Many of you have endured my lecture on sock selection - especially for tall boots. And I bet — if you've heeded my advice — you now agree, changing your sock makes a big difference.
Take note the next time you wear some wild print that resembles a knee-hi stocking — yes, that smell is from your socks! Having performance socks are not just more comfortable, its better for your foot and your boots.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT SOCKS?
We are athletes — we sweat, get dirty and stay in our boots for long periods of time. Moisture management is essential for the health of your skin. Inside your boot is the perfect place for athlete's foot — its hot, dark and moist — so you are growing your very own bacteria farm. Not only are we talking about the health of your foot, its also about the interior of your boots. With the trend toward ever-softer calfskin for our boots, even the lining, and sometimes the actual footbed, are this luxury leather — take care of it. Good boot hygiene also keeps you from inserting your toes into a science experiment every time you ride.
SO WHAT TO DO?
Our recommendation: choose a wicking, breathable fabric like Drilex, CoolMax, Bamboo, etc. Yes, that's bamboo — a natural anti-microbial, performance textile that feels really soft. Wool is of course the original performance fabric — just be mindful that wool socks are actually an appropriate % to insure wicking and breathability. Note: nylon is not on the list! Those fun, nylon socks are pretty but be sure to get the CoolMax version, several brands make them now.
There are so many — but here's a few that may help you while shopping:• Ariat makes a stalwart CoolMax boot sock for a very reasonable price
• JPC bamboo argyles are wonderfully soft and come in more than a dozen colors
• Kingsland socks have long been coveted and have the slimmest fit we've found
• Winston is my new luxury sock, delivering comfort in a very thin fabric
• JoJo Sox makes a myriad of bamboo socks in different shape and size, including some in fun prints like those that turn our nose up
• Zocks CoolMax are also now available
• Ovation is the sporty and tuff economy brand we like
• Keep warm with b.ella cashmere blends and PK International
So let us know what you think — what are your favorites?
As the rest of the country transitions into an early Autumn, we West-Coasters are feeling the heat – and then cool — of an Indian Summer. So how to blanket? Not too heavy, but enough to cover the late night chills. Here’s what you need to weather the temperature change: a breathable, well fitting sheet that will move with the horse and is tough enough to keep up with the rough-housing that goes on between stable mates!
Whether pulling an old blanket out of storage or shopping for a new one, the fit is critical. Fit imperatives:
But be careful:
* try a ‘wug’ neck, a higher cut neckline that doesn’t slip down as easily.
Just like the human fashion industry, horsewear comes in a multitude of styles, colours and fits – so try some out. Let’s get our lingo down first:
For Autumn weather in particular, it is all about layers. You can try your own, but we like Horseware’s Rambo Duo line that consists of a waterproof sheet (handy) that integrates with a separate liner (available in different fills) to form a winter turnout. Amigo is their value brand with fewer bells and whistles but the same designs for a lower cost.
Baker is one such quality brand, but with a fit that be titch narrow through the shoulders for our big warm bloods. The Baker turnout sheet and blanket though has gussets at the shoulder and can fare better with the big boys. Not really sure why they don’t do it on the stables.
Care: EQ offers a blanket cleaning and repair service – because you’ll never get the stink out of your washer at home if you try to be a do-it-yourselfer. Top priority for keeping your blanket is insuring every groom, trainer and rider can clearly see some identification; consider embroidering (another service offered here at the Equestrian’s Concierge), attach a tag (even an engraved one) – or at least the old sharpie. The customization of embroidery is the winner: an embroidered name on the blanket can be seen from afar, isn’t hard to find like the obscure tags, and won’t be confused with a barn mate’s.
The key to a great performance is to make pieces so comfortable and functional that you don’t notice how hard it’s working for you.
To be truly effective, today’s athletic apparel must multitask – block the sun, wick moisture, breathe, and create a seal against cold, wind and rain. And it must do this without sacrificing comfort.
Base Layers to Cool and Warm: Microfibers like CoolMax, Ice-Fil and other proprietary blends work year-round to wick sweat.
These materials are great base layers for cooler weather. If the moisture isn’t wicked away and insulated from our skin, we’ll get chilled.
The Middle Matters: By the time we get on our horses, we’ve shed the
outer layer. The mid-layer has to
regulate body heat and moisture and allow complete freedom
Good ol’ wool works. It naturally transfers excess heat and moisture away from your skin – and looks elegant in the process
Trend Watch: Interesting textures and patterns in comfy, snuggly pieces from price leaders Kerrits, Romfh and Mountain Horse.
Outward Facing: Jackets and coats have a new profile this season:
the trend is shorter lengths, lighter weights and sleeker shapes.
Trend Watch: Removable/washable helmet liners: ward off a smelly helmet and nasty hair
It also helps the lifespan of the helmet by decreasing the erosion of the padding. Helmets like the KEP, Antares and One K also use these liners to provide the size of the helmet. This allows for a haircut or simply a replacement for a worn out interior.
