Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Dress for the Job You Want - Barn Edition

There are two types of people in the equestrian world. Those who don't care about the appearance of things, they just care about the horses, and those who care both about appearance and horses. Some might break this rule, but in general it is a common observation. The people who don't really care about appearance are the ones who show up to ride in any old clothes. The mindset is that it is the act of being at the barn that counts and the clothes shouldn't matter. The people who do care about appearance tend to hold the philosophy that professional dress is appropriate in riding, because it shows that they are serious about their sport.
Guess which type of person I am?
True confession time. Internally, I am 100% a person who thinks that barn appearance should not matter. The time spent with horses is the priority to me and if that means showing up in any old clothes, who cares! You're making the time with your horse and that is what truly counts. I have ridden in jeans, leggings, sweatpants, raggedy T-shirts, and even my professional work shirts on the occasions that I was too lazy to change.
Last year I totally just tried to get away with wearing whatever I wanted at the barn. This picture makes me cringe at everything, so enjoy!
That being said, the past year I've been trying really hard to change this about myself. I wear breeches or riding tights every time I'm at the barn (no more riding in jeans for me). For tops, I wear either a plain t-shirt or a sunshirt, almost always tucked in. I wear belts even though I actually kind of hate them. I wear tall boots for riding and tall rain boots when I'm not (Oregon life means rainboots all the time). I'm trying to follow the mantra "dress for the job you want," as it applies to barn life. My dream is to eventually be fully employed in the equestrian world, as a barn manager, barn owner, and/or trainer. Although dressing up won't necessarily get me one of those jobs, it does impact how other perceive me. I want others to see me as professional, organized, and a good rider. My clothes don't change my riding and training abilities, but they do influence the snap judgements that people might make of me.
How I dress at the barn now
Another factor that inspired me to dress more professionally at the barn, is that I am an employee at my barn. I am the assistant trainer and so my appearance is a direct reflection on my barn and my trainer. I feel that I should dress in a way that reflects well on my barn. If I weren't an employee at my barn, I might feel differently about this, but that's the reality of my life right now.

For the most part I don't mind dressing more professionally at the barn. I love clothes and so it's fun to me to dress up. BUT, and it's a big but, it frustrates me endlessly that this is yet another aspect of our sport that makes it out of reach for many people. Being around horses is expensive already, so when breeches cost around $100 on average (it's hard to find any under $50) and equestrian-designed shirts cost about the same, it makes it so that a lot of people can't even afford a basic riding outfit, yet alone multiple outfits or a spendy showing outfit. It probably seems ironic to be complaining about financial equity issues in a sport so obviously geared towards society's upper elite, but it is frustrating and sad in my opinion that the cost of our sport shuts so many people out of it. I have am highly educated and have a stable career job, but can barely afford my sport and know many others in the same position as me.
Dressing up for a jump ride
Thankfully, many companies seem to realize that there is a market for lower-priced equestrian clothing and attempt to fill that gap. Tuffrider, Ovation, and Horze are just a few brands who try to appeal for people like me. People who want to look the part, but can't afford to blow hundreds of dollars on clothing. It is possible to dress the part if you are on a budget, I know because that's my life.
Last year this was my formal riding outfit. It's not terrible, but now I'd tuck in the shirt. Also I hate half chaps with a burning passion now.
Question for you: How do you dress when you go to the barn? What determines what you decide to wear?


  1. personally, i think good horsemanship is good horsemanship, and good horsemanship speaks for itself. the trendiest, most expensive, or most on-point rootd won't distract from poor riding or make the horse go any better. it can even have the opposite effect - like when a rider and horse are dressed to the 9s but are kinda a mess in the actual work.... it's easy for an onlooker to think that the money spent on attire or fancy tack could have been better spent on training and lessons lol.

    obvi the flip side is that perceptions *do* matter, as you say, and a lot of ppl will make snap decisions based on appearances. appropriate, tidy and functional rider attire can be the difference maker in being taken seriously, whether that's fair or not. tho i draw the line at always tucking my shirt in haha ;)

    1. I definitely agree with you when you say "good horsemanship is good horsemanship," like I said in my post, I 100% agree that appearance shouldn't matter. I also see people who care too much about how they look instead of how they are riding and it is really frustrating to observe.

      That being said, I work at my barn and so that's why I personally am trying to take more care with my appearance.

      I don't fault you for not wanting to tuck your shirt in though, it's a pain in the butt :)

  2. I used to not care about my dress a lot too, and it was mainly because we were on our own property, horsemanship and horse care came first and our trainer is very low key. When the housing market crashed and the lease on the land was taken out from us we had to move to a larger boarding facility with some really big name trainers. Then I started caring about how I dressed because I realized a lot of people judge books by their covers and I was a representation of my trainer's business. I'm still at a boarding facility that's large but I still try and keep a tidy appearance even if my shirt isn't tucked in lol

    1. Yeah, where you board definitely makes a difference. I'd say at my barn most people dress nice casual, so I'm maybe just a touch more formal/professional than the average rider. But again, I work there so that's why I try to dress that way. At my last barn, people would just show up to ride in whatever they happened to have on and so I adopted that attitude as well while I was there.