The spring Equinox arrives March 20 and summer isn't far behind. So it's time to restock our closets with the season's latest fashions for showing, schooling, trail riding or just plain hanging out with friends. Who better to turn to for advice than the trend-spotting/setting buyers of California's top tack and apparel stores? We also checked in with a horse gear specialist to get the latest "fashions" in that function-oriented department. Here are their top picks:
Mia Melendez of Calabasas Saddlery.
Mia Melendez, customer service rep for Calabasas Saddlery in Calabasas
Part of the Calabasas crew for many years and a Foxfield rider and competitor for 18, Mia now has a more limited riding schedule: typically twice a week on a friend's horse. She and her fellow staffers are wired into the preferences of Calabasas customers, including many who get a call when something Mia knows they'll love comes in.
Mia's Top 3
- EIS Performance Shirt by Equi In Style, a relatively new company out of Florida. "This is a nice long sleeve shirt that you can ride in every day," Mia raves. "It comes in myriad colors and features the equivalent of SPF 50 sun protection in a high-tech fabric that the manufacturer says will reduce your body temperature by five degrees." This is achieved by Ice Fil®, a cooling factor embedded in the fabric and aided by movement-generated airflow and a mesh strip on the sleeve's underside. It's easy wash, quick dry and no shrinkage. Available in a stand-up, zip collar and made in America.
Beat the heat and protect against sun damage in the EIS Performance Shirt that Mia predicts will be a big hit with
- Pikeur Sportswear: "Really cute" polos and lightweight outerwear jackets are new for
- Grand Prix coats in Soft Shell & Techlite fabrics. Mia says these jackets epitomize the trend toward more technical fabrics in riding coats. All styles have a classic look but the stretchy, lightweight, cool Techlite or Soft Shell fabric makes them super comfortable. She describes the Soft Shell weight as a "nice, crisp fabric that still has some body to it." These waterproof coats are available in either a machine washable or a dry clean version. The Techlite coats are all machine washable and feature a nice drape and feel. Customizability is a hallmark of the Grand Prix line. Accent options include color piping on collar, pockets and front edge and Ultrasuede and satin on the collars and pocket flaps. Fit options accommodate many body types and preferences.
The Rylie Show Coat from Grand Prix is one of several styles available in cool, comfortable performance fabrics and
you can customize it any which way!
Ashley Matchett Woods of the Equestrian Concierge,
located at the Sonoma Horse Park.
Ashley Matchett Woods, owner/manager Equestrian Concierge in Sonoma
"Who do you ride with?" is often the first question a new customer gets when they enter Ashley's Equestrian Concierge shop at the Sonoma Horse Park. She and her staff know the preferences of most every hunter/jumper trainer throughout the Bay Area and beyond and can quickly direct their clients to their barn's preferred styles, colors and customized items. The trainers, in turn, count on her for cutting edge counsel on the latest show and schooling styles.
To see Ashley's picks in action, look for her "Outfitted by EQ" riders on the hunter/jumper circuit: John Wohr (Pessoa Mens); Chelsea Jones (Kingsland); Mike Gretton (PK Sportswear); and Meredith Herman (Grand Prix and Pikeur).
Ashley's Top 3
- PK International Sportswear: Ashley tests rides and test washes the apparel she carries and this new line from Holland earns high marks. "The company's position is great quality at reasonable prices," Ashley explains. She's particularly fond of their breeches, which feature a real leather suede seat, rather than the more common synthetic leather. Typically, that's cost prohibitive, but PK International has pulled it off in a leather that's durable, but thin enough to facilitate great feel and grip in the saddle, all the while conforming to Ashley's maxim: "If you post the trot, but your pants don't, that won't cut it." As more hunter/jumper riders adopt the full seat breech, that's going to be a key selling point for this line, she predicts.
These breeches from PK International Sportswear represent a new line that Ashley highly endorses.
- The Rodrigo Pessoa line: "I love this brand. It's very sporty, with European cuts and very technical fabrics." The color "waves" include black and vanilla for the "glam" look, and the Brazilian-hued bright blue, red, parrot green and black for the "sport." The line includes the stretch-fabric Bahia show shirt for women, which takes the wrap collar innovation one step further with tiny magnet collar closures. The men's show shirt uses the same high-tech Cool Max fabrics and elegant designs, giving the guys equal rights to high style in the saddle. Most men just wear a dress shirt to show in, Ashley notes, so Pessoa's latest is a big step up.
The Pessoa line's Bahia show shirt with magnetic closure on the wrap collar.
No more department store oxfords for the show ring, thanks to this Mens tailored offering from the Pessoa line.
