Seven Great Horse and Rider Makeovers

Seven riders--and their horses--find the fashion fixes to put them on the road to riding success in these Everything For Horse & Rider makeovers.

Keeping the Faith

A minister, who helps troubled kids, seeks comfort on the trail.

Ken Morris, 43
Trail Riding
Minister, Paron, Ark.

The Challenge
Ken lives in central Arkansas next to a forest with hundreds of miles of trails and logging roads. With such open spaces in his own backyard, he and his Appaloosa/Mustang mare spend a lot of time on the trail together. “There’s a type of freedom you can only get while on horseback and a type of friendship that can only be had from a horse,” he explained.

Before: Ken Morris at home on the trail |

Ken wants his mare to be more comfortable when they are out on the trail. The problem is the saddle, which Ken picked up cheaply when his original saddle broke beyond repair. The fit is poor for both horse and rider so they go bareback at times. Ken, who has been riding for about four years, also wants to improve his riding skills and be better able to communicate with his horse.

In his spare time, Ken teaches kids how to handle life’s troubles using the lessons they learn while on his horses. “We all have a blast and learn something every time. And best of all, the kids and their folks never need pay a dime (most of them can’t afford to). The payoff comes to me in the form of what happens to kids and their grades in school after they’ve been on horseback a couple days a week. There’s nothing like seeing a kid learn to ride for the first time,” said Ken.

The Analysis
Western product expert and trainer Abigail South comments:

I would suggest Ken see if there is a natural horsemanship trainer in his area to help him learn some interesting ways to communicate with his horse. Natural horsemanship teaches how to be sensitive not only with your hands and legs, but also with your eyes. This will also, I think, pay off with the kids that he helps.

Saddle fit is one of the most important aspects of Ken’s makeover as he doesn’t want his mare relating riding to pain. It looks like his horse has a short wide back, so I would suggest looking for a saddle with a full Quarter Horse bar and minimal skirting, like a cowboy cut or round skirt. I can’t suggest an exact saddle, as it’s a matching game between saddle and horse, however, Cactus Saddlery saddles tend to be a generous fit and Tucker Saddlery has a wide range of fits to accommodate most horses.

Next I would recommend Ken use a good quality wool felt contoured pad. The thickness of the pad will depend on the saddle and its fit to the horse. For example, putting a thick 1- to 1 1/2-inch pad would worsen the fit if the saddle is too narrow. My favorite brands of wool felt pads are Todd Slone, Classic Equine and 5 Star Pads.

I see from the photos that Ken’s own riding gear ranges from camouflage pants, to casual wear to work boots. Though he didn’t ask about anything for himself, he will find that riding can be much more comfortable with a few simple changes. Nothing beats a good quality pair of jeans when riding Western. I find the slimmest cut you can stand has the least amount of rubbing or pinching in the saddle. Also a good pair of Roper-style riding boots is almost a must when riding in a Western saddle. Laces can be a safety concern as they can get caught up in the stirrup, resulting in the rider being dragged in the event of a fall. Roper boots will pull off and free the rider. Also having a smooth edge around the outside sole of the boot helps get the foot out of the stirrup in the event of an emergency.

If Ken goes down the natural horsemanship path in his training, the first piece of equipment he’ll need is a good rope halter and 14′ lead preferably without a snap.

The Makeover
Saddle Pad: Todd Slone Square Felt Saddle Pad. Made of wool for comfort and shock absorption, these pads are contoured to fit the horse’s back and built in two pieces to relieve spinal pressure. No other pads are necessary, which improves saddle fit. $174.95

Classic Equine SensorFlex Saddle Pad. New Zealand wool blanket with heavy wool felt for shock absorption. Ultra soft, heavy fleece bottom for comfort and moisture wicking. $104.95

Boots: Justin Tekno Crepe? Western Boots are light and flexible. $189.95

Rope Halter: Buck Brannaman Halter by Double Diamond, 6mm diameter nylon core with nylon cover. Knot end of the tail lets you slip halter on over the head without untying. $24.95

Leg Up on Competition

Leg solutions needed for both rider and horse

Jodie Pedersen, 25
AQHA Showmanship, Hunt Seat, Team Penning
Vet student, Narwood, N.D.

