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Equestrian Chic: Part 1

March 22, 2010

Con Brio Farm

I was recently invited to the Con Brio Farm just outside London, Ontario to meet with the fabulous Holly and Lori and to learn about the equestrian way of life. It was a fantastic opportunity and the morning I spent at the barn was full of learning and adventure. And that was without me having to hop on a horse…I don’t even want to imagine what would have happened if I did! 

My tour guides welcomed me into the barn and I was instantly amazed by the architectural beauty of the structure. While Holly and Lori prepped their horses and the crew cleaned the stables, I took a wander around the facilities. 

One of the many barn doors

Winning ribbons

Wood beam ceiling in the riding arena

Barn door closure

As an outsider to the equestrian world, I wanted to learn about true equestrian fashion – What are the clothing standards? What are the different outfit components? What makes up the the necessary riding gear? During my visit to the barn, Holly and Lori showed off their riding gear, taught me about the details of their outfits, explained some history about riding and revealed some international riding regulations. 

Each morning at the barn begins with a lot of cleaning and prepping of the stables and the horses. 

Getting the horses ready for riding

Holly and Lori, who have both been riding their whole lives, looked chic in their tan riding pants and black leather boots while I felt a bit under-dressed in jeans and a Polo. Their love of horses was evident from the moment I met these two ladies. The horses were there to kindly greet me as well. 

Holly and Lori wearing traditional tan & navy

Holly saying hello to the white mare

Lori and Charlie getting ready to go into the arena

Holly & Julia share a litte hug

Although I am a fan of the horses, I am most fascinated by the relationship between fashion and this sport. The ladies explained to me that there are different riding outfits for different competitions. Riding pants are always a must – even for casual practices around the barn – because, among other things, they do not ruin the leather saddles when they rub against them. Helmet regulations vary across the globe. The helmet Holly is wearing in the above photo is safety approved in Europe but not in Canada.

Lori & Holly in the lounge

Pant styles vary slightly in terms of pockets, zippers and seams. Lori’s pants (in the photo above) have a front zipper. Her belt buckle is also placed at the front. Holly wears flat front pants with a seam at the side, which allows her to align the buckle of her belt with the zipper seam. Although the black leather riding boots do not come cheap (about $1000!), they can last riders for many years. I overheard several people at the barn commenting on the appearance of the ladies’ boots as they were not polished up-to-standard. Holly and Lori laughed this off but assured me that if they were getting ready for a competition, their boots would have to be cleaned and polished. A good appearance is highly valued at competition time!

The interior shirt detail

Shirts, not from the local Polo Ralph Lauren store as I originally had assumed, are specially crafted and have matching collar bands to cover the buttons at the collar. Although very prim and proper on the outside, the inside of the cuffs and collar are often lined with a contrasting “fun” fabric. 

Equestrian fashion is full of surprises. Underneath their (would be better if they were polished) black leather riding boots, Holly and Lori reveal their “wild” boot socks. 

Unexpected boot socks and Banjo the dog

Blazer linings are something special too. The purple lining of Lori’s jacket is full of sparkles! 

Sparkly lining

Many blazers are custom made using plaid or striped fabric, usually in a dark fabric. More formal blazers, similar to tuxedo coats, are complete with vest and tails. White pants are for Sunday competitions when riders are expected to wear their “Sunday best”. I joke that they must carry around a Tide bleach pen to keep those white pants stain-free. The ladies admit that they do become quite dirty after a competition but that their outfits are traditional. 

Lori & Holly in their tails

Surprise! It's a fake vest!

White for Sundays

Lori & Holly in their Sunday best

As I learned more about riding materials, I felt like I was in the most glorious leather shop. Lori showed me all the leather gear that is crucial for their sport. The braided bridles, straps, and saddles are all in dark brown leather that feels luxurious. They are aesthetically beautiful, but more importantly, are entirely functional and are designed with safety in mind. Saddles, I learned, might last one rider a lifetime if they are a good fit for the horse and the rider.

Leather saddle

Leather bridles

Braids and buckles

Holly and Lori are competitive hunter-jumpers so of course I couldn’t leave the barn before I saw them on their horses – looking chic, of course! 

Lori and Charlie

Holly warming up

It was an eventful morning at the barn. After our fashion photo shoot was over and we were wrapping things up, we heard yells that coyotes were on the property and wanted to get at the dogs. Before I knew it, everyone was outside scaring away the coyotes. Lori and Holly enter the barn shortly after the initial call for help and their lovely outfits are spotted with mud and dirt. As I freak out about their once pristine white clothes, they just shrug it off and let me know that it’s just “all in a day’s work at the barn”. 

Muddy riding boots

I am in awe of the equestrian style and I am very happy that I had the chance to visit with Holly and Lori at Con Brio Farm. If there are any riders out there, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what I may have missed! 

Stay tuned to Fashion in Motion next Monday as I will be posting Equestrian Chic: Part 2. The post will feature connections between true equestrian chic and its followers.   

