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Discovering Dressage Dress Rules

Although I have been riding since I was a small child I have never participated in dressage. Indeed, I had never had the privilege of watching dressage until I saw the coverage of the Rio Olympics. I had even managed to miss Charlotte Dujardin’s gold medal winning performances at London 2012, other than the short snippets featured on the nightly news bulletins. When the Rio games began I was determined to right this wrong and watch the dressage events live.

Dancing Horses

As soon as the coverage started I realised just how much I didn’t know about this sport. By the end of the competition I had reached a reasonable level of understanding. However, in truth, you don’t have to understand this sport to appreciate the beauty of it. Dressage is sometimes referred to as dancing horses and that is really all you need to know!

The beauty of horse’s routines captivated me and I was full admiration for the skill and poise of the riders. It was particularly pleasing to note that this is a discipline not divided by gender. Men compete alongside and against women. I was happier still when it was a women who emerged victorious and a British one at that! Charlotte Dujardin had done it again.

Sporting Tradition

It is fascinating to note that, even at Olympic level, equestrian outfits appear incredibly traditional. Whereas athletes in other sports wear increasingly futuristic clothing fashioned from ever more technical fabrics, the equestrians are still subject to dress rules which appear to date from the 19th century! They looked fabulous, of course, and would be penalised for not wearing the required attire. However, I couldn’t help wondering if the riders would benefit from some changes to the rules.

Tailcoats, Horse Riding Show Boots and Stocks

There probably isn’t much that could be done to improve the riding breeches and horse riding show boots are certainly the most appropriate footwear. But in the heat of Rio was it really necessary for riders to wear tailcoats? I am sure that many people value tradition, but sometimes I wonder if common sense should be allowed to prevail. It wouldn’t have been surprising if riders had fainted in that heat. Dressage may be incredibly elegant but it is still a demanding sport.

Riding Hats

It was interesting to discover that changes have been made in regard to one aspect of Olympic dressage dress rules. Competitors must still wear their horse-riding show boots, tail coats and stocks but they do have a choice of head gear. At London 2012 Canadian rider Jacqueline Brooks made history by becoming the first competitor to wear a hard hat during an Olympic dressage event. Other riders, including Charlotte Dujardin, followed suit.

Dressage riders can still choose to wear the traditional top hats but more and more are opting to ride in safety helmets. Since January 2013, riders have been obliged to wear safety helmets when riding in international dressage events other than when they are competing in the arena or riding to and from the arena. So attitudes are changing – gradually.

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