If you have one of these helmets and you find the size getting a little large after wearing for a while, just buy a new liner in the same size or one smaller.
Ashley Matchett Woods owns The Equestrian’s Concierge at Sonoma Horse Park and is still a hunter/jumper rider, enjoying her mare, Bella Luna. EQ — the store, the online site and the direct services — is the product of her life-long involvement with horses and her 20-year career in branding, marketing and customer service. As a central resource for the equestrian lifestyle, she outfits many of Northern California’s top riders. Ashley and her husband, Craig, live in Marin County, California with their dog, Cookie – the official Equestrian's Concierge mascot.
Equestrian apparel has always been about the elegant nod to tradition – it still is – but now our garments are more like gear.
Let’s celebrate that we finally have technical performance options – I want to be sure you know about them! So here’s EQ’s first post of a three-part series on innovations:
1. Showing – Performance and Style
2. Schooling – Functional Comfort
3. Horse wear – Relief and Well-Being
Most of the leading trainers and riders value tradition, but also take advantage of comfort fabrics, vented helmets and new materials for boots and equipment.
Careful creating that modern look – you don’t want bold fashion choice detracting from the overall picture. But also, it can be an advantage over another rider with a similar round.
Technology Meets Tradition
New Coat Fabrics: Microfiber, Softshell, Pro-Stretch, lighter stretch wools that mimic the techies. Machine washable (but most won’t)
· In-Style: 3 or 4 button, traditional 2-vent or modern single vents
· Make a statement: suede (easier to care for than velvet) collars and/or piping as more acceptable in any ring
· EQ Favourite: Grand Prix’ tech-Lite fabric is lighter and stretchier than former softshell. Kingsland’s Technical is as just as light with beautifully crafted details: American Flag touches and brass buttons
· You may miss: tech coats don’t have colourful linings as an option
Breech Advancements: CoolMax, Schoeller, second-skin stretch:
· In-Style: Euroseat, frontzip, microfibers with back pockets
· Make a statement: always colour in the jumper ring but more greys and shades of beige/tan/khaki in otherswhites are trimmed in colours and lots of logos
· EQ Favourite: Ariat Olympia is #1 seller with Pikeur Ciara is #1 quality for the Hunter/Eq crowd; GPA’s Skin breech with no thread and thermal bonded edges is the latest
· You may miss: side-zip, flat-front – especially for your shad belly
Shirts Evolved: Techy and lighter (see the pattern?)
· In-Style: Still long sleeve, also short sleeve, both with wrap collars
· Make a Statement: Colour in any ring; polo style that covers up under a coat; sleeveless looks more Euro; contrast collar/cuffs
· EQ Favourite: Tailored Sportsman for the more traditional with beautiful colours and patterns; GPA takes it again with its most-stretch Salma show shirt
· You may miss: embroidery on your collar
Not-So-Hot Helmet Designs: Vented and washable
· In-Style: Still black – but vents are acceptable everywhere; keep the bling minimal and go for the removable/washable inside
· Make a statement: Custom designs and different colours
· EQ Favourite: Antares’ Casque is beautiful from its all-black ultrasuede Hunter to its custom Ostrich leather – the black/brown combo is our fave; we’ve even been known to apply a barn logo; Charles Owen Ayr8 is most popular and now the SP8 (wider brim) for the sun-sensitive rider; Love the GPA First Lady for elegance and ultimate protection (but steep price tag)
· You may miss: velvet “hunt cap” sleekness – but you won’t miss the concussions
Stay-tuned for EQ’s next entry on innovations in schooling attire – there’s where we’ll talk about boots …
The Big Picture
Your Medal Final is not the place to push the fashion envelope. Turnout should be elegant – conservative with a nod to tradition – showing you and your horse to best advantage. That doesn’t mean you must look like everyone else! Fit options and style variations allow you to express individual taste. What’s non-negotiable: “… all attire and tack be clean, well fitted and in good repair.”
One Northern California trainer/competitor points out, “overall turnout of horse and rider is often overlooked – and yet it’s the first impression the judge has as they walk in the ring… [it] can be an advantage over another rider with a similar round,”
“Technological advancements are being embraced, provided they’re respectful of tradition,” says professional rider and judge, Ann Ruffner, who recently participated in a national judges’ clinic. Comfort fabrics, vented helmets and new materials for boots and equipment are encouraged. Be diligent creating that modern look – you don’t want bold fashion choice detracting from the overall picture.
Here’s a guide:
When in doubt, err on the side of tradition, no judge will fault you for that.
Ashley Matchett Woods owns The Equestrian’s Concierge at Sonoma Horse Park and is still a hunter/jumper rider. EQ — the store, the online site and the direct services — is the product of her life-long involvement with horses and her 20-year career in branding, marketing and customer service. As a central resource for the equestrian lifestyle, she outfits many of Northern California’s top riders. Ashley and her husband, Craig, live in Marin County, California with their dog, Cookie – the official Equestrian's Concierge mascot.