (I have thrown some Animo pictures in for effect…they are the one company that I believe has really turned the Equestrian industry upside down, and have people all over the world talking about them…they are a love or hate kind of company, and they are Italian so they don’t apologize for their craft! Which is why I am a big fan…never apologize for who you are!)

But you all seem to agree that if you and your horse are performing beautifully, none of you think you should be judged on your outfit. Which begs the question…are you hoping your plain Navy hunt coat and white shirt is somehow going to hide your riding flaws? And just maybe a little flair in the show arena will actually catch the judges attention so they notice how wonderfully you are doing.

See I am more of a stand-out-in-the-crowd kinda gal, so I guess I just don’t understand why everyone would want to look like little navy and tan carbon copies of one another. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for speaking your mind, and I am finding some of your comments pretty funny, but what I do discourage is judging others based on appearance, or letting other people’s opinion sway you from being your true self.

Do you remember when the GPA helmet first came out? Everyone was appalled by its modern techie look. I am pretty sure the word “hideous” was thrown out a few times. And now we can’t even keep them in stock! The same happened with the first stretchy show coat. And we are selling more and more of those, even our Dressage riders are choosing stretch fabric coats over the traditional wool ones.

The main reason I love fashion is because clothes give us the freedom to express ourselves, to feel good about our bodies, even to exude a bit of our sexuality. And yes I believe this is all important when dressing for the barn too. I am the same way with my Pilates clothes. I love Lululemon because not only does it feel awesome on, their clothes look fantastic, which makes me even more motivated to work out. I think the same holds true if you play tennis, golf, ski, or surf. Each of these sports also has a lifestyle fashion aspect and the clothing crosses over into everyday life. I wonder if golfers whisper behind each others’ backs about what they consider inappropriate for the club? I am going to go out on a limb and say that surfers don’t do that…but who knows…maybe life at the beach is more catty than it looks!

The thing that I find most disturbing is that while many of our customers really love some of the new shirts, coats, boots, and helmets that we have brought into the store, most of their trainers end up bullying them out of buying anything they don’t personally like. Yes I said bullying! Its an epidemic in our school system, and unfortunately its a growing problem in the equestrian world as well.

My advice to you would be to stay true to what you like and what fits in with your equestrian fashion style. So if you want to wear breeches with tall socks and stiletto heals, than I say go for it! This sport is supposed to be fun, and dressing up is a big part of that fun. Your trainer may pout for a bit if you buy that coat she hated, but in the end its not like she’s going to kick you out of her barn!

And speaking of fun don’t forget to stop by LA Saddlery this weekend for great savings!!! Maybe we can find you the perfect outfit that you and your trainer can agree on!

Clothes for a Cause

Think you know what a judge will deem appropriate for the hunter show arena? Have you been lusting over a pair of Sergio Grasso Boots or an Animo Show Coat? Want to help a fantastic charity that rescues Thoroughbreds? Then come by LA Saddlery before the Hunter Derby this Sunday night and judge our five hunter outfits to see how you stack up against our Hunter judges! Whichever customer comes closest to our judges’ scores will win their choice of either a pair of Sergio Grasso Field boots OR a beautiful new Animo coat! That’s over an $800 value!

A little bit about LA Saddlery and the Hunter Apparel Challenge…

LA Saddlery was founded on February 14th, 2008 by two friends who shared a lifelong love of horses and fashion. We both grew up riding, but on opposite coasts, which made for a perfect marriage of East Coast classical style with West Coast attitude and flair. LA Saddlery’s mission has been to constantly bring in new clothing lines that challenge the traditional riding outfit with fresh ideas, high performance fabrics, and fashion forward details. Often the first to pick up a clothing line, LA Saddlery has changed the way tack shops do their buying, and opened the California equestrian market to include companies from all over the world.

We are also always looking for fun ways to donate to charities. We usually love to give gift certificates or fashionable outfits from our inventory with the hopes we will expose our customers to new and creative ways to style their show outfits. So we came up with the Hunter Apparel Challenge, where we have styled five hunter show outfits that will be judged by official hunter judges on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most appropriate. Customers can enter the contest for $5 (all proceeds benefit After the Finish Line www.afterthefinishline.org ) as many times as they want. The customer whose score comes closest to the judges will win! The winner will be announced after the Hunter Derby Sunday Night!

Here is just a glimpse of the five outfits…come by LA Saddlery during our biggest sale of the year this Memorial Day Weekend and enter the Hunter Apparel Challenge!

A Tale of Two Joules

Eight years ago I abandoned my career as a budding College Counselor and dropped out of my Masters Program in Clinical Psychology because I literally had worn myself out both physically and mentally.  After three months of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to take a drive to the Los AngelesEquestrian Center, my home away from home growing up. That day changed my life, as I traded in my potential PhD for a job as an Equestrian retail associate. Needless to say my mother probably wasn’t too thrilled! But I knew I had to be around the one thing that always brought me sanity…horses. My first day on the job was during the Memorial Day Classic, and I managed to bring home a Golden Retriever puppy, who we call Betty…the second thing that makes me sane!

