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Ever wondered what it’s like to work behind the scenes with riders? In this latest blog in the run up to the 2019 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, we catch up with Sarah Skillin. Sarah, in addition to being a long time Hiho fan also heads up Equiconsulting and works with a number of riders, including Imogen Murray and Caroline Powell who are due to compete at this year’s Badminton Horse Trials. Over to Sarah…
The Trot Up
Some riders love it and some quite possibly loathe it. It could be likened to London Fashion Week for the equestrian world. The crowds flock in, not to see if there is any ‘holding box’ excitement but to see who’s wearing what, who really shouldn’t have worn what and if there are any major fashion malfunctions (thoughts going back to the Michi Jung zipper incident at Burghley!).
But what do riders have to consider when picking ‘the’ outfit? Who does the dressing? Do brands flock to riders and throw beautiful piles of clothing at their feet?
Well the answers are – lots, it depends on who you are and quite often yes!
The eyes of the eventing, and the equestrian, world will be on that short runway in front of Badminton house. Dozens of photographers will be corralled at the end with the shutters clicking at record speed. Riders really don’t want to get it wrong here, but equally the trot up isn’t all about the fashion, it’s about the horse and their fitness and soundness to compete. Therefore, the number one consideration of any rider should be, ‘can I safely run alongside my horse in the outfit and successfully present them for the ground jury?’
For the ladies this generally mean high heels and sandals need to be banished to the cocktail party. Mini or pencil skirts should equally be avoided, as more often than not they will restrict the ability to open the stride when you need to. Similarly, there are questions of preserving one’s dignity to take into consideration, for this reason the lovely floaty, above the knee skirt, also likely to be a discounted option.
We’re therefore likely to see an abundance of skinny jeans, trousers or chinos paired with something a little sturdier on the feet. Long boots or ankle boots would be a highly recommended go-to choice.
When it comes to accessories, riders need to avoid something that flaps. A beautiful fluttering scarf will look lovely but has a high chance of a) spooking your highly tuned equine athlete or b) flying off towards the crowd after its got caught up on the rider or the horse and has distracted the rider thus causing no end of drama. Hats need to be securely fastened or well fitted. This is not a wedding ladies, it’s a vets’ inspection!
For the gents, they should keep it classic – chinos/trousers, shirt, blazer or jacket. Colours and accessories can then be the star attraction. Paul Tapner, Harry Meade and Ludwig Svennestal always spring to mind when thinking of eye-catching outfits for the gents. A splash of colour or the addition of a bow tie, mirrored sun-glasses or even a pocket square in a loud print.
Top advice though boys – wear your shoes in! No one wants to see the rider sent to the holding box because their new brogues have crippled them in the walk from the stables to the trot up.
Who does the dressing?
A growing number of top professional riders will have PAs, PRs, managers like myself to make the arrangements. Or some will simply dress themselves.
For the marketing element this is a great opportunity to get your rider some extra column inches and with column inches often comes sponsorships and product endorsements.
Image of Imogen Murray
Where do the outfits come from?
Yes, a lot of the outfits are gifted or loaned to riders, as an opportunity for a brand to get their products in front of their target audience. It isn’t quite the case of brands knocking on the door and offering £1000s worth of clothes to riders, but a lot are keen and happy to help when asked.
That doesn’t mean that all riders are wearing loaned or gifted items. With the shops at Badminton open on a Wednesday there will be a significant number of riders doing a bit of a trolley dash around the shops in a mad panic of what to wear!
To find out more about Sarah, Equiconsulting or the riders she works with, see www.equiconsulting.co.uk
Photo Credit: Sweet-Images Photography