The latest “controversy” going around social media the past few weeks has been the mega-scandal of burgundy coats in the hunter ring. I have to admit, reading all the comments on this one made my eyes roll around in my head a lot more than usual. The vitriol and passion that some people have about coat color is kind of astounding, when you consider the myriad of other issues in equestrian sport that are, IMO, massively more important and critical.
But if you waded through all those comments and arguments and opinions, it really all came down to one thing: tradition. The big argument against burgundy is that it wasn’t a traditional color – not one that you would see in the hunt field. Which is true… it would be a faux pas there. Other folks pointed out that we are far from being traditional these days anyway, so why not let people wear a coat that is still a relatively conservative color.
I was thinking about this more last weekend as we were getting ready to fox hunt. Especially as I donned my stock tie, and watched all the full members of the hunt put on their cubbing outfits with canary vests and green and brown tweed coats. Velvet helmets, black dress boots or brown field boots, horses with a traditional hunter clip (no legs clipped) or trace clip, banged tails, and flat bridles. Horses that were, while ultimately well-mannered, spicy and eager to get going, and easily leaping into a flat out gallop that could go for hours. Honestly, foxhunting bears a lot more resemblance to eventing these days than it does to the hunter ring.
But the h/j folks aren’t the only ones that have been talking a lot about the subject of traditional attire lately. Eventing and dressage have had the same types of dialogue, trying to find a balance between modern and traditional. With all the modern fabrics and changing demands and dynamics of the sport, many are ready to abandon tradition completely. Others cling to it as being vital to the soul of equestrianism. Every year it seems there are minor rule changes about what colors are allowed, or what embellishments, or what logos and how big they can be. Sometimes the rules get more lax, other times they get more stringent, like we can’t even decide amongst ourselves which direction we’re really going.
There are also those who believe that updating our apparel to something that looks a bit more in line with other sports will help our image as a whole. That part of why we get such a bad rap with the general public during events like the Olympics is because we look so different – elitist and unapproachable and… archaic. Not like what people generally think of when they picture an athlete.
So I’m curious – where do you stand on this? Do you think it’s vital to our sport to cling to more traditional attire, or are you in favor of giving equestrians a modern facelift and more freedom with their apparel?