When I was a girl I trained with a distinguished dressage rider from Sweden who emanated a worldly and refined elegance. Lilian Van Dahn was tall and lovely, with a perfectly styled curl of blond hair, and always impeccably dressed in finely tailored clothing. Her color palette was always subtle in nature, never anything darker than an English cup of tea with milk. With her silk blouses and pressed beige pants, she had a style that was as graceful as it was sophisticated. There was never a wrinkle, crease, or fold, not one spot of dirt — even after a full day of lessons at the barn. She would become my idol, my inspiration for wanting to live the equestrian lifestyle, with all its romance, adventure, and timeless fashion.

I try to convey this idea to my customers, that riding is a discipline, and we should dress accordingly. I also encourage them to incorporate their own personal tastes and style into their equestrian wardrobe. Riding is not only a sport; it is a state of mind, and a vehicle for self-exploration and aesthetic expression.

And there is no better time to evolve our equestrian fashion choices. The equestrian apparel industry is booming, with more and more European brands infiltrating the US market — elevating the quality of products we now have to choose from. This influx of European companies exposes our customer base to a new standard of innovative products, cutting-edge designs, and high-tech performance wear.

Top photo: Beautiful bronze points elude to elegant personal style. Above: The Galathea’s feminine stitch detailing has a slimming effect on the waist.

Here in the States, however, we are surprisingly conservative in our riding apparel, rarely straying away from our black, white, tan, and navy mind set. Fortunately over the years, riders have begun to assimilate these new fangled ideas into their apparel repertoire, realizing that these innovative brands not only feel and fit better, but they also allow you to perform better in the arena.

I was thrilled last year when the dressage rules eased up on the color and options for show coats, opening up the possibility for lighter and darker shades of green, blue, maroon, and even purple. In addition, contrast piping and details have also been deemed “acceptable” at the dressage shows. Of course all of this has to be done in good taste and impeccable style, but it’s refreshing to finally be able to brighten up a classical dressage look with a little touch of bling and flair.

The Shadbelly featured in the article is a classic Kentucky navy tail coat with just a subtle touch of bronzed points and contrast stitching, while the Cavallo Galathea coat on our other model is absolutely stunning, and has just enough sparkle on the collar for a true Dressage Diva!

Dressage that shines: Animo Pazzia Shirt – feminine-cut show shirt in a modern stretchy fabric in white with beige stripe; European Saddlery – metallic bronze belt has a subtle sheen; Cavallo Galathea Coat – Gorgeous kaffee brown coat with Swarovski crystal piping and cognac velvet collar and pocket detail; Kentucky “Kentucky City Strass” Breech – lightweight, breathable breech with Swarovski crystal accents; Tucci Time Leonardo – Italian leather dress boot with a full -length zipper and a slim-cut through the ankle.

Classic dressage: Mountain Horse Victoria Show Shirt – Lightweight stretch microfiber shirt in white with gold diamond pattern; Kentucky Shadbelly – Navy shadbelly with rich bronze colored points, stitching, and gold tone buttons; Tory Leather – Newmarket brown leather belt with a subtle hunter green lining, Cavallo Cara Breech -flattering cotton- blend, full-seat breech with front zipper pocket; Cavallo Grand Prix Plus – Classic dressage boot with extra high Spanish top and a full- length zipper.

LA Saddlery has opened the California equestrian market to companies from all over the world. They present new clothing lines that challenge the traditional riding outfit with fresh ideas, high-performance fabrics, and fashion-forward details. The main store is located in the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank, CA and the mobile boutique frequents many of the top California horse shows. www.lasaddlery.com

Read the full story in the Fall 2012 issue of Equestrian Quarterly.