The Rat Race – Tack Attack

The Rat Race – Tack Attack

Have you ever thought about how much the equestrian world feels like a rat race at times?  Something about the sport seems to bring out a ‘more more more’ mentality in me at least, and I thought it’d be an interesting topic for a mini-blog series to see if other bloggers felt the same way.

There’s no denying that the equestrian world is full of trends, and they seem to change completely each time I get back into showing.  When I started showing IHSA in 2003, you needed a pair of green/tan Tailored Sportsman breeches – the kind with the seam that swooped over your knee.  Also, forget that velvet helmet.  GPA skunk stripes were all the rage, no matter what ring you rode in.  Bonus points of it was decorated with electric tape in your barn colors.  Triple bonus points for a bejeweled GPA.


Now of course it’s ten years later and it’s natural for things to go out of style, but if you wear a GPA it “better” be a Speed Air (or maybe First Lady) says many people.  The puke green breeches?  Forget it says the hunter princesses, even if those $200 breeches are still in great shape.

My very out of style old breeches that I adored
My very out of style old breeches that I adored

It’s not that I don’t like new and shiny exciting brands and trends, but I don’t like the mentality that what I have is never good enough.

Here’s a perfect example of that from my personal history:

When I first discovered what rated hunter/jumper shows were really like, I spent a lot of time at the North Carolina Hunt Horse Complex watching the big AA shows.  At these shows, there were lots of vendors and one of them was Thinline.  Early in the Thinline days, they did a lot of promoting at shows like this with their golfball display.

At the time, I thought this was pretty much the coolest thing ever. My horse needs a Thinline pad, obviously! Of course I was a poor college kid and had nothing fancy and no money for it, but I didn’t forget the pad. Now years later, I have the coveted Thinline pad… and what am I doing?
I’m researching other half pads because I’m “meh” on it.

This is not to say that Thinlines are crap (they’re not) and there aren’t better half pads out there (I’m sure there are), but more of a “why can’t I be satisfied?” problem.  If I’m being 100% honest, a lot of the reason I’m interested in different half pads is because all of the beautiful Ogilvy covers and memory half pad trends.


I don’t want to be the person who buys a flashy product entirely because of trends.

Do you ever feel this way about tack, or am I alone in this part of the equestrian rat race?

47 thoughts on “The Rat Race – Tack Attack

  1. It’s totally a rat race! Back in high school one of the girls got new tall boots and was the first in the barn to have zippers in them. Everyone though that was the hottest thing ever. I remember begging my mom for new boots with zippers.

    1. Zippers are definitely one trend I was 100% on board with just because pulls ons are a pain and I always needed help getting mine off because the boot jack just didn’t cut it. But I think this is one of the exceptions. Seems like a lot of these trends don’t have any improved functionality or at least not much.

    2. Man, I can relate to this! I had a nice pair of non-zipper tall boots in my IHSA days and wanted zippered tall boots SOOOOOO BAD. I honestly do think they improve tall boots so much though!

  2. Really good post! I think for anyone who feels the need to keep up with the trends, this sport can be really tough in that aspect. There is always something new and different coming out, something else that’s now ‘in’, and in all honestly it’s a sport that caters to the wealthy, so it can support these expensive swings in fashion. I think to avoid the trap of the Tack Attack Rat Race, one needs to focus on buying things for the most part because they’re useful and beneficial. Otherwise you can easily put yourself in the poor house trying to keep up with the Joneses.

  3. I think its easy to get in the “Keeping up with the Jonses” mentality and I don’t think you are alone in it. Personally i have no problem continuing to wear my green biege tailored sportsman,it hasn’t changed my placings at any horse show. And there are ways to continue to own quality items without breaking the bank, I am a huge fan of buying used things. Sometimes though its great to have the mentality of going against the grain and not giving a shit,

  4. IMO there’s a difference between trends and evolution. A lot of new stuff is just plain BETTER, so of course it makes sense to want it. Those old TS were like sausage casings, so naturally people jumped ship when better fabric came out. Speed Airs and Samshields have much better air flow than their old counterparts. Half pads are a really individual thing but I find the Ogilvy super comfy and it works well for my horse – more so than my old Beval that i had in the 90’s, and more so than the Thinline I had for years after that. If the Ogilvy hadn’t worked for us I would have happily gone back to Thinline, which I adored. Zippered boots: who the hell would want to pull those things on anymore if you don’t have to?!?!

