In the US, we dressage folk have some intelligent rules for dressage show attire in hot weather.
That’s because it gets HOT here.
In Europe, the home of the FEI, there are no such “extreme weather” rules, because apparently it never gets beyond warm there. And perhaps Spain and Portugal don’t count as parts of Europe. Therefore in CDI competition, you’ll find folks wearing shadbellies even when the temperature soars beyond 100, which summed up the weather in the entire Lower 48 States last week. Even though technical fabrics are replacing wool, it still defies logic to slip into a black jacket when the heat index is in the triple digits.
Fortunately the folks in charge of such things at the NAJRYC thought so too.
Years ago, when they diligently followed FEI dress rules, we saw kids pass out from the heat after their rides. While the horses are brilliantly tended to before their rides to keep their core temperatures down, you simply can’t douse a rider with cool water in the schooling area and then expect to pull a jacket on over soaking wet arms. So the horses were fine, but the kids sometimes fainted.
But for the past several years, the teams have been apprised well ahead of time that coats just may be waived, depending on the temperature. This gives them time to order polo shirts with their team logo on it. And when jackets are waived at NAJYRC, it’s required to ride without it. Even though the humidity the first day was so high that it qualified as “wearable air,” no one became ill from it. And guess what? Dressed in their matching polos and mandatory helmets, they looked like teams of … athletes!
The only time jackets were allowed was for the prize-giving ceremonies. And there were some stunning jackets in the Junior division, including a mocha jacket and an aubergine tailcoat. Although I don’t completely agree with Juniors wearing tailcoats, there are no FEI rules that forbid them. (And perhaps a bit off subject, I really don’t agree with pony hunter riders wearing tailcoats with their jodphers: it’s a little bit too Toddlers and Tiaras for my taste.)
But back to summer attire. Regardless of the FEI’s perspective from temperate northern Europe, there are large parts of the world that regularly deal with oppressively hot temperatures. So far, they have been unimpressed with any arguments in favor of a stylish summer outfit that does not include a tailcoat. But they have been responsive when it comes to Junior riders regarding mandatory helmet use. Therefore, I suggest that Juniors at FEI levels be allowed to ride with an alternate outfit in extreme temperatures, whether is it a polo shirt like we saw at NAJYRC, or a shirt with the addition of a lightweight vest, as is allowed under USEF rules. It’s better for the kids, and who knows, maybe eventually adults in CDIs would have the option to ride in a more rational summer outfit, too.