Before: Jodie Pedersen and Duke in hunt seat attire |

The Challenge
Jodie and her Quarter Horse gelding, Duke, compete in showmanship and hunt seat, and eventually would like to become consistent enough to do AQHA breed shows. For her hunt seat presentation, Jodie’s big problem is finding breeches and boots to fit her legs. With a 36″ inseam, wide calves and a 7 1/2 shoe size, she is a “true tall wide.” She also needs help finding breeches wide enough around the calves to fit comfortably and be well-styled and flattering for the show ring.

Duke also has a leg issue–he is sensitive to neoprene, a material often used in the manufacture of boots. Jodie has a hard time finding good turnout boots that don’t irritate Duke’s skin and that will withstand his attempts to remove them.

“Just being with horses is a stress reliever; it allows the craziness of the day to leave and you just focus on the perfect trot over a log or whatever you are working on that day,” said Jodie. “I can also say there isn’t anything quite like chasing a cow down to the pen and raising your hand. It’s hard work and more often than not, you come up empty handed. But that one time you get them in the pen makes it all worth it.”

Before: Jodie and Duke dressed for showmanship |

The Analysis
Western expert Suzi Drnec has some tips to help Jodie improve her showmanship presentation:

Jodie and her gray gelding make a handsome couple. Although she is not yet showing at AQHA shows, she shows good instinct for making a memorable impression with her horse in the showmanship. Black can be ordinary on bay or sorrel horses, but it becomes much more interesting with a horse like Duke. Jodie has chosen to mirror his black and white color theme in her own wardrobe, to good effect.

Although it’s hard to tell from the snapshot, it looks like she has black jeans and a black cotton western shirt with white embroidery–a suitable look for unrated shows. I would suggest that Jodie be sure that her blouse and pants are well-starched to create a crisp impression in the arena, and she also may want to put her hair in a bun for showmanship, if time permits–it’s a little more formal look.

The one apparel change I would consider for Jodie at this level of competition is using a white or almost-white hat. You’ll note her black hat, while correct, casts a harsh shadow over her face. If she could find a nice white hat, or perhaps platinum shade, it would blend with Duke’s lighter coloring and present a lighter/brighter/taller impression. I can see Jodie’s confident smile under the black hat, but a light hat would frame that winning look in a dramatic way.

As to Duke, Jodie might like his mane less blunt-cut. She could ask an experienced bander to show her how to use sharp scissors to nip upwards on the banded sections to take the blunt look off the bottom edge of his mane. At AQHA shows, she’d need to consider highlighting his black points, and working on that white tail, but his turnout is acceptable for open shows. Duke’s halter is a quality one, and is well-fitted with the chain properly attached.

Unless Jodie wants to invest in much more expensive apparel, which she’d probably need to consider for AQHA competition, I think she’s done a great job to make she and Duke look like a winning combination

English product expert Amy Hamlet recommends:

Jodie’s overall presentation for hunt seat looks good and her show coat fits well. She is wearing a good helmet with her hair neatly put up and her tack matches well. From the picture, it appears that Jodie’s tall boots are too short. Because tall boots can be very difficult to fit, I would suggest she have someone measure her correctly, either a friend or a tack shop associate. Once she gets a correct measurement, she can use the size charts for the different brands to find the proper fit. Most brands offer wide calf and different heights. The Devon Aire USPC Zip Back Field Boots offer a broad size chart, $84.70. For the next tier up, I’d suggest the Ariat Heritage II, $239.90. For a polished look in the ring, I’d suggest a pair of black leather show gloves, such as SSG Pro Show glove, $17.90.

