Keep the helmet, ditch the Tux…


“Dress is at all times a frivolous distinction, and excessive solicitude about it often destroys its own aim.”  Jane Austen

Understandably there has been a lot of controversy lately over the possibility of mandatory helmet rules for dressage competition.  Although personal safety should be an individual’s choice it is difficult to defend the decision of  not protecting one’s own head.

The main concern for not mandating helmets seems to lie in the fact that helmets are not as visually appealing when worn with the customary dressage attire, particularly the shadbelly jacket.  A top hat, which offers little to no protection at all, is far more appealing when wearing such an outfit.  Recently, as a possible alternative to helmets, companies have been designing “hard-hat” type top hats as they have for cowboy hats for western rider’s safety.  These hats, while safer to ride in, are bulky and clumsy, thus negating the point of having a visually appealing hat.

Although this suggestion may upset some classicists I believe it may be time to consider embracing the helmet and updating the attire.  Yes, that means quit competing in tuxedos.  Tuxedos are certainly classy outfits for weddings or the opera but not necessarily clothes that inspire athleticism.  Many other athletic events require helmets and  maintain a dignified but athletic turnout.  In addition to being visually compatible with safety gear, more athletic attire can be manufactured with fabrics that are more conducive to sports functionality.  Wearing a blazer and an Ascot with leather boots while participating in an athletic event in the deep South in September seems somehow non-sporty.

While I have a deep respect for tradition and believe that the principles of  riding and training should be passed from generation to generation, the time may have come to consider updating the attire of the modern equestrian.  Athletes in every sport benefit from advances in fabrics and modern technological design for comfort and performance, why not us?  If we want the rest of the world to respect our sport as an Olympic discipline we may have to suit up looking like the athletes that we are.

19 thoughts on “Keep the helmet, ditch the Tux…

  1. HAVE to be first on this one! YES PLEASE!! There are such great sporty, athletic, flattering things to wear.. in which you will not melt, in which you will have a safer and more agile position in the saddle.. in which you will look awesome. Time for a change! Sign me up!

  2. I too think it should be a personal choice. however I also think it is just plain common sense to in fact, wear a helmet! sad that things like this even have to be mandated. i have fallen off enough horses, mtn. bikes & snowboards now to know to never go w/o a helemt.
    if you think they look silly, imagine how you’ll look in a wheelchair – if you are that lucky…

    1. haha- now I know where your blog is! I’ll be keeping up with you! I agree, looking silly should never be a concern, safety should always pre-empt (?) fashion! I won’t ever have to imagine how I look in a wheelchair- I have pics!! It sucks! 🙂

  3. I agree too, not to mention all of that attire is quite expensive to purchase in an already expensive sport!

  4. Oh come on! Everyone knows the horse does all the work and we just sit there and look pretty. 🙂 (Pam made me type that!)

    Seriously though, for me, the top hat and tails was something I aspired to and dreamed of and I’d hate to see it taken away.

    1. I can understand that sentiment- the tophat and tails part that is! There is still a lot to aspire to in the riding department however, and riders of lower levels have already donned the tophat. Saddleseat riders wear the shadbelly as well! (you and Pam are trying to get a rise out of me! I’ll get you both!) 🙂

      1. Thunder and I have retired our tuxes. Now we prefer to chill out with a cold beer and a bag of carrots, reminiscing about our glory days and posting on your blog. 🙂

      2. Have to say: I am looking forward to my tails…..I LIKE the look!!!

        That said, I like having my brains, so I wear a helmet!Hope that eventually the FEI will come up with a helmet that does the job and looks good with the shadbelly look good at the same time!

        Hey Sherry! Tongue in cheek aside, I cannot wait to “just sit there and look pretty!” Would someone tell me when that will happen please????

      3. Lol! I will feature you with your new hard hat top hat when you get it! 🙂 Maybe they can keep the traditional look but open up other options. I like wearing “clinic” clothes! Vests, jackets, black jods etc. I have a few hundred pictures in show attire and they all look the same!

  5. I love the traditional elegance of current dressage wear, and it’s dubious roots in military gear. (That part, not liking so much) I think the dichotomy is part of the attraction of the sport. The rider looks like they are getting ready to play the piano in concert, which is so opposite the reality of riding. (I’m jumping on the sitting pretty, can it happen SOON? bandwagon!)

    All that said, I’d like to see helmets mandatory, and riding wear that is more geared to athleticism than cocktail hour. If the rider is showcasing the horse, not themselves, a uniform is a good idea b/c it equalizes rider appearance in front of the judges, but can the current uniform morph into something a little more user friendly? We don’t make horses show in wool blankets!

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