Okay, it’s hot out there right now. That’s one thing we can all agree on. What we don’t seem to agree on is whether it’s a good idea to wear a show jacket when the thermometer is north of 85 degrees.
Competitive dressage seems to be one of the few athletic endeavors where people actually put on MORE clothes between warm-up and performance. While it may make us look more elegant, it doesn’t exactly make us look more athletic. How you look is one thing, how you perform is another.
I’ve heard more than one person say that it’s not a big deal to wear a jacket for just the 5 minutes it takes to ride a test at a show, and if it IS a big deal then it’s probably too hot for you to be riding in the first place. From my personal point of view as a rider, I disagree. I know I ride better if I can breathe comfortably and don’t have sweat pouring from every orifice. Of course, I am also not exactly sylph-like, and I’m sure that has something to do with it.
Forget about muffin-top – I’m the entire muffin. Yes, I look much better if I wear my coat, even though the shadbelly and white breeches seem to direct a spotlight right on the part of my anatomy I most want to disguise. But, when coats are waived, mine is the first one to go back into the bag, if I even took it out of the truck to begin with. I may not look better, but I know I ride better, and that is what counts most.
What do judges think about riders who opt out of wearing a jacket? We mostly think they are pretty smart. And, we really don’t want to be scooping them out of the dirt if they faint off the horse. When it comes to attire, judges don’t make fashion decisions. They only care about the rule, and the rule here is mostly concerned about whether the shirt has sleeves, sans neckwear. I keep a white polo stashed in my show kit for when coats are waived, and it is the perfect alternative.
A few years ago I was judging in the Midwest on a particularly hot day. Show management was imploring riders to forego their jackets. A young teenager, maybe 13 or 14, keeled of her horse in my ring and had to be taken to the ER because she was out cold before she slammed into the ground and fell really hard.
While the emergency people were caring for the child, the ring steward told me of an exchange she overheard between the child and her mother at the in-gate. The daughter wanted to take off her coat. The mother said something like: “You made me buy you that expensive coat, and you are going to wear it.” (Wrong!)
Think first about your health and your performance. If you want to wear your show coat when it is really hot, that’s your call. But, if you want to leave it draped over a rail, that’s fine as well. The judge won’t care, and no one else should as well.