To work around Duke’s neoprene sensitivity, Western product expert Abigail South recommends Jodie try one of the following options for turnout and schooling. The Galemba Protector Boot is a leather splint boot with a foam inside cushion, available both in front and hind boot styles in splint, sesamoid splint and skid boots, $76.95-$99. Pro Equine’s Featherlite Splint boot has a vinyl shell outer and EVA foam inner, $27.95. Depending just how sensitive Duke is to neoprene, I also would try Classic Equine’s Pro-Tech boots, $47.95. They have a nylon outer, perforated neoprene middle, Jersey knit inner, which lies next to the leg, and molded hard shells on the outside to protect the splint and fetlock areas against strikes.

New and Improved

Updating a retro 1970s horsewoman

Nina Voris Swain, 49
Hunt Seat, Dressage
Riding Instructor, Trail Boss, Houston, Mo.

Before: Nina Swain ready for an update |

The Challenge
Nina, a rider comfortable both in dressage and hunt seat, says she feels like a relic. She still wears her riding clothes from the 1970s, including the rust-colored breeches popular then and a real velvet hard hat with no chin strap. Her navy jacket feels snug as she has muscled out through the shoulder area over the years. She wears the boots her mother gave her when she was 16 (she’s now 49!), and even has a ratcatcher and the choker with pin. She has two specific problems: matching mismatched tack (a black saddle and a brown bridle) and finding boots or boot substitute that will be comfortable for her ankle, which was broken earlier this year.

Her current riding goal is to pass Levels 2 and 3 in the “Parelli Horse-Man-Ship” course she is studying when she finds time between caring for two teenage children and six horses.

The Analysis
Because Nina rides both dressage and hunt seat, we asked our dressage and hunter/jumper experts to weigh in on this makeover.

Dressage expert Kristina Harrison-Naness comments:

Since Nina is interested in updating her show attire, we’ll focus on that, starting from the top down.

Nina’s “decorative” helmet should be replaced with an ASTM-certified safety helmet, and they do come in real black velvet, very suitable for shows. Her navy jacket looks fine to me, but if it’s too tight and restrictive in the shoulder area, perhaps she should consider replacing it.

Now–the choker. I have to admit, I haven’t seen one of those in a long time! For dressage a white stock tie is a must, nicely tied and pinned. The rust breeches need to be replaced with either a white or champagne colored pair if Nina wants to look up-to-date and professional. Whichever color Nina chooses, she should make sure that her saddle pad, gloves and stock tie are of the same shade.

Saddle and bridle should match, ideally, but if a new bridle isn’t possible, Nina can have her brown bridle dyed black to match her saddle. Her saddle pad should be square and either white or champagne.

As a dressage rider, I ride in very stiff boots, as do my students. With Nina’s old ankle injury still bothering her though, I wonder if she’d be more comfortable in the softer type of boots that hunter-jumper riders wear. Unfortunately, half-chaps aren’t permitted in the show ring under USEF rules, but they might be a solution for schooling days.

It goes without saying that horse and rider should be immaculate before turning down the centerline. Judges are human, and like to see that a rider has put some effort into their turnout–it’s a matter of respect.

For Nina’s hunter turnout, hunter/jumper trainer Alan Lohman comments:

Rust britches aren’t considered “in” much anymore, though some people are hoping for a comeback. For hunters, I’d suggest Nina try to stick to beige or khaki green-colored breeches (Ariat/Tailored Sportmans). For the show shirt and choker should match in fabric and pattern. Having her initials monogrammed in an appropriate thread color on the choker is a nice touch. She will need an ASTM-SEI approved helmet (Charles Owens/GPA).

Nina’s boots are about 4″ too low. For a lovely line, I like show boots to hit right behind the knee cap. Thankfully there are a number of manufacturers making many types of boots these days that look as good as customs and are available right off the rack. (Der Daus, Ariat)

For the show ring, this chestnut horse’s white socks should be clipped with size 10 blades. This will make them look whiter. A good scrubbing with QuicSilver right before he shows will brighten them up. No feathers on the pasterns in the hunter ring.