 

Luckily for my mom’s sake, I was much better at selling riding apparel then I would have been at treating patients, and within 5 years I became the owner of that same store with my best friend. And during one of the next Memorial Day Classic Weekends, I of course fell in love with puppy numero dos…a scrappy black lab who sneakily managed to weasel her way into mine and eventually Betty’s heart.

 

When it came to naming this one I wanted to pay homage to one of my favorite riding apparel companies.  One that I felt embodied my style, my personality, and my love of living an Equestrian Lifestyle.

And just like my exceptionally beautiful and regal little  puppy, this UK clothing line embraces youthful femininity and playfulness.  So after much deliberation we named the new addition to our family Joules.  

 

Joules the dog….  

seems to have many things in common with Joules the clothing line….

 

First, they are both continually surprising me with what they can do… 

Second, they love to play with all things colorful.

 

They also both make great pillows.

 

And finally and probably most importantly they are both particularly fond of flowers and other animals.

Plus Joules has extrenely great taste…both of them that is!  Here is Joules modeling her pink pok-a-dot Joules raincoat!

It’s so comfy she even sleeps in it!

So in my humble and totally unbiased opinion…I believe that Joules makes the best polo on the market…

And Joules is the best black lab in the world!

For great deals on Joules, come by LA Saddlery during our Big Annual Memorial Day Classics Sale! We have racks of Fall Joules Samples on sale for 30% Off! All of our Spring Joules will be 20% off…and who knows maybe you will find a Betty or a Joules to bring home with you!

Gotta Have A Sparkly!

One of the first movies my husband and I bonded over was the “Secret of Nimh.” If you have ever seen it, then you will no doubt remember Dom Deluise as the voice of the loveable and nutty crow Jeremy who gets stars in his eyes every time he see something sparkly.  Most women can relate to Jeremy’s condition, as many of us have wandered into Tiffany’s and swooned over the cases full of sparkly’s! I am not usually one for too much bling in my wardrobe, but I have always loved dressing up my friends, my Barbies, and yes even my horses.  

I figured it wasn’t fair to just blog about the rider’s wardrobe since the horse really does half the work, so for this piece I wanted to showcase a fantastic line of bling browbands by Nikki Reynolds.  Nikki is from Australia, and she explained to me that unlike here in the States where we are conservatively stuffy with our navy and tan palette, the riders down under sport vibrant colors from their hunt coats to their bridles.  It is, after all a “show”, and all good shows need a few jazz hands!

 

Like many of us eqgirls, Nikki started her riding career at a young age and competed in English disciplines across the board. She was never short on good ponies and her parents provided her with all of the necessary equipment.  Nikki, however, also wanted the fancy browbands that had become the hottest fad at the horse shows.  Luckily for us, her parents felt that if Nikki wanted to bling out her horse she was going to need to be resourceful and do it on her own. Determined to sparkle at her next show, Nikki stepped up to the challenge, got herself a job, and bought the materials to make her first sparkly browband!

 

Today she calls her growing business “a labor of love” and says “there is nothing better than seeing the delighted face of a client when they see their browband for the first time. I love receiving photos from my clients of their favorite friend wearing their new bling.”

 

She has also expanded her bling line to include dog collars, halters, hair bows, lapel and stock pins, crops/whips/canes & dressage whips, western earpieces and parade bridles/reins and does many custom orders as well.

The handsome Friesian pictured here is “Noah.” He is graciously modeling his custom browband that he wears when he attends parades and exhibitions with his human.

 

LA Saddlery has been lucky enough to have some of Nikki’s pieces in our store. They are literally the most picked up, touched, and talked about items we have on display.  Women are just naturally drawn to their sparkle,  as we are magically brought back to our childhood dreams of becoming a princess and crowned with beautiful jewels. What…just me?

While we may not all be princesses many of us can still pretend by dressing up our mighty steeds for our next horse show or perhaps just a leisurely jaunt along the trails!    

We have invited Nikki to LA Saddlery’s  Annual Memorial Day Weekend Sale where she will be showcasing some of her fabulous desgins…so make sure you come by and check out all of the sparkly’s!

The Price of Fashion

If you thought that horseback riding was an economically friendly sport, then I am here to assure you that you were in a deep state of denial when you came to that conclusion! Sort of on the same lines as the woman who sued Nutella because she thought that delicious chocolate hazelnut spread on white bread was a healthy snack for her children. If only!

The problem is that usually when we try to save money on our riding apparel we end up looking saggy, baggy, and boxy. The fabrics don’t hold up all that well, the boots are big in all the wrong places, and the helmets look and feel like big plastic mushrooms on our noggins! And while we love Animo show coats, Pikeur breeches, Tucci boots, GPA Helmets and Ralph Lauren Polo’s, many of us are still on a budget. The good news however is there are a lot of options in Equestrian apparel that are more affordable and still extremely fashion friendly.

