Coaching & Training

17 Apr 2015

'A Corset of Silver Brocade' - the future of competition clothing

There has been debate in the press recently about the future of dressage fashion - most particularly about tails with top hats or riding helmets and the limited choice of jacket colours allowed in competition. In fact, one of the items up for discussion at this month’s FEI Sports Forum on the future of Dressage is redefining the competition dress code to allow riders more freedom of choice ‘without giving the impression of being a member of a circus’ !

From Greek and Roman times, riding was seen as a functional activity - the horse was used for travel, hunting or warfare and equestrian clothing reflected this. However in the 16th Century, riding became an art form in itself and equestrian fashion was seen as an opportunity to display elaborate finery and wealth. In 1662, King Louis XIV of France celebrated the birth of his son by hosting an equestrian ballet in front of the Palace of the Tuileries. The king wore ‘ a corset of silver brocade embroidered with gold and a silver helmet with gold leaf enhanced by two large diamonds and a crest of feathers the colour of fire…’  Whilst we may perhaps want to remember the roots of our sport in what we wear in the competition arena today, in this case the circus does come to mind and I cannot but feel that the king wanted to draw attention more to himself than the horse/rider combination!

What does keep recurring in descriptions of riding fashion throughout the course of history is the word ‘elegance’. In fact this description is even used by designers today when referring to rider wear. Gucci’s creative director, Frida Gianni, says  ‘there is an elegance to equestrian clothing.’ I think the clothing we wear in competition comes from the desire to enhance the natural elegance of the horse itself.

But unfortunately, it can't just be about looks, can it?

Whilst I think that a top hat looks undeniably elegant with a tailcoat, I cannot bring myself to ride without a helmet. This stems from a story I was told a few years ago by a German man who was showing us a horse as a prospective purchase. It was the time when it was the fashion to ride without a helmet and as a young rider I wanted to look like the senior riders in the sport. He told us how one day a week he would make the long journey to visit his childhood friend and have lunch with her. Some five years previously she had fallen off her horse and had hit her head. She had not been wearing a helmet. She was now unable to move or communicate. She was 21 years old. This story had a real impact on me and I shall never forget it.

Nowadays, of course, the ruling for Pony, Junior and Young riders is that it is compulsory to wear a safety helmet and a number of our sports senior riders also do the same. I am now quite used to the silhouette of a helmet and tailcoat. It was noticeable at the CDI in Nieuw en St Joosland last week that there are fewer top hat wearers and that helmets are becoming a fashion statement in themselves - chrome, diamantes, snakeskin, leather…

Another thing I noticed were the subtle additions to jackets and tailcoats that makes them individual to the wearer: pink piping on a navy tailcoat, a gold lining, a red cuff, a velvet bow at the waist, a jewelled button - there were many interpretations of the ‘dark coloured’ coat rule and I like the idea of being able to personalise the jackets we wear yet still maintain the elegance of the original idea. 

Our competition riding wear today has moved on from the elaborate pomp and finery of the 16th Century French court. However, by keeping the tailcoat we are remembering our elegant roots and by wearing helmets we are being responsible for our own safety. With the freedom to personalise our clothing and headgear in subtle ways we can ensure that we do not resemble ‘members of a circus’ and, most importantly, that the beauty and elegance of our horses is never overpowered.



30 Mar 2015

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17 Feb 2014

Out and about!

Now my competing campaign has begun, I am out and about with both horses, learning how they cope with the show environment and finding my way around unfamiliar parts of Holland. My 'ring rustiness' is  wearing off and I am loving being back in competition!
I am very pleased with the progress both Bella and CJ are making as they grow in confidence away from home and as for the winning rosettes - they are a great bonus!



24 Jan 2014

All change!

As we head into 2014, I want to update you on the exciting changes that have taken place over the past few months.

Most importantly, I have taken the big decision to leave University and academic study so that I can concentrate fully on my vocational one of dressage. I am now full time in Holland and it is a great relief to be able to spend my time doing what I really love and intend one day to be able to make a career out of my passion.
I also have a new horse to ride! CJ is a bright bay stallion by Johnson who was ridden by Hans Peter Minderhoud.  He is 7yrs old and stands 16.2hh. He is a horse that always makes you smile and he loves his work both on the track and in the school.  He is such great fun! His talent is amazing and on our first few outings this year, he has won twice and come second.  I am aiming to compete him at Young Rider level in 2014.
Bella continues to make excellent progress and I am learning how to harness her power both in training and more recently in competition. She is thrilling to ride and I have high hopes for her over the next couple of years, with U25 Grand Prix as our aim.
Life at the Academy Bartels is always busy and packed with opportunities for learning  - I feel very lucky to be able to experience it all!



11 Oct 2013

Radio Interview for the USA

I was interviewed by Chris Stafford of the USA for her radio show. You can listen to it by clicking this link. Enjoy!




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