While there is nothing wrong with a Pelham bit and double reins in the hunter ring, it would be nice if she could use a full cheek or D-ring bit and a single rein. To some judges, if a heavy horse comes in the ring with a Pelham, they are automatically expecting a run-away train. Also, for rated divisions, a nicely pulled and braided and braided mane will complete the look.

English product expert Amy Hamlet recommends:

Nina’s outfit appears to fit nicely but as she is interested in some new updates, we would suggest the following products. For the breeches, we’ve included suggestions for both dressage and hunt seat.

Helmet: It appears that Nina is not wearing an SEI approved helmet. I would suggest an IRH ATH velveteen helmet, which offers a comfort in rich durable velveteen with a dial fit system to assure the right fit, front ventilation for cool comfort. $89.90

Jacket: R. J. Classics offer a variety of jackets at different price points and coordinating shirts. The Prestige Show Coat is 100% wool with a coordinated lining. It comes in brown plaid, grey plaid or navy plaid, which are all very popular. It coordinates with the 100% cotton Prestige Show Shirt available in pink/blue/white check or a blue/yellow/white stripe. $65.90.

Breeches: For dressage: Riding Sport? High Waist Full Seat Riding Breeches with European-style high waistband. With Lycra? for comfort and Clarino? full seat. In white, black, fawn or smoke. Regular or long. $79.80. For hunt seat: Riding Sport Side Zip breeches have the green-beige color popular in the show ring. They have belt loops and hook and loop closures at the bottom for an adjustable fit. $89.90.

Boots: Ariat Heritage II tall boot offers a large size chart so Nina can get a close fit. The soft supple cowhide, back zipper for easy on and off, and cushioning support should be a good match for Nina’s ankle. $239.90. For a more premium boot, we would suggest the Ariat Challenge, which again comes in a wide range of sizes. $359.90.

Finding the Fit

New mom needs comfortable riding clothes while she loses weight

Darcy West, 40
Healthcare Project Manager, Littleton, Colo.

Before: Darcy West and Poet back to work |

The Challenge
Since having a baby, Darcy’s life has changed a lot. Not only is she fitting work, family and horses into a busy schedule, but also she is struggling to lose the weight gained with her pregnancy. The sad realization that her beloved Dutch Warmblood mare was just too much horse for her at this point in her life, she made the difficult decision to sell her. “She is high powered and very athletic and I’m an overweight, time-constrained new mom–not a good combination,” explained Darcy. Then, she was given a rehabilitation project, a 17-year-old Oldenburg gelding, who had suffered an injury to his hind suspensory.

Darcy would like to find comfortable, attractive riding clothes to wear while she works on her weight and fitness. And, because she has some fear issues, she’d like advice on good safety equipment. Her rehab gelding, Poet, is coming back into work after six months of stall rest, and Darcy thinks he may need some help with pads as his back develops.

“My husband and I are older first-time parents and it has really been a balancing act with a young child, work, riding for me and golf for my husband,” she said. Darcy rides with a trainer to improve her fitness (lots of sitting trot!), and to work on her aids and flying changes, all while dealing with confidence and fear issues. Darcy has always loved horses and riding, but now has a greater appreciation of its importance for her mental and physical health. “When I’m at the barn, I’m not a wife or mother, I am a rider,” she said.

The Analysis
Dressage expert Kristina Harrison-Naness comments:
Darcy mentions safety as a concern, and as a mother myself, I know how important this becomes. Therefore, I think an ASTM-certified safety helmet should be first on her shopping list. I would choose a good quality black one that will work for everyday training and clinics as well as showing.

