A decade ago I judged a regional championship in Houston, Texas, where the theme was: “There’s No Thing as Too Much Bling.” By the end of the weekend I was pretty much convinced that there was such a thing as too much bling.
I judged again in Houston this fall, and either Texans have dialed it down or the rest of the country has caught up because nothing unusual in the way of sparkles caught my eye. Of course, we are now all pretty much used to seeing crystals on everything except the horse itself. What started with brow bands is now on saddle pads, stirrups, spurs, gloves, jackets, helmets, breeches and even the saddle.
(I will admit that I have a Swarovski crystal whistle that I am wearing right now as I type and occasionally wear when I judge, even though the pea part of it is a wimp. The brow band on my double bridle has a plain white raised strip that nicely sets off the head of my mare’s solid black face.)
I don’t get the bling thing on the horse though – well maybe I do. Perhaps this is a 180-degree reaction to the decades of dressage being too somber in our attire, just a way of adding an element of fun. I certainly like a lot of the colors that are now seen in the show ring, although I draw the line at gauntlet-wrists in a contrasting color that reach up to the elbow. I think the colored stones seen in brow bands are quite lovely although from even a little distance you can’t really see them.
What really bothers me is a brow bands with rhinestones and for a very simple reason. When it’s sunny out, the glare draws my eye away from the rest of the horse. It really seems to happen most with a horse whose nose is higher than his poll, creating a spotlight directed right an issue that the rider might want to disguise. Those who love bling should really think hard about whether they are doing themselves any favors or whether they would be better served by a brow band in jade or lapis. Really, anything that distracts the eye of the judge – floppy ankles, busy hands, tilted heads that are often also encrusted in bling – is not a good thing.
Last year, I was saddle shopping and the model that fit both me and my horse best had a line of crystals behind the cantle. “NOOOOO,” I shrieked. “I have been so vocal about my dislike of crystals that the last thing I want is a blingy saddle.” Fortunately there was another version of the saddle available.
I came close to the bling thing a few years ago when I bought an ear cover at a show that had bad gnats. It was a flat black thus looked a bit odd. So, I took it to the lady at the show who was selling pretty brow bands and had her sew a lady-like string of pearls around the edge. It was quite fetching.