No one wears chaps anymore. I am disappointed. Fashion minimums exist even in a barn. With a few minor adjustments, I can still fit into the chaps cut for me 30 years ago, even if it feels like my legs are squeezed into sausage casings. I don’t know if it’s just the northeast US that eschews the wearing of chaps or whether the entire horse world has rejected them. I see riders favor “half chaps,” which look like tight gators worn over the lower leg, with paddock boots. The other universal acceptable attire is high boots and breeches. I am already searching for some inexpensive versions of these.
My chaps were custom made for me long ago. Ed told me they would last a lifetime, and he was right. They were cut for me, with my measurements of waist, leg length and width. I even chose the color. They were the first piece of equipment I owned that symbolized my life as a rider.
After much use, the long flaps assumed my shape and wrapped themselves around my legs whenever I swung the waistband over my hips. All I had to do was fasten the heavy duty zipper at the top of each leg and run it down the sides. They were like long-legged slippers. We were, and still are, best friends.
We used to laugh about how chaps would help you “stick” to the saddle, which was considered kind of cheating. I think there is some truth to both. At this point in life; however, I will go to great lengths to avoid a fall off a horse. Even if you are not seriously injured, it still hurts like hell, and an absolute bitch to climb back on. And I don’t know how true it is that “you have to get right back on,” as if one crippled re-ride will erase the memory of a hard landing. I have not tumbled often but enough to know it takes several times of getting back on over a period of days before my confidence fully returns. And as an “older rider” I am not sure any fall would not be serious.
But I am not going to think about that.
The sad thing is, my chaps are out of style. I am the ONLY one in the barn who wears them. But it goes beyond style or functionality. They connect me with an important part of my past. A long time ago, at a different and necessary stage in life, I sold my saddles and bridles and halters, gave away brushes and hoof-picks, but kept my chaps. The inside of each leg is no longer a soft cocoa brown, but rubbed dark and smooth and shiny, a tangible history of every horse I ever rode. My chaps are my personal patina of life and passion, witness to my connection, not only to the animal that provided them in the first place, but to every horse who moved their bodies in rhythm with mine. My chaps stick me to a living past and, at the same time, boost my confidence in returning to a powerful presence.
I will be wearing them at my nest lesson this Sunday.