Nice quality breeches are worth the investment, in my opinion, even more so when you’re self-conscious about your weight. Trying on different styles and fabric weights with a knowledgeable salesperson can help Darcy to settle on a pair that will flatter while lasting a long time. Pikeurs can be pricey, but the quality pays off in the long run. I prefer flat fronts as opposed to pleats, since they offer a more elegant look. For everyday riding and lessons, a monochromatic outfit in a darker shade will slim and flatter her.

Darcy doesn’t have to spend a fortune on tops to look great. A nice tailored shirt or polo is always a good choice and these can be found at discount retailers everywhere. She shouldn’t be afraid to tuck the shirt in for a polished look. Neatness and cleanliness will help her look confident and capable.

I prefer a square white pad for dressage. It’s elegant, simple, and flatters every horse. Fleeceworks makes one that has removable sheepskin pads against the horse’s back that might help with Poet’s comfort until a new saddle purchase becomes feasible.

I’d like to see Darcy in a nice pair of tall boots that would elongate her leg, as her current choice of legwear is not the most flattering, although it is safe and serviceable.

Poet is a handsome gelding and rehabilitating a horse is a lot of work, but the rewards can be incredible. I would suggest a joint supplement such as Reitsport for any older horse, most especially one recuperating from an injury.

English product experts Patricia Nesto and Amy Hamlet recommend:

Helmet: We would suggest a riding helmet that is SEI Approved, either a traditional velvet helmet such as Troxel’s Grand Prix Classic, $89.90, or a schooling style such as the IRH Equi-Lite helmet, $27.90.

Breeches: Irideon Cadence Stretch Cord Full Seats Breeches are very comfortable and flattering. They come in a variety of colors and go up to larger sizes. $107.90.

Top: You could coordinate a technical Irideon Dri Silk tee, $47.90, or Kinetic tee, $37.90, that would complement the outfit. Irideon offers technical fabrics often borrowed from athletic clothing.

Pad: You may want to consider using a sheepskin basic pad, such as a Mattes pad while Poet is redeveloping his body. They provide padding and have natural wicking properties as well so it should make him comfortable (think sheepskin-lined slippers!).

Saddle: Once you feel Poet has reached his fitness level, contact a saddle fitter to address specific fit issues. As he is in the process of coming back after six months of stall rest, it would be difficult to assess fit until his muscles redevelop. Many tack shops offer demo saddles for you to try on your horse without obligation to buy.

Trail of Dreams

Loving the trail, but dreaming of barrels

Deborah Splawn, 48
Trail Riding, Barrel Racing
Dental Assistant, Blair, Okla.

Before: Deborah Splawn and Tucker on the trail |

The Challenge
Deborah has had her Quarter Horse, Tucker, for about a year and a half, and she takes every opportunity to saddle him up for a trail ride whether it’s a short one-mile outing or a 15-mile adventure. But her real goal is to barrel race at play days once she feels secure in the saddle. She finds Tucker’s gait is so choppy she’s reluctant to let him get up his speed for fear of coming off the saddle. While we can’t help Deborah this time in the training department, we can help her find appropriate Western clothing for safety and comfort in the saddle.

As she is new to horse ownership, Deborah says she has a lot to learn. She takes every opportunity to build her knowledge, including attending a very helpful and enjoyable Clinton Anderson desensitizing clinic, which she watched from the audience.

“I am a 47-year-old woman and I have wanted a horse since I can remember. My husband said that if he had known Tucker would make me this happy, he would have gotten me a horse years ago. Tucker is the best stress reducer you could ever have. I can’t wait to get off work to just go feed him or brush him or just spend time with him,” said Deborah.

The Analysis
Western product expert and trainer Abigail South comments:

First of all, Deborah should have patience with herself! She’s ONLY been riding 18 months! It’s great that she is comfortable loping barrels. The choppiness in the canter can be a number of things: most probably Tucker needs some help learning to balance himself better, or if Deborah gets really tense/tight, it can really work against the two of them feeling as one. I would suggest she look around for a local trainer, who can evaluate the two of them and help them work through any issues that may arise. As she likes Clinton Anderson’s style, she might be able to find someone in her area who has apprenticed with him. If not, she could try looking for a natural horsemanship trainer; they will have similar approaches to solving problems as Clinton.

