Riding Attire And The Classic Show Ring Bow

Picture a bright sunny day, the blue sky filled with white fluffy clouds. Standing around the wooden fenced ring at a

Paint Pony Jumping

Paint Pony Jumping

horse show, the soft dirt cushioning the soles of your feet. You watch glossy coated ponies, all different in colors, trot in beautiful suspension in a large circle, around a course of jumps. Aboard are smartly dressed children, with shiny paddock boots and perfectly fitted hunt coats, posting up and down, lifted out of the saddle to the beat of the trot. You pick out your favorite rider and try to jot down their number but a problem arises. You cannot see the number. Large hair bows with oddly mix matched prints are blocking your view! These large structured objects, resembling a misshapen bow flop up and down on the riders back, causing distraction and confusion to the onlookers, even the judge. Well, that is a portrait of todays look in the show ring! The level of detail that goes into a show performance, from the lessons, training and expense of not only the pony but the classic attire all ruined because the judge dismisses the unknown rider with the large bouquet on their back. Well, that is today’s reality but I ask, how did this happen?

I am on a mission. Bows have become an issue  and before they get banned, I want to fix the problem. Bows need to follow a guideline of size and measurement and if I had my way, design. They must not be a distraction, but need to compliment a riders outfit.

To look forward, we must first look back- The Look of Classic Equestrian Riding

We can thank the horse for the evolution of pants! Historical data shows horses being ridden as far back as 4500 BC. From safety to comfort, pants were developed dating back over 3,000 years ago. A continental advantage was given to those who adopted to the 2 legged trouser as it provided better balance and therefore success on the battlefield. Have you ever tried galloping in a skirt? Ouch.

The Jodphur, developed through the military and the Riding Breech are the 2 best known riding pants today. While the jodphur style  were worn by men in the 19th century, women did not adapt to them until the 1920s.

Differing mainly in length, the Jodphur pant is most commonly worn by children today as the material drops all the way to the ankle and is worn with paddock boots and garter straps to show a break in the material, separating the lower and upper leg. The shift to Breeches is made when tall boots are worn as the material typically ends mid calf.

We have cross country racing and foxhunters to thank not only for introducing jumping to the horse world (Eventually encircling the jumps into a ring where spectators could watch the entire course) but it seems the huntcoat as well. The evolution beginning in England in the late 17th century. The consistent theme throughout the last several hundred years was the tailored look a riding jacket has always had. While colors, even fabrics have adapted to the times and riding disciplines, the classic tailored look of equestrian attire has always remained the same.

Where do Childrens Hair Bows fit in?

Fairly new to the show ring, the bow first started making an appearance approximately 10 years ago. Quickly becoming a popular industry in the US, from the local to national levels.  Bows are  manufactured and made available 2 ways. Your “crafty barn Mom” or mass production from companies that may or may not be in the US (thats a topic for another article). I have found that the “Mom Market” is the most widespread and popular. I define this market from the “Barn Mom” making bows for her children to the “Business Mom” who turned her craft into a thriving company. That is how I started out! I am all about supporting the Moms providing bows. What I would like to do is provide them a guideline to follow.

Here is how it goes (or at least how my journey began): My friend who was new to the horse show world needed a set of bows for her daughter. She had no idea what to buy and asked me to help her. I decided instead of buying them I would try and make them. (Let me state here that until this point, I had never made a bow before) Armed with what I would like to think is a pretty good sense of style, I began to research how to make a child’s riding bow. As a lifetime riding competitor, I knew what equestrian accessories looked like but really no clue as to what size and shape my product should be (and I can prove it as I have saved some of my first pieces! Yikes!) However here enters the problem for all of us bow lovers. There is no information, video or tutorial on how to actually make the product! I ended up at  popular craft store and a very nice lady there showed me how to construct my very first set of bows.Simply put,  there is the problem defined! With no guidelines, our industry is filled with interpretation and opinion. Should we be suprised that there is now a vast array of bows and ribbons, too small or too big, too bright or too long causing frustration with judges and trainers alike? This is more than gluing some ribbons on a clip (I actually saw that comment posted). If the bow is supposed to compliment a classic riding outfit that has been respectfully followed for decades then something better change. I have the solution.

The current equestrian bow standard must change. Why?

1.) Enough is enough, according to the newly revised USEF 2014 Rule.  Judges can now eliminate a rider in the ring from being judged if the riders number is blocked or cannot be seen by a hair bow.

2.) The ugly must go. In a sport where thousands of dollars are spent on riding attire, why is the bow given such a second thought? From the weenie, drab looking bow to the flouncy bouquets bouncing around on riders backs. Enough. Throwing ribbon together does not a bow make. I have actually read that people use 3 pieces of ribbon to make a bow. Yuck…It fills the industry with the thought that bows should be cheap (inexpensive) because of how a lot of people are making them. That does not make them right!!

3.) The end result could be the elimination of bows from the show ring completely.

Over the last 2 years I have worked on developing a refined classic product. This has been the result of months of research and hours upon hours of making bows. I have looked at countless styles, bow sizes and materials.  I kept driving myself to improve, improve, improve. So every bow, every loop, every tail is consistent. Also to create a product not only beautiful but durable, that can withstand the demands of athletics. I want my products to be outgrown not worn out.

So if you’re as passionate about the standardization of show ring bows as I am be sure to let your officials and governing bodies know how you feel. Don’t forget to give me a call when you need those classic bows.

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