Halloween costumes have come and gone, but in the equestrian world, there is always a time for costumes. Not in everyday life, but in certain circumstances a costume is relevant — and fun.
At many horse shows, a costume class is offered in which entrants dress themselves and their horses in a costume and then are judged on creativity and originality. There always seems to be at least one little princess on a unicorn costume in every class who is tough to beat. While maybe not high on the originality scale, no judge can resist the charms of a wee girl on her pony, covered in glitter. It can’t be done, I tell you.
I’ve seen costumes at horse shows for which the horse is completely unrecognizable. There have been horses wearing trousers, wheels, leather jackets, sunglasses, top hats, wigs and all sorts of paraphernalia. Horses have been picnic tables, police cars, hula dancers, pirates, Christmas elves and dragons. These are some tolerant horses.
Some may think it undignified to see horses dressed in goofy costumes, but it’s really just a way to have some plain old fun, and demonstrates just how tractable a horse can be. If a horse is safe enough to walk around in a fire engine costume, you can probably trust him to tote around a 7-year-old kid.
There are some more dignified options for costumes. Arabian horses can be shown in native costume classes. These horses and riders wear elaborate tasseled and jeweled outfits reminiscent of Ali Baba, taken up several notches on the glitz scale. The riders wear flowing scarves, caftans and satiny slippers on their feet. The horses are draped in richly colored
saddle blankets decorated with brocade and tassels. Then the horses are ridden at a walk, canter and full gallop and the effect is electrifying.
Friesian horses are often shown in medieval or a fantasy type of costume. These horses already look like something out of a storybook, so to add the costume just completes the illusion.
Slipping off the dignified list and coming in on the fun list are Western Freestyle reining events. These riders individually perform a choreographed routine including a lope, gallop, reinback and maneuvers such as spins, roll-backs and sliding stops. Music is chosen that has crowd appeal and goes with the costume. There have been performances to Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” with the horse dressed as a Harley, complete with ape hangers, and a Batman and Bat-horse entry riding to Batmobile theme music.
Even the staid and dignified world of dressage cracks once in awhile and a costumed rider will perform to music, generally as an exhibition or fundraiser. A famous international level competitor showed up at an event and piaffed and passaged to a popular hip-hop tune wearing a giant afro wig and rainbow zebra striped leggings. Imagine if Barbara Bush had gone out on the dance floor in a miniskirt and danced to the Commodores’ “Brick House” and you might be able to appreciate the effect. At least the horse maintained its dignity on that one. It was fun though, and the crowd was in an uproar.
I have competed in costume classes and have always lost to the little princess on the unicorn. When my son was smaller and less easily embarrassed, I would dress him in costumes and put him on a similarly dressed horse which was a shoe-in for a blue ribbon. Past themes included the Wizard of Oz, pirates, knights and the 1950s — all trophy winners. The key seems to be having a small child along.
Much like trick-or-treating. It doesn’t really work as well without the kids.