    I love pretty new things, obviously, but only if it’s BETTER than what I’ve got. I don’t mind spending money on better fabric, more comfort, better protection, improved design, etc. It’s a bonus that those things are available in prettier packages. There are the things that are 100% purely trendy of course (blinged out GPA’s are a good example), and then there are the things that are popular because they’re just superior. Especially over the last 10 years there has been so much improvement in the quality of materials for both horse and people items. But at the end of the day – I just like having nice things, whether that means they’re new and “trendy” or not. Yes my tack locker is stacked with Ogilvy, but I’ve also still got a 20+ year old heavy wool newmarket cooler from Miller’s because IMO there still just isn’t anything better. I clung to my old velvet hunt cap until the rule change forced me into a new helmet.

    There are definitely things I buy for no other reason that they’re cool (monogram all the things) but for the most part I buy things because I think they’re innovative and effective and I think they’ll work for me, not just because other people have it. In fact – I tend to want things more if other people DON’T have it. 😉

    1. Yeah, there is a difference between innovation and trend… although I disagree with you about the old TS’s being sausage casing. I thought the old style was much more loose and flattering than the new one!

      1. I hated those the fabric of those things. The thighs felt super tight to me when I was on the horse, but then you got off the horse and the butt was super baggy! Guess that’s a nice perk of having so many different breeches on the market (and acceptable in the show ring) these days… everyone can find something they like.

  5. Oh my gosh, I know how you feel!

    I came from the Pony Club/eventing world where it was perfectly acceptable to wear your trusty velvet helmet in dressage and show jumping and your tan On Course pull-on breeches for everything! When I joined the equestrian team, my coach was horrified at my ensemble and told me I needed a pair of Tailored Sportsmans, a navy coat (instead of my black one), and a shirt that wasn’t white. I bought a used pair of TS, which were the most wretched things I ever owned. They split on the inside seam of the thigh during an over fences round and I was never so happy in my life. (I didn’t buy another pair- I told my coach the school could foot the bill for another pair!)

    I try to avoid trends and go with what I know works, but sometimes it’s hard! No one wants to look like a dork. 🙂

    1. We had the same equestrian team experience. I showed up to tryouts with riding tights and rubber tall boots. I literally thought show bows were what you wore at horse shows… oui!

  6. I definitely see this in the H/J microcosm. I am fortunate enough to be stubborn and wayward enough to stick with what I have. I am fairly immune to the fads and have different taste than most people. But sometimes the pretties are nice to look at and lust over! I get more caught up in the rat race of wanting success and make the mistake of comparing myself and my horses to others, and that isn’t fair to my ponies. I am just hungry for success and results, and desperate for acknowledgment, that is my rat race.

  7. I don’t get super sucked in to trends or needing to look like anyone else. I admittedly do see some things fashion wise that I just plain want, and need to remind myself that I’m horse poor and have a perfectly good helmet/breeches/shirt/belt/whatever. It’s the bigger and better gear for my horses that gets me every time. If I can be convinced it’s better for them I’m sold!

  8. I think there is peer pressure to have the latest and greatest… I know I’m more aware of it now than I was when I was actively teaching riding lessons oddly enough. However I don’t buy to keep up… I buy what works for my horse and for me… With an eye to not having to buy again in the near future.

  9. Completely agree the trend thing is nuts, but FYI as someone who had a memory half pad before they were all the range and now has a thinline, the thinline helps my back and my horses way more than the bulky memory half pad ever did. I’ll have to do a matching post to this with the trend in Western show gear. I cant clean my show saddle because it will make it darker! The light oil is still in big time.

  10. Interesting post. I have never felt like I have to buy something because it is in but rather buy a new helmet when I need one or they come out with something cooler/ safer. Boots wise I totally get why people with pull ons lust for zippers. I loved the day I got boots I could take off without help!

    As for the half pad thing it’s all personal. But I have the pad I have because it’s currently the best option for me and my horse. I think getting caught in this is a choice kind of. You can buy what you want/ need and be happy with it or you can be a person that’s constantly in search of something better. If I’m not satisfied with an item I do find myself looking for better options but not because I feel like society is forcing me to but because I don’t like whatever it is I have. I find myself being a little more whimsical grabby hands about smaller ticket items that are popular than significant investments.

    1. I definitely am looser with the smaller items too – like monograms, bridle charms, and the cheaper sun shirts. At the end of the day sometimes it’s just plain fun to buy some senseless items that others have and look cool.

  11. I feel that way all the time! It’s also an interesting topic for me right now because I am complete need of everything for showing (since I haven’t personally shown in a rated show since I was about 15 and nothing fits anymore). The nice thing about doing eventers is that there isn’t the same pressure to have the “in” products like hunter jumper though there are definitely huge trends and definitely “in” products, I just don’t feel the stress like I did when I did hunters. But at the same time, I’m not an adult with my own money and there are some things I want because I like them and I feel good in them. So I buy them. 🙂

  12. I don’t do this in some areas – my own riding apparel is about as unfashionable as it gets – but I do get sucked into it in other ways. For example, despite ZERO demonstrated need, Tristan jumps & goes XC in a Figure 8 bridle because it “looks” eventer-y. I have also coveted a 5-point breastplate for the same reason – though he actually does need a breastplate in some situations.

