Style and Functionality

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.

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This entry was posted in chaps, confidence, half chaps, hoof-picks, horse breeches. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Style and Functionality

  1. I love my chaps! And I can relate to everything you’ve said about the memories associated with wearing them. Unfortunately, right now they are truly sausage casings and don’t fit like they used too. After the knee surgery, sitting around I’ve gained a few unwanted pounds, but you can bet as soon as I can fit into them again I will be wearing them. My chaps have saved my bacon a few times that I don’t think half chaps could have. There is that certain ‘stickability’ with them. The half chaps are okay but they don’t work as well as full chaps. I don’t know why they came into style… maybe being cheaper than custom chaps has added to their popularity. I’m of the opinion that if you keep wearing them at your lessons you may start a new trend. Some of the newer riders may not even know about all the great styles and colors you can get them in.

  2. They are only out of style in that barn, but out West those chaps are perfect. And on the trail, it’s a necessity. So, wear them with pride! Especially if you still fit in them.

  3. And by the way, please stop by my blog to pick up an award.

  4. Apples says:

    Functionality and years of confidence vs fashion of the day? Sounds like you’re stylin’ enough as is.

  5. detroit dog says:

    This is a nice post.

  6. cynmccune says:

    No chaps, no horse … but I still have my saddle and bridle, along a lovely green tack box that now hangs on the back porch and holds gardening gear. Sometimes I feel guilty for holding onto the saddle when I’m no longer using it. It’s a lovely old Passier dressage saddle that I bought used and cheap just before saddle prices skyrocketed in the ’70s. The cutback throat was a nice fit on my mare’s rather prominent withers. In the early ’80s, when I was working as a reporter, I had it repaired by a saddlemaker I interviewed. I’ve dragged it with me through several moves, from the East Coast to the West, and occasionally had access to a horse to put it on … but not for many years now. I keep thinking that someday, like you, I’ll ride again.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Fashion be damned! If I had the excuse (I rode horses) and if they fit me (which they won’t), I would love to wear them chaps any chance I got!

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