Great perspective on helmets by 14 year old Alli Johnson….
I see too many outfits that belong on a Las Vegas runway, not a horse.
The glitz has gone over the top to the point that it is distracting.
Expensive clothes do not sway me or cloud my ability to judge.
These are just a few of the statements made by local horse riders and judges in a survey I conducted to find out what people really think about what is happening in the western show ring today.
In my brief time in the show ring of just over one year, I have noticed that getting noticed has gotten out of hand. Blinding crystals and 10 pounds of silver seem to be the norm, but why?
When I look at photos of my mother at my age, there was understated glitz. A stone or a stud here and a pop of color, but for the most part it was a button down shirt, buttoned all the way up, a tie or scarf, nice jeans or chaps, and a nice hat. Her most outlandish outfit was black chaps and hat, a black shirt that she sewed some pieces of neon fabric to and neon green boots.
By today’s standards, she would be considered very conservative, maybe even frumpy. Does that mean you have to wear expensive glitzy outfits or can you get noticed for your skills as a western rider by wearing less flash and more class?
I began my search for answers on the internet. I found countless articles that discussed why you need bling and glitz to stand out and get noticed. One site stated that it is not acceptable and is bad planning to wear the same shirt in horsemanship and western pleasure classes. It goes on to state that crystals and rhinestones are everywhere you look, making it sound like you need these to compete.
Another site discusses ways to have more money for clothes by purchasing a less expensive truck. This same site suggests that a budget of $1000 is the right amount for someone to get started showing at small local shows. It goes on to say that you need to spend that kind of money to “look like a winner”
That got me thinking, I show at small local shows. I asked my mom to total up what she has spent on my show clothes. For three button down shirts, one showmanship outfit, 2 pairs of nice jeans, 2 pairs of show pants, 2 pairs of chaps, 2 hats, a helmet and boots along with 2 saddle pads and she came in under $300.
So does that mean I don’t look like a winner? Should I tell my parents that they are setting me up for failure by not putting themselves into debt to make sure that I am bedazzled from head to toe so that I don’t look like a loser?
I became more and more discouraged by my investigation. My mom suggested a different approach. With her help I set up a survey on SurveyMonkey.com. I decided to ask people that ride and show what they think is appropriate for the western show world. We sent a link to the survey to many of our horse loving friends and also posted it on Facebook for more feedback.
The results were pretty overwhelming. Of the almost 300 people that took the survey more than 55% said they think show ring bling is over the top. More than 92% said they prefer to see a button down shirt in the show ring, compared to only 14% that preferred to see glitz and bling.
Over 33% of those who answered felt that glitz is distracting and more than 18% felt it is not appropriate for the show ring.
I finally feel like this is the real truth. I like bling, I like sparkle, but to be honest; those outfits are hot, itchy and can tear up your tack if you are not careful. Plus you have to be very careful with them. A stain or a missing stone can ruin a shirt that can cost as much as $4000. Yes, $4000 just for one shirt. To put it into perspective, my mom told me she could pay off her car for less than what some of the shirts we found sell for.
Since show ring style goes beyond just glitz and glam, I also asked about views on helmets. I wear a helmet anytime I ride, in or out of the show ring. Most of the kids I show with do not. Most only wear a helmet at shows that require a helmet in the games classes. More than 86% of the people that took my survey said they would prefer to see a helmet in the show ring with only 1 person responding that they were distracting. And yet, the web sites telling us that we need to buy the very best say nothing about safety and promote hats instead.
This summer I saw a friend get thrown. She was not wearing a helmet. She hit her head on a gate and was also kicked in the head. She still cannot drive and is having headaches and dizzy spells. All because, show ring fashion editors tell us that safety isn’t cool. I guess I will continue to not be cool because I value my brain.
Further investigating turned up a big double standard in the western show ring. In the past, men have worn button down shirts with jeans or pants, chaps and a hat. Today, men wear button down shirts with jeans or pants, chaps and a hat. They compete at all levels in the same outfits, so why do the girls need to blind our competitors with as much bling as we can just to place?
With the information I had found on my own from my survey, I decided to investigate more and found an article about Carey Nowacek. Carey did the unthinkable. In a world of glitz and bling, she wore a plain black, button down shirt without a single sparkle to win the American quarter horse youth world championship in western horsemanship last fall.
If she can do this at one of the largest shows in the world, why can’t I do it at the local shows I compete in? I had always thought my button downs looked nice. I always make sure my clothes are clean, pressed and starched.
To further prove that bling does not make the ride, my mom has started showing again after 17 years. She competes in a white button down shirt and black pants with a black hat. She competes against some that are decked out in glitz from head to toe and so far she has done very well. Proving to me that you do not need sparkle to shine inside the show ring or out.
I know that people need a little sparkle, it keeps life fun, but with anything in life, there is a time and a place for bling.
I feel that in the western show ring, the time has come to let your horse and your skills do the talking and leave the glitter for the dance floor.