March 2017 - Dress For The Part
Written by Lauren Billys
Monday, 27 February 2017 23:47
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Proper footwear, well-fitting clothes and no loose ends are critical to the right look and the right ride.

by Lauren Billys

When I first began riding, I started in a riding school with my best friends swimming the horses bareback down the local river, learning to barrel race, and competing in three-day eventing. It was the life!

We woke up every day, pulled on a pair of crazy men’s boxer shorts, laced up a pair of tennis shoes, and threw a pair of half chaps on top: this is how we dressed for our lessons!

Amidst our unique fashion statements, we had a clinic at the barn with a local FEI eventing rider and A-Rated Pony Clubber. When she arrived, we dressed as we normally would and went into the arena. To our surprise and complete bewilderment, she sent us back to the barn and told us we had to put on riding pants and proper boots to be in a lesson with her. We all scrambled into our coach’s home begging for breeches. Once we had drained her supply and traded the lone pair of tall boots for that day of lessons, my life changed a little bit. I began recognizing the functionality of equestrian wear and also the importance of dressing for an occasion.

We equestrians have a unique challenge. Although we spend much of our day mucking stalls, cleaning horses, scrubbing down tack and then riding, we must also dress appropriately for each ride. There are a few frequent environments we have to be ready to dress for: daily lessons, clinics and shows. Although these places have their own sets of requirements, many of the principles are the same. When in any of these scenarios, three things are crucial: proper footwear, well-fitting clothes and to eliminate any loose ends.

Proper footwear is a given when riding. Boots should always have working closures and be fitted completely. The zippers and buttons should work and should always be completely closed when riding. This keeps the boots from sliding down your leg throughout a ride and keeps your leg position more consistent on the saddle. There should be a heel on the boot; having a solid heel helps with using your leg on the horse. Boots should also be cleaned so there are no distractions when being taught.

Eye On Eventing: Columnist Lauren Billys contested the 2016 Olympics in Rio, on behalf of Puerto Rico, and has written about that remarkable experience for us since early 2016. She continues to compete and is accepting students and horses at Lauren Billys Eventing on the Monterey Peninsula. Visit for more info.

Showcase Your Posture

Well-fitting clothing is harder than it sounds. Wearing proper fitting clothing will raise the value of your lessons. When I enter a lesson and my rider has a baggy sweatshirt or a pair of jeans on, it is hard for me to assess their position. I struggle to properly see how they are using their back, how engaged they are in their core, or if their seat is sitting evenly in the saddle.

When clothing fits well, I can take into account posture and position into overall performance. So, in effect, in a lesson, clinic or show, it is important to make sure your clothes flatter you and are tailored to your body so that the clinician, coach and judge can evaluate your true posture.

Your clothes shouldn’t be a distraction, but a guide to helping the person watching you. Even stripes on a shirt that go at a diagonal can be a distraction for a clinician. I make sure if my shirt has stripes that the stripes only go up and down or horizontal. It is important to take these things into consideration when dressing for a lesson, clinic or show so that your true riding ability is showcased.  Also, wearing great clothes will make you feel your best. And as I always say, part of being the part is looking the part.

Lastly, I mentioned eliminating loose ends. I know this can sound a bit strange, but it is possibly the most distracting mistake. Loose hair, untucked shirts, loose belt ends, flapping shoelaces and tack pieces not in keepers can be a distraction to anyone watching. Hairnets are a necessary evil in everyday riding and showing. Make sure you take a final pass at the mirror before hopping on to ensure your stock-tie is inside your coat, your shirt is tucked in and your hair is out of the way. The rider should have a cleaned up appearance with all the ends of their clothing being tucked in and not movable. It not only makes for a better picture, but doesn’t distract from the natural rhythm and movement of your horse.

I only know these mistakes because I have done them all! No doubt my riding career has been full of learning experiences, but the best part about following these rules is that it can raise the standard during your lessons and show experiences. By eliminating distractions and feeling the part, your coach, clinician and judge can better access you as a rider to help you achieve more success in your riding goals.

Happy riding and happy dressing!