In Defense of Treating Myself

There are two main schools of equestrians that I follow on Instagram: those with seemingly bottomless pockets who are always wearing the newest trends and have impeccable matching tack, and those who don’t give a rat’s ass about all that and pride themselves on riding well instead of relying on appearance.

I don’t think I have the necessary qualifications to join either group.

When it comes to the first group, I simply don’t have the funds to keep up. I don’t have a groom to hold my horse so my whites stay white, I can’t show at WEF for 12 weeks every winter, and I’ve never spent more than $100 on a bridle.

And when it comes to the second group, I care too much about my appearance. And not gonna lie, I don’t ride well enough to outshine any untidiness in my dress. Many people do. I am not one of them.

So I’m basically stuck in no-man’s land: vain enough to want all the pretty things, but unable to justify the expense when I have rent due at the end of the month.

I think we can all agree that buying expensive tack or riding clothes does NOT make you a better rider. Something about turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse and all that. And there are plenty of options that are budget-friendly, neat, coordinated, and are perfectly serviceable. So why do I keep lusting over the $200 pants, when a $70 pair of pants serve the purpose just as well?

We could delve into a deep analysis of my inner psyche and how society has conditioned us to seek approval and blah blah blah, but let’s not. It’s really simple: I don’t just ride because I love horses.

Of course, I love horses. That part is obvious. But there’s another reason that I love this sport so much. It’s the aesthetic. And I think this is what makes it hard for me to identify with the second group: they have a love for the sport that is based more purely on their love for riding, and that’s wonderful! I love it too! But my love for this sport has another facet, for better or for worse.

I LOVE the look. Matching leather, sleek show coats that coordinate perfectly with the horse you’re on, subtle monograms, having every hair in place. There’s a reason the equestrian look has been in style for literally centuries- it’s the perfect mix of elegant and functional, classy and sporty.

So to the person who says, “if you didn’t buy that show coat, you could show in an extra division” I say this:

You’re right. I could go for the budget-friendly options and then I’d be able to show more often and probably I’d become a better competitor and maybe even a better rider. There is no denying that.

But I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to be able to afford this sport. All willingly and eagerly made, but sacrifices nonetheless. My sense of style and delight in high-quality leather will not go on that list of sacrifices.

Someday maybe I’ll have the luxury of a budget that allows me to have it all. But in the meantime, I will continue to work my butt off to be the absolute best rider I can be and progress at home and at shows. I will sweat through everything I own, I will tromp through mud without hesitation, I will wipe horsey eye boogers on my jacket, I will rest muddy hooves on my pants.

You can bet your boots that I’m gonna feel gorgeous doing it.

What’s your favorite way to treat yourself?