Deborah should consider getting a good pair of boots without too much tread on the bottom. The outside edge around the sole should be smooth so that if she is in trouble her foot can come out of the stirrup.

It also looks like she would benefit from a longer pair of jeans so that she doesn’t get any pinching (remember to stretch those heels down).

From her picture, I can’t tell what kind of mouth piece is on the bit but it looks like a regular snaffle mouth. Deborah may want to try a combo bit that also has a piece running over the nose as another pressure point for those times when Tucker wants to race off. Some suitable choices are the Martha Josey Million Dollar bit, Reinsman Ring Combo Hackamore bit, or Reinsman Short Shank Ultra Correction Bit.

If Deborah chooses to go with a natural horseman trainer, however, she may be encouraged to use a simple snaffle bit with a cheek of their preference (generally D-ring or eggbutt).

An approved helmet may also help reduce her worry about going fast. Troxel has a few out that are geared more for the Western rider, like the Cheyenne and the Sierra.

The Makeover
Boots: Ariat? Ladies’ Cobalt XR Pro Western Boots with a breathable, anti-microbial liner and low friction surface. Colors: taupe/rose, chestnut/denim. $189.95.

Jeans: Cruel Girl? Georgia Jeans with Stretch in medium stonewash. Available in slim or relaxed fit. $54.95.

Helmet: Troxel Sierra Riding Helmet, lightweight and well ventilated. Ponytail compatible. Available in black and tan. ASTM F-1163-04a/SEI Certified. $99.95.

Bits: Martha Josey Million Dollar Bit, a 3-piece dog bone snaffle with rope nose. $42.95; Reinsman? Short Shank Ultra Correction Bit with a shorter shank for horses that don’t require as much leverage to maintain control. $87.95; Reinsman? Ring Combo Rope Nose Hackamore, 3-piece sweet iron twisted wire with dog bone snaffle. $62.95.

Making it Work

A working wardrobe for a multi-disciplined rider

Brittany Pratt, 34
Western pleasure and lots more!
Office manager, Bremerton, Wash.

Before: Brittany Pratt and Misha schooling |

The Challenge
Brittany needs help finding a good riding ensemble that is conducive to a comfortable ride whether practicing at home or competing in a schooling show. This is a bigger challenge than it may appear as Brittany is trying a number of different disciplines to see what works best for both her and Misha, her National Show Horse mare. She wants to learn the fundamentals of riding and build her relationship with her horse, regardless of discipline. She enjoys everything that brings them together–trail riding, Western pleasure, hunter/jumper and dressage, and even sees saddle seat in her future.

Brittany tends to ride in whatever clothes she grabs in the morning, which, she says, does not necessarily help with her seat when she is trying to grip in the canter! Her coat, while it keeps her warm, is not very riding friendly. Now that she is showing, she needs advice on how to keep her white and gray pinto mare spotless in the ring.

“Being a Navy brat, I was never in a position to own a horse. I always dreamed of riding dressage because of its grace, and dreamed of all those lovely rides on the beach, and in the mountains and fields, and feeling the freedom that horses give you. Now in my new role as a horse mom, I am finding joy in spending time with horses. Fortunately, my husband is very supportive as I find that I am at the stables with Misha pretty much every day!” said Brittany.

The Analysis
Western product expert and trainer Abigail South comments:

I applaud Brittany for searching to find what discipline works best for both of them and not forcing one on her horse that she doesn’t like. By the way–Brittany shouldn’t rule out the dressage she’s dreamed about–National Show Horses can do it!

As Brittany hasn’t chosen her discipline yet, I can’t really suggest riding attire for schooling shows. That would depend on what type of show she goes to. However, which ever type it is, a neat and clean turnout is a must!

