Elegance Evolves

I seem to have helmets on my mind lately. (Helmets -> mind -> head? No? Well, at least I amuse myself.)

Last Thursday, I made a point of getting my paws on our iPad2 for the day so I could stream the sidesaddle division from Penn National. Back when I showed, we wore top hats for the flat and helmets over fences. In retrospect, duh. In my flimsy defense, I was always at the forefront of what was considered safe at the time. We have just gotten collectively smarter over the years. When the ASTM certifications came out, huntcaps were listed in catalogs as “Item of apparel only.” I had already stopped wearing them. Riding an OTTB helped with that decision. But I digress.

The Ladies Hunter Sidesaddle Under Saddle (non-jumping) class had five entries. Four wore standard plastic hardshells. In the interest of maintaining my helmet evangelist street cred, I will will only say that the helmets looked … practical. One woman had a black velvet, low-profile helmet with a fitted brown leather harness. I thought it looked just as lovely and elegant as a top hat.

It’s all what we are used to seeing. In another class, a rider had black stirrup irons. I imagine the idea was to blend,to not have the silver color stand out. However, I am so used to seeing that bit of shiny silver at the end of the rider’s leg that I don’t even notice it. The black irons drew my eye by omission. Where were her stirrups? Oh, there. I spent more time staring at her leg than I would have had she used standard stirrups. Similar tricks have been used for helmet harnesses. Clear plastic is supposed to be invisible, but sparkles in the light. Black straps are too much of one color in one place. Nylon is too sporty for traditional turnout. Simple brown leather straps fade into the background of all the other tack draped around the horse. In addition, her harness fit. It didn’t hang under her chin like a third jowl.

Progress doesn’t have to be ugly.

As I have said before, I love awards ceremonies, watching as well as riding in. For the Penn National classes, a friend with whom I used to show sidesaddle was the presenter. Cool.

Categories: Horse Shows, Horses

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5 replies »

  1. While the top hats do look elegant, there is ever so much more to be said in favor of the safety of a well-fitted helmet and harness. On the other hand, I draw the line at the bling that is currently in fashion. Rhinestone-studded stirrups and helmets? Thank you, no. Understated elegance is the way to go.

      • Bling started about the time the skunk-stripe helmet became fashionable (it was expensive in the extreme, and therefore fashionable). The pony riders who bought the helmets thought they were boring and unsightly (which they were) and so started ornamenting them with rhinestones over the stripe. At one point, they were using Swarovski crystals and the asking price was around $450 for a custom pattern (on top of the $450 for the helmet!).
        The dressage queens went from subtle crystal work on browbands to patterns on saddle pads to rhinestone studded stirrups and bit rings.
        The jumpers are now using those ridiculous flymasks for rhinestone patterns.
        Personally, I think that anything that detracts from the horse’s gleaming coat and performance is out of place. A spit-polished turn-out should be enough.

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