We give so much of our time to our horses. But what about some ‘me’ time for us? We don’t have to be perfect. But would feeling good or better about ourselves influence how we ride?
I could probably put good money on the fact that each and every one of us has this vision in our heads of how we want to look – or will look, when we ride. Naturally, we are especially prone to this in our teens but let’s face it – most of us carry this image, albeit evolved and slightly edited, on with us into adulthood. From Horse of the Year Show or Badminton victory to that perfectly art directed gallop – hair blowing in the wind, a lucky few get to live the dream. Or do so if their Instagram feeds are to be believed. The rest of us however – well, reality tends to fall somewhat short and usually involves washed out old jods or jeans, a jacket that makes us look like a Teletubbie, boots caked in mud and manure and helmet hair whose styling secret is dry shampoo and being hidden by a beanie. Instaglammable!
My fake Instagrammable ride that I regularly take in my head still has its roots in my teens. There’s a backdrop of snow covered mountains. Scotland? New Zealand? Alberta? Pick your location. A perfectly green meadow to gallop across on of course, the perfect horse tacked up in either a Reining Authority saddle or one from Skyhorse Saddles – custom made for me, naturally. Non-helmet hair blows in the breeze artfully escaping my Stetson. Jeans by Miss Me, boots by Old Gringo and at my side the ultimate accessory – someone resembling a young Bruce Greenwood. Basically I’m an older, more freckly version of Amber Marshall in Heartland. I alternate this with my Instaglam show self – perfectly Pikeur, horse held by Sam Heughan who as he gives me a leg up to what will be almost certain victory, cannot help but express his wonder at how my thighs are even more sylph-like than they were yesterday. Usually right about then is when I realise I must go down the yard and poo pick and also that my trackpants are a few days shy of the washing machine.
I blame my early riding life. That and of course, equine influencers on Instagram and YouTube. Where do they find the time? If only to carefully edit those photos? But back to the scarring of my youth. What I am referring to here are the Hobson’s Choice of ghastly putty coloured jodhpurs one was faced with back then. It was literally putty – or nothing unless one was competing and then one had white. Lycra had yet to be invented. So, basically nothing fitted properly. Unless you were one of those fortunate souls that looked like a supermodel and who could rock a potato sack and grew up to be an Instagram influencer –or gave birth to one. Back then, there was no flourishing Western scene either. The magazines I begged people to bring back from America and Canada showed rhinestone riders in bling scattered show shirts and tooled boots. Putty did not register.
Nowadays, whether we ride English or Western or both, none of us are confined to the grey scale. Whether we want traditional monochromes and neutrals or a more colourful palette, we’re spoilt for choice. Which brings me back to how despite this most of us end up looking like extras from The Walking Dead. Yet we spend hours grooming our horses – as we should, yet hardly any time giving ourselves any attention. Pull on what’s semi clean and drag a brush through our hair (if we remember). Horses are time consuming and the thing is, we want to give it, and generously. But riding is all about self-confidence and whether we are going to go as far as that perfect Instagram shot or not, should we not allocate a little bit more time to ourselves? I used to write a regular column for a glossy US western riding lifestyle magazine. It covered everything from riding and horse care advice to dream horse properties, fashion and make-up. Yes. Make-up. That thing you used to put on your face before you had a horse and maybe occasionally remember to do if you have a special, non-horsey event to attend. They conducted a reader survey and here’s the interesting thing that emerged. While the majority of readers were happy with the articles they wanted less fashion and no make-up. This got me thinking: why? And I think the answer is this – time. We’ve not given up on ourselves, it’s not that we’re no longer interested in fabulous fashion or five minute make-up tips for the yard. It’s simply we feel we don’t have enough time as it is.
Believe me, I would love to have the time to update my Instagram feed. Who would not love to become an on-line equine influencer? Galloping right behind my Fake Instagrammable Ride is my Fantasy Influencer Career. The one where companies throw those expensive products at me – the Lucchesse boots, the Pikeur breeches, that £40 a tube miracle BB cream and oh go on then, that saddle. My opinion’s worth it. And as the ad slogan reminds us: Because you’re worth it. Of course, to have that on-line presence does require you to look less like you’ve been recently exhumed from the depths of the hay barn. And it also helps to have someone handy to take those Instagrammable shots in the first place. I was just reading how one non-equine influencer owes hers to the fact she just happens to have a boyfriend who is a professional photographer. I suspect this helps. As a photographer myself I am usually on the other side of the camera and often taking photos of my gorgeous friends – all of whom I hate to say, look effortlessly put together and totally Instagrammable even without make-up and styling. At least they provide inspiration and something to aim for. Aiming as high as my friend Berenice may prove difficult however. She’s about six feet tall and looks like a supermodel. All the time. As I said to her: if she was not so loveable she would be really easy to hate. She can be my Instagram influencer beard. New career sorted. If I can find the time.
Here’s the thing: we do spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring our horses look beautiful. We also spend an inordinate amount of time and money on being the best riders we can be for our horses. Should we also just allocate a bit more time to ourselves to look as good too? We don’t have to be Instaglammable. Five minutes of me grooming time could be all it takes. I’m about to get my second horse and realise once she arrives time will become an even more scarce asset. Both my horses fall into the supremely Instagrammable category. It got me thinking: Do I want to let them down by looking like Bride of Fungus the Bogeyman? I’m starting my daily five minute feelgood makeover from here on in. Will it make a different to my energy level or how I see myself as a horsewoman or even as a woman in general as opposed to run ragged stablehand? Stay tuned.
Written by Helen Watts