- Grand Prix's show coats in Techlite fabric. "Lighter than ever!" (see above description.)
Sisters Heather Guercio, left, and Michelle Valentine, owners of Da Moor's in Glendale.
Heather Guercio & Michelle Valentine, co-owners of Da Moor's Feed & Tack in Glendale
Heather was a professional hunter/jumper trainer for 35-plus years before her family took over Da Moor's, which she and her sister Michelle purchased in 2010.
Heather & Michelle's Top 3
- Tailored Sportsman Trophy Hunter breeches. "This is a very flattering breech that fits nicely on everyone whether they are small or large," says Heather, who recommends the tan color to most customers. It's newly available in a soft, yet durable fabric that's more affordable than an earlier version. It's machine washable and has a pretty look and feel.
- Charles Owen's GR8 helmet. "This is a very traditional helmet that we recommend for show and schooling." As is the new trend, it's covered in microfiber that looks more like suede than the old-style velvet, which is now passé. It's priced in the middle range in the high $200s. "You usually only buy one or two helmets in
your lifetime," she comments. "This is worth that investment."
- TuffRider's Plaid Breech. "This is extremely affordable, fits very nicely and it's fun. It's nice to have something like this when you leave the barn and wind up at the grocery store." It's available in both knee patch and full-seat styles.
Tabitha Knaub and Renee Spurge, from LA Saddlery.
Photo credit Erpelding Photography
Renee Spurge, co-owner with Tabitha Knaub, of
LA Saddlery at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center
Renee and Tabitha are LA's go-to girls for the latest and greatest in equestrian fashion. A popular pair at the AETA in January, the partners returned brimming with enthusiasm over what's in store for this spring and summer. Noting that companies including Goode Rider, Pikeur and Kingsland can always be counted on for fantastic new clothes, Renee chose to focus on three relatively new lines that she's excited about.
Renee's Top 3 (and a half)
- Asmar Equestrian is a smaller, up and coming company based in Canada. Clean lines, sporty designs and great colors are the company's hallmarks. Asmar first got noticed with their signature piece, a long, all-weather riding coat. But it now includes several outerwear pieces, polo shirts, show coats and shadbellies. Stretchy, technical materials that move, breathe and look terrific are consistent across all categories.
Asmar Equestrian's drop dead gorgeous shadbelly is made of medium weight, two-way stretch suiting fabric. Weighted tails are one of many exquisite details.
The new Asmar Equestrian collection out of Canada is a favorite of LA Saddlery's Renee Spurge.
This colorful long-sleeve T is great for schooling.
- The Kentucky Riding Wear collection, popular with dressage riders, is one that hunter/jumpers should definitely check out, Renee urges. Her favorite piece is the Helli show coat. Like most of today's cutting edge competition wear, it's made of stretchy, high performance material that's super lightweight. Across the line, which includes shirts, coats and breeches, the designs are traditional, yet with a touch of fun and a bit of bling. Silver collar piping accents a charcoal colored coat, for example. Elsewhere, discreetly placed crystals, ribbons or lace create clothes that are "fashion forward, but still traditional."
Kentucky Riding Wear's Helli coats are part of a line hunter/jumper riders need to get hip on, LA Saddlery's Renee reports.
- The Verdugo line is another relative newcomer to the U.S. market. She's partial to their cute breeches and says the whole line is fun.
- The new tuxedo-style shirt from Cheval Fashions, the Shadow Matte helmet from Samshield, and the not-yet-available UVEX helmet from Germany that features a super sophisticated dial-fit system.
LA Saddlery celebrated its fourth anniversary in mid-February. Renee and Tabitha continue to be as innovative in marketing as they are in their buying. The store's new Flash Sale website enables subscribers to get hot deals on high-end fashions.
Marian Naumann of Mary's Tack & Feed.
Mary's Tack & Feed Western Buyer
A Mary's buyer for 11 years and a Trail, Horsemanship and Showmanship competitor, Marian is a fixture on the Southern California western scene. She loves seeing customers she's helped outfit at shows or at Clew's Horse Ranch in San Diego, where she trains with Liz Place Performance Horses. Recently returned from the Western English Sales Associates convention in Denver, Marian sees several trends emerging in western show and
Marian's Top 3
- A Little Less Bling: "The bling is never going to die," she laughs. "But we are seeing a trend toward a simpler look in the show pen." This is especially true in the Trail, Western Riding and Reining divisions. The super expensive custom, and even some ready-made, bling-laden show shirts are giving way to simple alternatives that resemble men's oxford-cloth button-downs, but with feminine tailoring and flair. "We are seeing these with a slightly shimmery fabric and/or a little embroidery down the back. That's what people are starting to ask for. It's almost like there's a backlash against the expensive bling, in favor of simpler and less expensive styles." She sees the trend at both ends of the sport: in kids-oriented riding clubs mandating plain white shirts for shows to top professionals opting to compete in simple designs. Shirts from Good Ride started this trend, and now most popular lines, including Hobby Horse, Cruel Girl and Roper, are offering them. Along with these simpler shirts come scarf styles worn more like a choker, tied with a neat knot at the neck. "Hair is neat as a pin," Marian says. "Hats are clean as a whistle." There is room for a little bling in an elegant earring or a gorgeous belt, she notes.