  13. yep you’re definitely NOT alone! i grew up in the city and worked at barns just to afford lessons… so high-end, on-trend equipment has always been lower on my priority list than actual riding time.

    now, as a decently employed adult (with a mucho-affordable leased horse), i can finally afford some of that stuff (and have enjoyed the satisfaction). but i still mostly buy used and on sale… and gotta admit that it was oddly satisfying to buy an ogilvy (used) only to determine that it wasn’t for us and resell it.

    it’s good to indulge in some things (i mean, we do the horse thing for fun anyways, right?) – but i try to stick to function over form.

  14. Trends is one of the reasons I love dressage. We have trends, but they aren’t indicative of your placement in a class. They are more “nice to have” things that you buy because you like the way your horse or you look in such things. At every dressage show I’ve ever been to, people have been using a wide array of half pads, no pads, bridles, bling, boots, helmets, coats. The only real trend is that everything be black and white, but even then I’ve seen gorgeous gray horses showing in black pads, and some beautiful brown dressage tack. Anything goes in dressage, as long as it’s legal!

    1. See, I have never felt like any trend has influenced my placing in the hunters or equitation. Maybe I’m being naive, but I think trends are more about what riders like and judges don’t give a flying flip.

      1. ^^Agree! At least I hope that is the case. And with several people in a class, and so many things to pay attention to, I doubt snap collars vs. traditional, or monogrammed collars vs. stock pin really are that high on a judge’s priority list.

  15. I think I just like “things”. Rather sad when you think about it. I have about a hundered saddle pads and more bits and polos than you can count. Probs 7 breastplates too, and not the cheap kind. Sadly I am poor, so most things I get off eBay…which IMO, can be WORSE because everything is so cheap! I rarely “have to have” something because its trending. I DO have a 5 point, a Charles Owen and the airflow XC boots…but those were just practical and made sense from a functioning perspective, not fashion. Doesn’t mean I don’t want an Ogilvy though…

  16. I suffer from the opposite affliction: extreme reluctance to buy things (even when they are necessary). I have mental baggage of guilt because board + training > our mortgage! So adding “stuff” on top of it is hard. It took me 2 weeks to finally pick up a bottle of fly spray, and I only did it with a 20% off coupon… All my stuff is used, I’m a major pack rat, I’m probably the most unstylish rider on the planet! =P

  17. YUP. It saddens me to see it spilling into the eventing world too. Everyone needs a new helmet…new shirt, new pants…etc. I like to buy nice things because they last and if it fits my style…

  18. Yes, yes and yes! I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that there is a lot of money in the horse world. Yes, we aren’t all rich because we have horses, quite the opposite for most of us, but there are plenty of people in the equestrian world with more money than they know what to do with.

    However, I think you can use this to your benefit if you don’t mind being the non-trendy person in the crowd. Just take saddles for example. Right now in the eventer world at least having a CWD or some other fancy french saddle is the THING to have. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these saddles most of them are pretty amazing but waaaaay out of my budget. So instead I got a new, custom saddle for half the price just because it isn’t one of these trendy brands. And honestly I think it is ever bit as nice and sure was an easier bill to swallow!

  19. Working at Dover really helped me from NOT joining in the Rat Race but I totally saw it. I think what I really got caught up in was the feed and supplements when I was working at the local feed store. Dog food too. There’s always something better and new out. But to be honest, I always ended up going back to what worked best. It’s crazy to see the trends that fly through the horse world though. I just want boots and saddle that fit and work. Oh… And a helmet.

  20. going through the Thin Line vs. Ogilvy debate myself!! Have been using Thin Line for ages and it is perfect b/c it doesn’t create bulk but you can shim it if need to…. BUT Ogilvy’s are PRETTY!!!!!!!! And you can customize them!!!(even though they don’t have a Kelly Green piping or binding…grrrr!) But I have heard that they’re to bulky if you have a well fitted saddle. They compress but apparently it doesn’t always work. And I didn’t like the feel of the gummy pad- doesn’t bounce back as quickly as the memory foam and I don’t think it absorbs as much shock once compressed (tested this by hitting my arm under both pads at the tack shop so it is only a personal guess on the difference!)

    All in all as with all fashionable things if you want a new half pad get an EcoGold- you don’t have to wait as long (Christmas deadline for Oglivy has already come and gone) or continue to enjoy the Thin Line 🙂 I still love my Thin Line and use it on every horse! (and will admit I have an Ogilvy coming in the mail for my particularly sensitive beyond sensitivity TB mare b/c holy crap horse! How sensitive are you????? lol!!!)

