Diversity and inclusivity in equestrian sports is a growing topic. When we talk about how to make our sport more diverse, we often touch on ways to lower and decrease the barriers between riders of color. However, there is one barrier that I’ve noticed we rarely touch upon. So today it’s time to address another proverbial elephant in the room. Equestrian clothing and rider protective gear are not inclusive. Let’s break it down.
Big hair, don’t care – this is a problem in the helmet industry. I mean you, Troxel, IRH, Ovation, and all the other helmet brands out there. Having a lot of tight, curly hair on my head means I need a larger helmet with space for all that hair. I need room for my silk cap so my hair doesn’t break off and my scalp doesn’t become irritated. Finding one that will fit my head comfortably is a challenge. Smashing it down on my head to fit means perpetual headaches and imprints across my forehead. Large-size helmets are also extremely expensive. In fact, the largest helmet is a 65cm Charles Owens Gr8, and it is $413 dollars compared to a $25 schooling helmet. Riders of color deserve safety too, helmets that will fit our head comfortably and account for our curls and hairstyles and silk caps. Helmets that will not leave us with headaches and pressure on the sides of our heads. What’s the alternative – riding without a helmet and increasing our chances of traumatic brain injuries. We deserve better. You can do better.
Your sizes stop where many of our sizes begin. Why is that? My body is curvy in all the right places, in many places riding pants often are not. Material with no stretch, waistlines with no give, pants that don’t fit or won’t go over the butt, or squeeze uncomfortably tight in all the wrong places. The average woman in America is a size 16. Why do most brands of pants stop at size 10 or 12? I am not a toothpick. I shouldn’t have to struggle to find riding pants that will fit the average woman, let alone my big butt and hips and thighs and waist. Instead, you lose my business as I’m forced to find innovative or international alternatives. Thank you Fuller Fillies and Kerrits for stepping up in this space. We need more brands like you; we deserve better.
Tall Boots & Half Chaps
I have a wide calf. I have big feet and tiny ankles. I cannot find tall boots that fit both proportionally without paying for something custom-made. I can hardly find chaps that will fit around my calf. Riding without proper equipment is one-way riders of color quit or won’t consider riding. It’s yet another jab in the gut in ways we are subtly told we are not welcome. Don’t bother showing if you can’t even fit into tall boots, you won’t take a blue ribbon without them. Ariat, Ovation, Tredstep, Rambo and others. We see you and we deserve better.
Riding Shirts & Jackets
My chest is not flat, my breasts are not something to be ashamed of. I have broad shoulders and a muscular back. Your shirt sizes stop where my chest size begins. Finding a shirt or jacket that will let me move my arms as I jump a course of fences and don’t restrict my arms for a following release is like going on an epic treasure hunt. My boobs exist, they are not going anywhere. I refuse to tie them down so flat my chest aches and I can hardly breathe. Ariat, Tailored Sportsman, Grand Prix, Pikeu, TuffRider, we see you and we deserve better.
We talk about lowering the obstacles that equestrians of color face. They are many and they are problematic. We have overlooked brands and how they play a role in this problem for too long. In order to make our sport more open and inclusive, we must encourage brands to make products that fit a wider and more varied range of riders of all shapes and sizes.
To all the equestrian brands out there, I challenge you: know better, do better, be better.