For all the white on Misha, there are a variety of products on the market to try. I tend to go back to Orvis Paste; it’s economical and works on cleaning a lot more than just your horse. Also I was very impressed with Horse Senses “White Knight” shampoo. It left my horses clean and soft.

I would suggest adapting your attire to the type of riding you plan to do that day–English or Western.

For schooling English, try a good pair of schooling breeches or tights depending on how hot it is outside (tights tend to be cooler). For schooling breeches, I would suggest checking out Riding Sport’s line of breeches; they should have a pair to match Brittany’s style and body type. For tights, both Irideon and Kerrits have super stretchy and comfortable styles.

There are some great tops available in technical fabrics that wick away moisture for hot weather riding and are great for layering in cold weather. I can’t tell what type of footwear Brittany is wearing, but I find Ariat paddock boots with a pair of Ariat all-around half chaps are very comfortable.

For Western schooling, I would suggest a heavy weight pair of jeans with a longer inseam than Brittany might normally wear. Cruel Girl has a Dakota Jean that is designed for riding. To prevent chaffing, I suggest Brittany invest in a pair of chaps. Hobby Horse offers chaps with PMS (Personal Magic Sizing) technology that have some stretch to them for those days one may feel bloated.

Brittany is smart to keep her shirt tucked in (or wear a short shirt) so it doesn’t get stuck under her while she ride. I find technical fabrics worth the money as they are versatile.

For footwear, I would recommend Roper-style boots with a smooth sole, rather than an overabundance of tread, and no laces. You want your foot to be able to come out of your boot if you should get hung up in the stirrup! Ariat and Justin both have some nice boots to choose from.

For a heavy winter jacket, I would try Mountain Horse’s original winter jacket. The snaps in the back can be unfastened to create a flap so the back of the jacket doesn’t get caught up on the back of the saddle.

The Makeover
Shampoo: Double K Horse Sense White Knight Horse Shampoo, which cleans, conditions and brightens. $10.90.

Breeches: Riding Sport? Traditional Knee Patch Riding Breeches are perfect for show or schooling. With lycra? for a comfortable fit, and a traditional cut with a flat, zip front. $49.90.

Top: Riding Sport? Technical Polo Shirt, a classic polo with updated technology to allow for a better range of motion while riding. In lilac, rose or blue; sizes XS to XL, $29.90.

Tights: Irideon? Issential? Riding Tights with four-way stretch. In charcoal, black, midnight, dark mocha, dark sage or willow; sizes S to 3X. $63.70. Kerrits? Performance Riding Tights are lightweight, breathable and ideal for rigorous riding. In black, tan, pacific, stone, petal houndstooth or pacific houndstooth; sizes S to 2X. $39.99.

Boots: Ariat? Cobalt-XR Performer Pro Paddock Boots provide stability, cushioning and flexibility, plus a moisture-wicking sock liner keeps feet dry. $179.90

Half Chaps: Ariat All-Around II Half Chaps are made of waterproof suede with stretch for good fit and feature a slightly higher Spanish top. $89.90

Chaps: Hobby Horse PMS Leather Chaps (Personal Magic Sizing!) Split leather fringed chaps have elastic down the inside of the leg for a comfortable fit, and the sueded leather offers a firm “grip” in the saddle. $199.95.

Jeans: Cruel Girl? Arena Fit Dakota Riding Jeans have a stylish low rise fit and vista leg with boot cut that fits over boots. Slim or relaxed. $52.95.

Jacket: The Original Mountain Horse? Rocky Ridge Winter Jacket will stand up to winter conditions, and includes many rider-friendly features: detachable hood, 2-way zipper with wind flap, reversible reflective material on sleeves and lots of pockets. Colors: black/indigo, hunter/gold, navy/silver/gray. $179.90.

Boots: Justin Boots Ladies’ Tekno Crepe Black Westerner are light, flexible and are a good choice for the high-performance horseman in the arena. $189.95.