  21. I know that you know that I don’t stick to the trends, partially because I know that one of the half pads you’re looking at is Supracor, and that’s my fault, and it’s totally out of style right now. I am very much the black sheep as far as trendy things go. If it fits (tack/clothing), and it’s not expired (helmet) and I truly believe it’s better than anything else out there objectively (Supracor) I own it. If it’s just going to improve aesthetics, it doesn’t motivate me to buy it.

  22. Excellent topic!! I am a confirmed (and un-repentant) tack ‘ho. I certainly pay attention to what’s in and trendy. I guess I have a bit of a reputation, and I frequently get questions about what to buy in certain situations, which is fun.

    That said. While I’ll buy lots of tack, I generally pick it up used and then turn around and resell for about the same as I paid. There are very few items I keep long term. I do really love my current saddle and bridle. Have I finally settled down? Time will tell.

    This is my hobby and if I want to exercise my grown-up privilege of buying the pretty things, I totally will (as long as I can aofford it). I get that not everyone can afford it. I get that not everyone cares. But hey. I do what I like and can afford and I’m having fun.

  23. I guess… No, not really. I mean I have the green TS breeches because that was what my IHSA coach wanted me to show in but I really haven’t “bought in” to anything fancy. I love thinline because of the shock absorbing wonders it had for Don’s back so now I never ride without one.

    I am out of the loop as far as my entire life goes though, so I guess it makes sense I am out of the loop in the horse world. I’d never heard of the ogilvy pads before some blogger mentioned them. I just use what fits and is functional and I can afford. My boss yesterday told me I was like someone’s grandma that’s been living in a third world country when I didn’t know who some pop star was. It was a little painful since I’m 23 but I don’t really change what I like or what I do based on trends. Apparently that makes me a boring, out of touch person.

  24. I think it is a total rat race. I don’t mind trends as long as they have become trendy due to function. That being said, I also can’t deny that I’ve had that “need to fit in” feeling.

  25. I have never really showed so I don’t think I really took part in a lot of showring trends. But I did buy a very custom saddle (with some car accident money) that was quite en vogue in 2008 at my barn. And I deeply regret that purchase. It was a lot of money for a so-so saddle.

  26. I love my Thinline pad. I keep thinking that I want to get a Oglivy, or maybe a Mattes, but I am just kind of stuck on the Thinline. They have actual science backing their claims, where I have yet to find much of anything on if Oglivy is actually better. They sure are prettier though! I can’t believe that it took Back On Track so long to finally start making their pads in “colors.”

  27. I am a weird mix: I have a pair of ‘shires’ half chaps that cost $30 and have had them for over 10 years now, but at the same time I WANT all the beautiful Ariat, Dubarry, and Dunblin boots. Would I actually ride in them? No. Do I still want them because they are trendy and look good? Oh yes.

  28. I definitely get caught up on this. I think it’s a mixture of seeing other people’s devotion to a product and convincing yourself that it actually is all magical. I’m trying to be better, but it’s hard 😛

  29. My own personal rat-track-race is just to do all the matching. With everything. It helps that I’m into dressage, and like someone already mentioned; pretty much anything goes.

    I find I’m all about finally being able to buy some newer items that are the colors/style I want rather than having to have decades old, mis-matched gear that is ratty. After riding for over 10 years in second hand stuff, I’m over it. 😛

  30. Yep. I hear ya. I took two years off showing in the hack ring, and now I’m seriously out of fashion. I LIKE my show gear. I think it looks neat and smart. And really, if it’s the color of the coat that wins the class- then I’m not too upset by that!

  31. I definitely get into the habit of wanting more, more, more when it comes to horse accessories. One week its I want something pretty, and then it’s something classic, and then it’s something functional. I have tried to always question my wants (because I just can’t spend that sort of money). For instance, I LOVE the wide noseband bridles. I think they’re fabulous and beautiful. But Gav isn’t a hunter, and his bridle works just fine. So, I’ve fought off the urge…. at least for now.

  32. This is a great topic! I tend to jump on the bandwagon with “trendy” items that will have a long life span and use them until they need to be replaced, the buy the new “trendy” item. I avoid flash in the pan stuff- like a sparkly GPA- but can get behind a gray and navy Ogilvy. And it does have to be something that is reviewed well and will benefit me or my horse!

  33. Honestly, this is one of the reasons (among many) I want to transition into just showing the hunt seat horses. I don’t know I could ever leave the stock horse world completely, but what it takes to be competitive at the level I like to show at in the all-around is just mind boggling. $6k blinged out Lindsay James jackets, $12k Harris saddles… it’s so political, it’s so outrageous and I can’t deal. The hunters are trendy, no doubt, but at the end of the day it’s a hell of a lot easier to be judged on your riding when everyone is basically wearing the same thing versus trying to stand out in a Swarovski crowd.

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