Now when it comes to shopping I am the person who goes to a big sale and then only buys clothes from the one small section in the front of the store that of course are all at full price! I am not a bargain shopper, I do not think I am getting a deal because something is in a bin, I hate shopping at big outlet stores, and I never shop online because I need to touch and feel everything before I buy it. This is why I almost exclusively shop at small boutique stores, where the clothes are unique and the sales girls can simply look at my body and know exactly what will compliment it. I am also an avid supporter of small businesses and am always saddened when my favorite shops go out of business. It’s an epidemic in this country, and I fear that one day big superstores and online warehouse sites will be our only shopping option!

However, as the owner of an Equestrian Apparel and Tack store I know that not everyone shops like I do, and it is extremely important to carry a wide range of options for the riders who both want to save and to splurge. I also know how imperative it is to make each customer, no matter how big or small their budget, feel like they are being catered to and properly outfitted for every occasion. So I wanted to put together some more affordable options for all of my fellow equestrian fashion enthusiasts who want to look fabulous without breaking the bank!

Best Save on Breeches: Equine Couture. They are cut well with a good quality cotton micro blend fabric, and have fantastic detailing, making them fun and affordable. They come in a variety of colors, including hunter tan and jumper white, and are a great choice if you want a schooling breech with a little flair.

Best Save on Modern Wrap Show Shirt: Romfh Ratcatcher. This entire line is pretty fabulous for the price point. I love this show shirt because it has the great wrap snap collar, and the Drilex stretchy side panels which gives you a nice contoured shape and keeps you cool.

Best Save on Techie looking show helmet: Tipperary T2. This is a perfect alternative to the GPA SpeedAir if you like that sporty look and ventilation but you can’t justify spending over $500 on a helmet. Now I am definitely not one to skimp on money when it comes to protecting your head, but I own a Tipperary helmet myself. It meets all of the same safety requirements as the high end helmets, and also has the “unique drop back shell which cradles the skull, increasing protection area and supporting helmet retention and stability”. We had a customer a few years ago that bought a Tipperary for her first lesson, and unfortunately had a bad fall. The doctor told her the helmet saved her life! Just make sure when buying any helmet you go to a tack store that is well versed in how to properly fit your head.

Best Deal on Soft Shell Hunt Coat: Gersemi Idun. Ok so this coat is not exactly inexpensive at $450…but when compared to the Animo Coats which are double the price, they are a great deal! Plus they fit much better than some of the lower end soft shell stretchy coats and are significantly more chic.

Best tech Jump Polo: Horze Competition Shirt. This shirt has been a best seller since we picked up the line over a year ago. It is only $39.95 and looks just as good on as a Kingsland shirt which will run you well over $100.

Best Polo Shirts: Goode Rider. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this line. They make great, well, everything! Their price points are extremely reasonable for the high quality fabrics, fashion forward design details, and flattering cut of all of their riding apparel. The owners are women of course, and cater to what every equestrian girl wants to look like in and out of the saddle!

Find more great deals on Equestrian Fashion at www.lasaddlery.com

Why Not White!

I had a brilliant idea yesterday for an Equestrian Apparel Challenge…white breeches!

I have had a love affair with white breeches every since I was a little girl and fantasized about competing in my first dressage show.  White breeches were not something you purchased if you were not showing, so when my mom bought me my first pair of Pikeur full seat breeches for my Dressage debut at the Malibu Tennis and Riding Club, it was literally a dream come true. That was when full seat breeches were still made with real leather and you had to actually pull on your Frankenstein boots! 

Just like little boys who want to wear their Batman costumes to bed, to the park, to school, I wanted to wear my white breeches all the time. However, white pants on a child at the barn…not exactly an ideal combo.

To this day I still find myself wanting to buy every pair of white breeches we see at the trade show.  I love the way they look with a crisp white shirt, or sharp polo.  They are simply and subtly sexy but in a very classic Jackie O’ kind of way.  They look great with polo boots, cowboy boots, field boots, even cute wellies look chic when paired with the right pair of white breeches. 

 

Fortunately I remembered last night that I still had my white GPA breeches that I had worn as part of a Halloween costume last year. At approximately 10pm I started playing equestrian stylist with my wide collection of fashion boots, various tops, jackets, etc.  I found that my comfy white breeches looked good with everything from a simple striped Splendid shirt, to a bohemian Lucky blouse, and were particularly fantastic with an oversized belted cashmere sweater.

Unfortunately it was getting late, and my extremely weary eyed husband could not stay up any longer to take pictures of me in my best white breech outfit!  So sadly I don’t have any personal examples just yet, but I did compile a few pictures that I hope will inspire you to either style your own pair of white breeches, or give yourself a reason to finally buy some!

 

If you did want to purchase a great pair of white breeches to style, my personal suggestions would be Goode Rider (featured  in this blog with the black and white stripe tank and wellies), Pikeur Ciara, B//Vertigo Kimberly (featured in my first blog), or a new breech company Lo-Ride Equestrian which is shown below, that we now carry at LA Saddlery!

 

When researching white breeches I also came across some fabulous white equestrian boots and even…yes…a white Dressage saddle by Tekna!

 

As always don’t forget to check out www.lasaddlery.com for great deals on Equestrian Clothing! 

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: