I am going to start this post by saying I love clothes. All kinds of clothes, and of course shoes and jewelry too. There is something about finding just the right outfit that makes the whole day seem better. Sometimes I even feel like Wonder Woman, at least until I spill coffee on myself. This love of clothes and the confidence that comes with also extends to horse show clothes, although I honestly don’t understand this latest trend towards attaching every possible piece of lace, bling, or feather one can find to a jacket. It looks like Micheal’s exploded on you. Anyway, when I was showing regularly, my mom would say “We may not win, but we’ll look good doing it…” and the confidence that comes with finding just the right horse show outfit is worth a bunch (although maybe not the 3 house payments that some showmanship jackets cost these days). But to be honest, that is where it ends. Truthfully, while clothes matter to exhibitors, they don’t really as much to judges as people think they do. I’d love to see people spend as much time riding and practicing patterns as they do choosing outfits and obsessing about what they are wearing. When people say “Those with the best clothes win.”, it’s usually because those with the best clothes have also spent a whole lot of time working with their horse and preparing for their classes.
As I’ve said before, once I started judging, I learned what horse showing really is all about, and tragically, just how little clothes matter to judges. Oh sure, judges want to see clean clothes that fit, and well shaped hats, but at most levels of showing, judges don’t have time to analyze every detail of your outfit. They have a horse, a pattern, and your effort as a team to look at, evaluate, and rank. Quickly. Horsemanship means a lot more than “just the right green (or blue, or red)”. Sorry folks. It’s just the truth. Besides, there are lots of male judges, and many (though not all) of them are fashion illiterate at best and red green colorblind at worst. (Sorry male judge friends).
The fashion fixation plays out in all kinds of interesting ways. Once after judging, I received a call from the individual who hired me, saying he had received a call from a tack shop owner. It seems that a young lady who had shown to me (and another judge) the previous weekend told her father that one of the judges said that she “didn’t place in western pleasure because she had snaps on her western shirt, and no bling.” Now it obviously worked out well for the tack shop owner, and the young person too, but really? REALLY? First of all, I can’t see whether your shirt has snaps, from across the pen through a haze of dust. Secondly, and most importantly, in western pleasure, I am focused on your horse…specifically, quality of movement, balance, topline etc. To paraphrase… “AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR SNAPS.”
In all honesty, I am not trying to discourage you from putting some effort into your clothing choices, and even money if you have some to spare for such things. I fully support the show clothing industry, and probably have paid for a sewing machine or Bedazzler somewhere along the way. Besides it’s part of the fun, and again, part of the confidence required to do the best you can in the show ring. All I ask is that you put as much time into your horse, as you do your show clothes.