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!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Corinna
    May 29, 2012 @ 21:44:26

    The way you discuss the technicality of that rule makes you sound like a lawyer! I esp. loved the way you pointed out that it says “should;” what does that word actually mean… suggestion or imperative? haha, I loved it! Wish I could have come into the store to vote!


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