Marian of Mary's Tack & Feed says show shirts like this beauty from
Hobby Horse reflect a trend toward simpler,
less-blingy styles in some western divisions.
- Dresses Are Back! "I haven't been shown many dresses for several years," Marian says. "And those I saw were mostly sundressy—what young girls would want. But dresses are huge now, in denim, drapey jersey and cotton fabrics. Hemlines are often uneven: longer in the front and back and shorter on the sides, for example. The denim designs are perfect for crystal embellishments, and the flowing Bohemian styles, often in off-whites and ecrus, can be graced with delicate ribbons and flower patterns. They're all knee length and they all look best with just the right boot and belt. Belts, by the way, are back, too, and typically with more embroidery and fewer crystals.
- Forever Denim: "I don't know if the bling-pocketed jeans will every go by the wayside. That's still a very strong fashion statement." Faux flap pockets are in, but heavily studded back pockets are out because they tend to scratch up leather upholstery, not to mention saddles. Embroidery on the waistbands and pockets is in, along with asymmetrical, playful embellishments. "One pair of jeans has a sword handle on one pocket, and just the blade on the other!" All the big names have great jean lines: Ariat, Cowgirl Tuff and Wrangler to name just a few. And the Addicted line is a mainstream fashion brand that's won over the Western crowd thanks, in part, to its extra long lengths.
Ava Sandoval, western buyer and sales associate for Broken Horn Saddlery
in Baldwin Park.
A 24-year veteran of the western wear world, Ava has spent the last 14 at Broken Horn, which bills itself as the "West's largest tack store." She is most excited about this season's new jean colors. The blues, royal blues, yellows and greens several companies are rolling out will be big hits with her jeans-crazy customers, she predicts. "These jeans were out about 15 years ago and I am really excited that they are bringing them back," she says. Wrangler's various lines dominate Ava's picks. Their bottom-flattering Booty Up and Q-Baby jeans are the lines carrying the new great colors. Miss Me Jeans! and Wrangler's Rock 47 continue the trend of plenty of bling on the back pockets.
Lisa Moore, owner of
Whitehorse Tack in Paso Robles
Opened in 1985 and somewhat recently relocated from Templeton to a bigger location close to the Paso Robles Fairgrounds, Whitehorse emphasizes horse apparel, mostly the functional kind, over rider apparel. So we asked Lisa to tell us about the latest "fashions" in that category.
Woof Wear's Smart Tendon Boots are flexible under normal circumstances, but firm up on impact for maximum leg protection.
She's big on the season's new therapeutic and protective boots. Woof Wear offers front leg boots with new material that is flexible under normal circumstances but firms up on impact to protect the leg. Woof Wear's Smart Tendon Boot features Poron Xrd™ foam in the key strike area for "protection on demand." The boot is made of breathable neoprene on the inside, in a vented polyurethane shell with "fetlock locators incorporated in the ergonomic design," the company says.
She also likes Delmar's front leg boots, with a good force deflection system and cooling vents to counteract heat build-up that often occurs in neoprene boots. And the EquiFit line has a good shock absorption boot in a line featuring
Horseware Ireland's Ice Vibe boot is a favorite horse "fashion" of Whiteorse Tack's Lisa Moore.
For therapeutic boots, Lisa is impressed with the IceVibe from Horseware Ireland. The boot combines therapeutic ice cooling with battery-powered vibration. "It's very well put together," Lisa notes. The ice cells and battery housing are tucked away safely enough for horses to be turned out while wearing the IceVibe.
Lisa has always been a fan of the Micklem bitless bridles and is thrilled to see them gaining popularity among American riders in all disciplines. "They are designed to relieve pressure on the sensitive areas of the horse's head and are finally catching on," she says.
Myler's ever-growing collection of bits continues to impress Lisa, as does the proliferation of saddle pads with infinite adjustability through shims. Wool felt pads from 5-Star are among