October 2015 - Say Yes to the Dress – or Coat
Written by Cassidy Gallman
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 23:04
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A primer on the endless possibilities available in today’s dressage attire.

article and photos by Cassidy Gallman

Dressage shows are like your wedding day. This is a day you have prepared for and worked towards for months, years even. You have spent hours memorizing your vows.
Ahem…I mean, tests and rehearsing.

An adult rider at the Festival of Champions rocks a burgundy coat and boots.

You are also confident you have chosen the perfect partner to go down the aisle and halt at X with. We dream of this day for what seems like most of our lives and this includes what we will be wearing.

Crystals, pattern and color, oh my! The possibilities nowadays are endless. While the uniform is traditional in nature, there is no need for it to be restricting in fit or in style. You should love your ensemble even if you just wear it for one day, maybe two, every couple of months.

This fall, the trends have made it even easier for you to fall in love. However, coat shopping is a difficult and daunting process, especially if you are new to the sport. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Allison Hopkins 'goes for the gold' with coordinated accents on the collar of her Pikeur coat and on Windsor’s browband.

Begin with looking at your level.

If you are riding below Prix St. Georges (4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, or Training), you will want a short coat. If you are riding at or above Prix St. Georges and the FEI Young Rider level, you will want a tailcoat, also known as a shadbelly. The exception to this rule is the FEI Junior level. These riders have the choice between the two coats.

Set a clear budget.

Almost every brand on the market today offers ways to customize. Varied hues of blue, black, brown,and burgundy are becoming more and more popular. You can change the fabric of the collar, or the sparkles on the buttons. You can add silk piping and lace trim and even sequins, if that is what your equestrian fashionista heart desires. With the endless amount of custom options available, prices are nearly as varied. Setting a clear budget will help you keep your priorities reined in.

Find a comfortable fit.

Show fashion is more comfortable than it has ever been. Many equestrian fashion houses, such as Animo and Equiline, have designed specialty fabrics for improved range of motion and functionality for the rider.

For the rider of a shorter stature or for those who have no need for shoulder pads, such as myself, Animo may be the best fit. It has a subtle, stylish design while giving stretch to move. For the taller rider, Equiline, with its natural long lines and soft structure, is a good choice when looking off the rack.

Kingsland is another brand gaining momentum in America. Kingsland just recently added American rider and sensation Laura Graves to its impressive list of sponsored riders, which already included the likes of Olympic Gold medalist Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain. Good fit never goes out of style and a comfortable you is a happy you.

Mckenzie Milburn opts for subdued with a dash of dazzle in crystal-edged collar and shiny buttons on her Cavallo coat.

Express yourself.

You could even take your customization into your own hands. Allison Hopkins did just that and she could not be happier with the results. For her first year competing at the FEI Junior Level, she wanted something special. “I decided on a navy and gold theme! My show jacket is a navy Pikeur Softshell with a velvet gold collar,” she explains. “My mom found the gold velvet at a fabric store, and we had a removable collar made along with the same material lining the vent in the back.”

A little creativity can go a long way. To complete her outfit, Allison chose a navy Samshield helmet with a gold blazon in front. She even coordinated her theme with a perfect gold crystal Luminosity browband from Beast for her horse Windsor. The combo creates a strikingly fashionable pair and is a DIY success story.

Have your horse in mind.

Navy and black go with everything but certain colors can overwhelm or amplify certain horses. For a dainty mover, a bold color may be distracting.

FEI Pony rider, Mckenzie Milburn, decided on a subdued yet beautiful look for her handsome steed Darius. Mckenzie chose a navy Cavallo coat with a black velvet collar. The elegant look is even more glamorous with crystals lining the collar and adding shine to the buttons. “What drew me to it is how it just stands out a little bit but it is not too flashy,” Mckenzie said.

To add to the classy theme, Mckenzie chose a shiny pearl browband made by Arabella Equine Designs. The overall look is simple yet oh-so sophisticated. This makes you want to give this petite duo a second look. Sometimes less is more when it comes to your horse.

Most importantly, have fun!

Coat shopping should not be a stressful experience. Sadly, we do not get style points in our tests therefore there is no pressure for your style to be on point. If you are having trouble, focus on function over fashion. Trends will come and go, but the most important thing when it comes to your dressage fashion is your happiness.

All that is left for me to say is good luck and my fingers are crossed that you will say “yes” to the coat of your dreams.

Author Cassidy Gallman lives and rides in San Diego and is earning her marketing degree in college. She had a busy summer as a member of Region 7’s gold winning dressage team at the North American Junior Young Riders Championships, which she wrote about in our August issue. More recently, Cassidy and her longtime mount Grand Makana finished fourth in the National Young Riders Championships held in Kentucky, where she checked out the fashion choices shown here. Follow Cassidy on Instagram at @cassations.