Riding Habit Revised a column where the best and worst of equestrian fashion and decor is reviewed with a modern edge.
So it’s the Monday after the famed Kentucky Derby, and somehow it seems just wrong not talk about Churchill Downs fashion. But, Riding Habit Revised is – well – a revised look at equestrian fashion. And with that in mind, I just can’t bring myself to be the millionth person talking about hats. Breaking news! Women wear big hats to the Kentucky Derby! And now – that is in the last fifteen or so years – fascinators are also on trend! No, I just won’t do it.
What did catch my eye this year was the addition of figure skaters, Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, as fashion commentators at the 140th Run for the Roses. I’ll admit I grimaced when I heard the plan. Are there seriously no fun, fashion forward, equestrians on the face of the earth that could fill this post, while also exhibiting some common horse sense? Apparently, for NBC, the answer was no.
Now I do stand corrected on my original assessment that Weir and Lipinski have no horse sense. Apparently Lipinski owned a pony when she was young. And more impressively, Johnny Weir was a good-looking amateur rider at the Devon Horse Show once upon a time. Plus, they did a fine job, and for me, Weir’s hat was the best of the day. But when it came time to head down to the stables, they did the usual “I don’t know what to do with myself around horses” shtick. My grimace returned a bit.
It seems astonishing to me, on one level, that horseback riding could not produce an excellent Kentucky Derby fashion commentator. Almost every other clothing line is “equestrian inspired,” and the sport offers up some attractive young talent. I mean Jessica Springsteen models for Gucci for goodness sake.
However, when you dig deeper, the problems appear. Outside the industry, very few people know or care to know who top-level equestrians are. Even at the Olympics, the official airtime for equestrian events is minimal and the athletes are rarely interviewed. There is just no star power there. Not so with figure skaters.
An even greater problem is that equestrian athletes are not considered “fun.” Lipinski and Weir are bold, bright personalities that put their amusing signature touch on everything they do. Like them or not, their persona transcends the sport. Talk about the top horseback riders, and you’re likely to receive nothing but vacant stares and the stray snide comment from most non-equestrians. We may be fun, but no one knows it.
So it almost seems obvious at this point in time that figure skaters would get the Kentucky Derby gig. But I would love to see our esteemed equestrians take over fun commentary in the future. They undoubtedly have the goods in the talent and personality department. We all just need to get out there and raise the positive public profile of our sport and its top competitors. The mission is yours, should you choose to accept it. And I hope you will.
To urge you on your way, I’ll wrap up with these positive thoughts on our industry. While we equestrians may still be struggling to get the fashion commentator positions we deserve, unlike figure skaters, our careers haven’t transitioned to reporter roles by age thirty, and we can always rely on our horses to bring the bling. We’re having fun with California Chrome already!