To bling or not to bling

A recent discussion during #HorseHour reminded me that opinions regarding equestrian equipment are strong, specific and highly varied.  Already during my lifetime of equine adventure, products have become more colourful, sparklier and developed in variety across all disciplines – incredible that the different sports do share a common interest beyond four-legged animals with tails!  In 2014, it feels as if it’s possible to purchase any given piece of equipment – whether it’s a whip, grooming brush or numnah – which is covered in diamante.  But of course, this is not to everyone’s taste.

With some items, preference is dictated by prior experience.  Although I’m not yet able to label myself as a horse owner, my sister and I loaned ponies when we were younger, and they came complete with tack and other equipment.  Their day to day tack was bang on-trend for the late 90s – synthetic saddles and nylon bridles, whilst they each had a leather bridle for competitions.  I was ambivalent towards the nylon bridles (apart from the fact that I didn’t like the colour of my original pony’s – black with yellow piping), but I absolutely couldn’t stand the plastic saddles and wouldn’t ever choose to have one.  The reasons?  A huge positive of nylon bridles is ease of care: yes, clean leather tack is satisfying, there’s nothing like the smell of a tack room and glycerine is fun to use (we used to take great joy in soaping the bridles up with our bare hands as kids), but synthetic bridles can be put in the washing machine and come up a treat (unless they’re black with yellow piping, which never looked as fun and beautiful as the red and blue ones which had white piping…).  As for the saddles… I had a grey pony, who was the proud wearer of a black synthetic saddle.  Synthetic saddles can’t go in the washing machine, they have to be cleaned with a stiff brush.  Or by picking out individual hairs the afternoon before a show, because the blasted things get stuck every which way within the fibres.  Never, ever again.

Much with my own fashion choices, I don’t mind a bit of sparkle and colour, but I do mind excess.  I like things to match, but not in a perfectionist manner.  I also don’t like to see more than three different colours in an outfit when block colours are used (tasteful multi-coloured prints are acceptable).  My colour scheme choices – and even choice of leather colour – would depend on funds available and the colour of a horse, with the only ones probably out of the running being yellow and orange, which I’ve never been fans of.

As well as level of bling and colour of leather being controversial options during the Twitter conversation, the age-old debate of colours relating to gender cropped up.  I’m not keen on human genders being restricted to certain colour palettes, so I would be inclined to stick to the same rule for horses.  I don’t care if a mare is in blue and a gelding or a stallion wears any variety of pink – people can think what they like and the horses certainly don’t care!

Following my childhood incident of accidentally dyeing my grey gelding’s tail pink, and later intentionally taking advantage of the readily-available at the time coloured hairsprays for some inventive quarter marks, I’m a big fan of fun equine dyes.  I think they’ve got a place in certain show rings (such as fancy dress classes!  And I know they’re popular in some blingy Western circles), but I’d draw the line at the current trend for equine clip-in tail extensions.  As long as a horse has enough natural hair to put their tail to good use, I really don’t see any need to have your equine’s mane rivalling a celebrity’s.

Another experience which has impacted my tack choices – though this isn’t related to colour schemes so much – is one with overreach boots.  It’s actually a two-part story.  Several of the horses and ponies at this yard wore pull-on overreach boots, which I never mastered.  I can remember what felt like hours of frustrated tugging (and hand-scraping) and swore blind that I would find a better way should I ever have to use them on my own horse.  Then one day, my instructor was jumping one of her Novice event horses.  As he cantered away from a jump, he stood on his overreach boot, got stuck and flipped himself over.  Fortunately, horse and rider were unharmed physically – the horse realised what had happened, and was understandably nervous of any overreach boots which weren’t of the petal variety after that – and everyone learned an important lesson.

I’m in the process of building a black leather bridle (which has royal blue piping and, yes, a sparkly browband), so will need to find a horse which suits it at some point!  I’m not sure how it would look on a bright bay, and I definitely don’t think it’d suit a chestnut so it looks like there’s a Black Beauty-type somewhere in my future… the search is on.

Does your horsey equipment shine bright like a diamond or is it cool and understated?  What’s expected of animals in your horse’s world: should they look like a horse, or is it more common that they look as if they’ve just stepped off the set of a glamorous pop video?

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4 thoughts on “To bling or not to bling

  1. I’m sure you already know my answers!

    I like plain working tack, no sparkles unless it’s shiny buckles. Black over brown, which stems from my mum buying my black pony a BROWN bridle 😦
    In terms of colour, I tend to be quite minimalistic. Brushing boots are black, none of these coloured straps, saddle cloths are burgundy, navy or brown (which orange writing). If I have a dressage lesson then I usually coordinate the navy bandages with the navy saddle cloth. Then forget about myself and wear green …

    And then with the rider equipment I’m quite similar, the kids all have vivid hat silks, and mine is quite bright being navy and turquoise, but there isn’t a bobble involved 😉 I recently acquired a bright red lunge whip. The appeal being that it was less likely to go walkies than a black one, and I think the same applied to my purple schooling whip.

    Anyway, I like horses to look like horses and I like a bit of colour so long as it isn’t crazy off-the-wall colours 🙂

    • a brown bridle on a black pony?! That’s awful! First world problems right there 😉 but it must’ve looked odd.

      It’s a good point about buying an unpopular colour to deter “borrowers”, but these days it can actually be quite hard! There was a time when it was easy to be the only person on a yard with a shocking pink grooming kit, but those days are long gone.

  2. I admire other people’s blingy brow-bands but don’t want to waste money on one. Traditional black leather does for all occasions. But I have also have a purple schooling whip for the same reason as you. When the stringy bit fell off the business end I made a replacement from plaited lemon-coloured baling twine. It’s pretty unique looking now!

    In terms of saddle cloths, I’ve bought whatever was on offer to be honest, without much care to colour, but if money was no object it would be white all the way.

    I’ve started crocheting ear-bonnets and am wondering whether to add sparkly beads to one, but for the moment I’ll settle for trying to get ones that are just the right size. First things first!

    • Interesting that you crochet the “hats” as my Dad calls them! My Mum crochets, if I ever get a horse who needs one, I’ll have to put her to work. Her main talent is cafetiere warmers at the moment (the coffee version of tea cosies)…

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