Equestrian sport loves tradition, rules, riders who fit in, and more rules. Dress like a Downton Abbey butler, look serious, say something bland, don’t make waves, and everything will be dandy. Now, don’t come in ruffling feathers, figuratively or literally. Disrupting things, shaking up the status quo. We like the status quo. It’s comfortable.

This is how things are done over here. Let’s do things properly.

Yeah, but how about a different way? With feathers. I wanna do it with feathers.’

What in the world….?  No, no, no…..that’s not right. You need to stop that.

“But I like it. It makes me feel amazing and happy.”

Do you see anyone else with feathers? No. Shush and put those things back where they belong.

“You don’t have to do it. I can just do it myself if it works for me, right?”

NO. Put the darn things AWAY. You’re disrespecting tradition. We can’t have any disrespect of traditions in here.

“But there’s no rule against it.”

Rules schmules. TRADITION IS EVERYTHING!!!!

“Yeah, but look at these photos from 50 years ago. The helmets are different, the clothes are different, the hairstyles were different, there’s been a lot of change since then. Someone must have showed up and started doing things differently at some point. Like helmets in dressage. Everyone rode in top hats forever and now most riders, at least in North America, wear helmets in the ring”.

Yes, yes… the sport has evolved but it’s good now. Don’t mess with it. Stop doing the feathery thing that stands out. It’s not right.

“But don’t you think it’s good for riders to express some individuality? It makes the sport more fun.” 

Wear funky socks if you want to express your individuality. Or get a tattoo on your wrist. Or order a chai tea latte with half-soy, half-almond milk and stir it with a feather. There are so many other ways to express your individuality, you really lack imagination.

“But no one can see any of those.”

Precisely. Individuality is better expressed in private. That way other people don’t have to be exposed to it and inconvenienced.

“Don’t you think that riders that visibly stand out are going to bring more attention to the sport? They become easier to identify for the spectator. It’s hard for people who aren’t super familiar with the sport to know who is who in the ring.”

They just have to look at the horses. They’re all different. Some are even grey.

“But look at Serena Williams for example. Athletes that aren’t afraid to show some personality are the ones that people want to watch and follow. They attract new fans. And more eyeballs means the sport becomes more attractive to sponsors.”

Perhaps.

“If more sponsors start putting their marketing dollars in equestrian sports because they’re able to reach a wider audience, horse shows wouldn’t have to rely so much on entry fees. And there would be more prize money.”

Sorry, what did you say about entry fees?

“They’re very high and it affects accessibility.”

Yes, they’re ridiculous! Showing is so freaking expensive.

“But if we attract more fans and competitions can get more money from corporate sponsors, the financial burden will shift. Horse shows won’t need as much from riders to cover their costs. Entry fees won’t have to be so high.”

You know what? I’m starting to like the feathers. Actually, you can barely see them. Let me help you add a few more.