Photo of outside view of barn courtesy of Con Brio Farm.

All other photos courtesy of Jordana.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Lori permalink
    March 22, 2010 10:44 am

    This is wonderful Jordana! I knew about your writing and fashionista skills, but I didn’t realize that you were also such a talented photographer! Charlie and I had a fabulous time at the shoot, and are revelling in our new-found fame ;)

    • Jordana permalink
      March 22, 2010 1:51 pm

      Thanks so much for these kind words Lori. And thank you so much for inviting me in to your horse world. I’m glad you and Charlie enjoyed the shoot!

  2. Claudine permalink
    March 22, 2010 12:18 pm

    Really cool guys – marrying your skills and passions in such an awesome way. Love it.

    • Jordana permalink
      March 22, 2010 1:49 pm

      It was a fun day at the barn – definitely something different from my regular routine. It was nice to get to meet the horses and I especially loved Banjo the dog. I am still amazed at the strong influence of the equestrian world on fashion.

  3. Vanessa permalink
    March 22, 2010 3:26 pm

    I loved this article! One of my faves. Very cool stuff.

    • Jordana permalink
      March 22, 2010 4:14 pm

      Thanks for your sweet comment Vanessa. I think equestrian fashion is a hit with lots of people. And animal lovers are really appreciating these horse photos! I had a fun morning at the barn, that’s forsure!

  4. March 22, 2010 4:18 pm

    I agree with Vanessa- this article is wonderful and one of my favourites, too. So great to share the experience with you through these pictures and insightful descriptions about the practical elements of equestrian dressing.

    Who knew that under those elegant black leather boots we’d find playful socks? I’m loving this insider’s perspective- and the photos are lovely. So warm and inviting. It’s a beautiful setting- photogenic horse-back riders, cuddly horses, and sharp tailoring.

    A perfect score!

    • Jordana permalink
      March 23, 2010 6:44 am

      Thanks for your positive comments about this article. I’m glad you enjoyed it!
      The colourful boot socks were a big surprise for me too! There are all sorts of little fun details that complete these outfits. You can’t really see it in the “tails” picture but Holly exchanged one of her classic jacket buttons for a fun one. I didn’t think it was allowed but she assured me that changes in small doses are okay – especially if they are good luck charms! So fun!

  5. Gabrielle permalink
    March 22, 2010 6:44 pm

    I must say that I truly loved this article.

    Whether it’s the boots, the jackets and tails, the architecture of the barns, or the horses themselves, there is much beauty to be found in the horseback riding world.

    But, I cannot help but chuckle about the behind the scenes adventures as there will always be dirt, blood and gore with those coyotes around!

    • Jordana permalink
      March 23, 2010 6:47 am

      Thanks so much for your comments Gabrielle. I’m happy that you enjoyed the article. The rules and regulations about equestrian fashion is pretty interesting and the connections to mainstream fashion are incredible. Please tune in next week to see more!
      The chaos at the end of the photo shoot was hard to capture in words. I didn’t even mention the deer foot that the coyotes brought onto the property and that Lori disposed of. I couldn’t even look! All this drama while wearing lovely white pants!

  6. Caroline permalink
    March 22, 2010 8:31 pm

    Wonderful article! It was so great to meet you the other day Jordana, and I’m glad my little white mare snuck into the photos. My favorite shot has to be the funky boots socks. They are such a huge but often overlooked trend in the horse world. I can’t wait for part II!

    • Jordana permalink
      March 23, 2010 6:50 am

      Thanks Caroline. Your horse is absolutely lovely. So pretty in white. The boot socks make me laugh because noone would ever guess that underneath those (should-be) polished riding boots are wild socks. I hope you’re all okay with me revealing your secret fashion trends to the world!

  7. shannon permalink
    March 23, 2010 9:17 am

    I have a lot of FIM favourites, but this one is by far the best, Jordana! I can’t wait to read Part Deux! It makes me want to get dressed in equestrian fashion and stand near a horse (it’s for the look, of course. haha.).

    • Jordana permalink
      March 23, 2010 9:48 am

      Ha ha. Yup – I might have to invest in a horse just to complete the look!

  8. franca permalink
    March 24, 2010 9:17 am

    Jordana! I LOVED this post. The pictures are amazing and the barn is so gorgeous. The girls looked great in their riding fashions. Although it looks like a glamorous sport there is in fact a lot of prep work to do-which we don’t always realize.

    • Jordana permalink
      March 24, 2010 11:02 am

      Hi Franca,

      You’re completely right! The ladies that I met at the barn were all busy working. Holly showed me here training schedule and it was pretty intense. She’s at the barn day & night! The horses need to be brushed a couple times each day and pre-riding, the rider has to put “boots” (sort of like braces) on the horses’ legs so that they stay strong and in good form. There’s much to do at the barn but I love how the riders look good doing it!

      Thanks again for your comment!



  1. Equestrian Chic: Part 2 « Fashion in Motion
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