Does it matter how you dress around your horse? Written by Don Jessop
Yes, it does matter. Although you're horse may not care if you want to ride like Lady Godiva, how you present yourself, has a massive impact on how your horse perceives your leadership standards. Let me explain.
A horse responds best to a focused and firm, yet kind leader. If you dress in a manner that doesn't project this, you yourself may assume a nonchalant, slack demeanor. This carries over in your ability to interact. Here's how I know you already know this.
When you go to the grocery store, do you wear your pajamas? Please say no. When you go to church, do you wear your swimsuit? Please don't say yes? When you go to a job interview, do you wear your sandals? I doubt it, unless you're interviewing for a foot model job. You instinctively know that perception is important. Especially, how you perceive yourself. When you wear clothing that boosts your self-esteem, even when you're not at the show, you begin to feel more like you belong in the places you go. The same is true for interacting with horses.
But it's not just about self-esteem. It's also important to consider these other factors:
Safety? Yes - loose fitting clothes don't belong in the vicinity of horses. You need to wear boots, tighter pants, and tighter shirts, preferably, not the kind that would restrict your natural movement, but stretch and move with you. Why? I bet you can guess, but in case you haven't yet, people get hurt with loose clothing. Horses can easily grab hold of loose clothing with their mouth. I've seen a close friend, grabbed and tossed a great distance by a new horse. I've also seen people get their shirt or jacket stuck on the saddle horn while dismounting, just in time to have the horse spook and drag them down the road. I've also seen people slip off their horse because their pants were too slippery. And I've seen people get their leg caught because their jeans we're too restrictive. Safety is important. It just so happens, that in the horse world, you get to wear safety clothes that also look fantastic. Most would agree that tighter fitting clothes are attractive to most people. Well... as an added bonus, they are also safer. That's good, right?
Colors? Generally, colors don't matter too much, although there is some science that suggest bright colors are annoying to horses, but living in Montana winters with snow covered landscapes demonstrates to me at least, that they get used to it. So don't get too worried about color choices.
Style? Fluffy clothes equals hairy and dirty. Certain fabrics either repel or attract dirt and fur. Avoid fleece jackets when possible and not just because it attracts hair. It also can generate electricity. Fleece can create a shock when you touch your horse, which of course, can be very unpleasant for both of you. Pick something that horse hair has trouble sticking to, if you don't want to look like a walking, electrical, carpet.
Footwear? "No shoes, no shirt, no service." Have you ever seen that sign on the door to a convenience store? It's not just about looks either. It's about safety. They don't want you stepping on a piece of broken glass and suing them for not cleaning it up. With horses, footwear is very important. Boots with limited traction and a heal is ideal. If you ride, your heal will prevent you from slipping too deep into the stirrup. That's important, because if you fall, you're limited traction boot is less likely to get caught. Boots are better than shoes for riding and ground work. You would know this if you've ever been stepped on by a horse, while wearing tennis shoes. I have been stepped on and it hurts much worse without the added protection of a leather boot.
Headgear? Let me be clear. I wear a helmet when riding. You should to! But if you're not riding, what could you, or should you wear? Answer. Anything you want. Some horse owners say that their horse can't tolerate people with cowboy hats because it reminds them of being abused by a cowboy in their past. There is no science to back this up, and similar scenarios too. But in general, horses don't care what you wear on your head. Even sun glasses don't make or break the deal. I prefer however, to not wear sunglasses. I like to see my horses eyes and I want them to see mine too. Positive intention is passed through that window to the soul. At least that's what I believe.
Conclusion: When you wear great clothing, you feel better and send better signals to your horse. Try it for yourself and discover a minor, if not major, boost in your leadership. If you already dress clean, precise, and comfortable around your horse, your on the right track to becoming the leader your horse deserves, and if professionalism is in the cards for you, you've got a great head start.
Thanks for reading. Comment below.