Dressage Diva

Dancing down the center line in style

Nancy Trait-Lira, 54
Dance instructor, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Harrah, Okla.

Before: Nancy Trait-Lira and Katie hard at work |

The Challenge
Nancy is preparing to enter her first dressage show and wants to make sure the judge focuses on her performance, not her turnout. She would like her attire to be correct, look good and be as easy as possible to wear and maintain. Nancy has been in theatre-performance mode for a long time and would like to make things easier on herself all the way around. She’s pieced together an outfit of white full seat breeches, a white shirt with tie, white gloves and a Troxel helmet with a black velvet cover for showing. She has borrowed tall field boots and a show coat.

Tack-wise she’s in good shape with a Wintec Isabell saddle, leather girth and bridle, and saddle pad. But preparing Katie, her Rheinland Phalz-Saar pinto, for the show ring is another story. After rolling in the red Oklahoma dirt, Katie requires multiple baths to clean the white parts of her coat. Nancy needs an easy clean-up routine to get Katie bright white and show-ready.

“I’m a novice rider just getting into dressage and jumping. I have been riding for five years and didn’t start until I bought my first horse in 2001 at 48 years young! My goal is to enjoy myself and my horses as much as possible, and to compete in dressage and maybe some hunter shows,” said Nancy.

The Analysis
Dressage expert Kristina Harrison-Naness comments:

As a dance instructor, Nancy knows how much impact a good visual impression can make. I can offer some suggestions to help her present herself and her lovely mare at their best, both for lessons and clinics as well as shows.

Nancy acknowledges that her mare, Katie, could be cleaner. For clinics and shows, I would recommend using a shampoo made especially for white horses, such as QuicSilver. These shampoos are equally effective for any color of horse. She’ll need to experiment a bit to make sure she doesn’t overdo and turn her mare temporarily blue. There are also spot touch up products that do a great job when bathing isn’t practical.

I would like to see this flashy mare wearing protective brushing boots for schooling. I see an interesting combination of red and green bell boots. Was this photo taken during the holidays?

All kidding aside, while protective boots aren’t allowed in the show arena itself, I recommend doing everything possible to prevent injuries.

It sounds like Nancy has her show outfit fairly organized. I should emphasize the importance of cleanliness and neatness, as the judges really do notice. It’s best to do a trial run before the first show; do up your hair using a hairnet and plenty of pins. There are some really attractive hair accessories made especially for dressage riders which are fun and can add a bit of glamour. Then put on, and more importantly, ride in every single item of clothing exactly as you will for the show. You’ll feel that much calmer and more prepared on show day.

I prefer a plain white square pad for both everyday and show use–it’s always elegant and with a flashy horse like this, the bling is built in. Clean her up, trim her tail and go have fun!

English product expert Patricia Nesto recommends:
Breeches: For competition breeches there is quite a wide selection of different options from fabric, price and seat options. For an opening price point, Riding Sport offers a nice 95% cotton/5% Lycra white full seat Clarino. They also come in a variety of other colors for schooling. $74.90

Top: The Riding Sport Competition Shirt with short sleeves and zip front can be worn under a show coat and has a stock tie loop in the back. Cool and comfortable. $29.90.

Show coat: R. J. Classics make a really nice competition coat, with a fit many people like as the coats are cut on regular U.S. patterns, and sizes compare to those of street clothes. The R. J. Classics Essential Dressage Coat is available in a variety of sizes. $154.

Saddle pad: Toklat Clarion Quilted Dressage Show Saddle Pad, a quality pad quilted in 1″ squares with a poly/felt filler. Girth loops and billet straps. $64.90.

Whitener: For white, try doing a general wash with White n Brite. The bottle screws right into the hose so it really blasts out dirt and stains. $16.90. For touch ups on knees or hocks, try White Knight Shampoo and lots of elbow grease! $10.90.

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