By Jenna Santos
Presentation is not my strong suit. This not only applies to horse riding, but life in general. I do not enjoy shopping, so I wait until my clothes become so badly ripped, stained, or otherwise battered to the point I can’t possibly continue to wear them, before heading to the shop, grabbing whatever looks like it might fit and beelining for the checkout. I rarely wear make-up, my hair gets brushed once a week (at best) and I can’t even tell you last time I had it cut. I would like to say I give my horse the dignity of a decent presentation, but alas, I’d be lying. He’s constantly filthy. I used to blame the lovely red Wheatbelt dirt, but things have not improved since he took up residence at Victoria Hamilton’s property in the hills. Even with all that beautiful green grass he manages to bury dirt deep inside his coat where it will forever stay. My idea of grooming in running a brush over him a few times before a ride and calling it a job well done.
A friend of mine, on the other hand, is the queen of presentation. So much so that if I want my gear cleaned (which I also never do myself) I simply leave it in her plain view. She cannot bear the state of my gear and the need to clean eventually overwhelms her. It is a very convenient way to get my tack ready for a show without any effort on my part whatsoever. In addition to being the queen of clean, she is also what I like to refer to as a “Matchyoholic”. Matchyoholism, cleanliness and top presentation seem to go hand in hand, I have found.
A matchyoholic is a person who is completely addicted to matchy matchy. And matchy matchy, for those of you who have been hiding out on a desert island for the past decade or so, is the art of matching your horses’ wardrobe to your own. It generally involves saddle pads, bonnets, bandages, shirts and jumpers. The fact you’re not allowed to use colour pads, bonnets or bandages in dressage doesn’t seem to faze any of these matchy matchy addicts. Some, far more liberal disciplines, allow you to choose from any colour of the rainbow… but regardless of discipline they’re involved in these matchyoholics continue to just collect away.
There seem to be countless saddle pads on the market these days with colours no one has ever heard of like sunrise merle opal black and peacock eloquent purple. And some people are on a mission to collect every single colour (made up or otherwise) and then find an array of other essentials to match. There are entire sites on social media dedicated to the Matchy Matchy obsessed, including tips on how to store dozens of pads and bandages and more importantly how to hide said stash from significant others.
My friends Matchyoholism has become so out of control that I have become her self-appointed sponsor. Every time she sends me a link to a new saddle pad, I have to give her “the talk”. “Do you need it? Where will you store it? How are you meant to use all these pads anyway? Aren’t you saving for a new saddle? Think of your family!”
I have been told, countless times, she does in fact need the world’s largest supply of saddle pads. Another friend once told me she too likes well-matched tack and clothing because if she looks the part the judges may be blinded by the beauty of her presentation that they may fail to notice her poor riding and give her straight 10s. I work on the opposite theory… if I look as though I have absolutely no clue how to clean or plait my horse (which is pretty well the truth) than any riding skills whatsoever will come as a welcome surprise and will hopefully be marked accordingly. But whichever way you come at it, I must admit I do admire people who are dedicated enough to look the part, even when riding alone at home. And I do appreciate pretty things, however I had far from fallen into the matchy matchy trap… until now.
If you have a matchy addiction, it is best you look away now, as the rest of this article may well trigger some unwanted behaviour such as increased matchy matchy expenditure and obsession. Because my recently discovery in the world of matchy matchy has absolutely blown my mind. The other day when I was up at Vicky’s, running my brush over my horse half-heartedly, Vicky came out in her new (ultra-impressive) new belt. And guess what? It is custom-made to match her Ryder saddle! Saddle pads, bonnets, bandages, and shirts are far from the limit when it comes to matchy matchy my friends! And it doesn’t stop at belts. Ryder saddles can be customised with personalised cantles, leather and welts. We are talking the choice of 12 different leather options, over 20 colour options for welts and cantles and special designs including snake, floral, croc patterns and even Swarvoski Crystals. And then you can take these preferences and get a belt, handbag, Key ring tassles and spur straps to match. Can’t afford a saddle? You can still treat yourself to a new belt, handbag or spur strap and customise it in any way you choose. But in all honestly, since finding this out I’ve decided I need another saddle, with matching accessories, and am currently trying to justify this in my own head.
Unfortunately, I did send this mind-blowing information to my matchy matchy addicted friend. I wasn’t even on the matchy matchy wagon and I’ve fallen off, taking her with me. I don’t know how I will live with myself but I’m almost certain matching gear from Ryder Saddles, available through VH Saddlery, is bound to soften the blow.
Dr Victoria Hamilton is an icon in the Australian Equestrian Community, with a wealth of experience as a veterinarian, coach, breeder and international dressage competitor. As one of Australia’s top dressage riders, her love of horses is contagious and apparent in everything she does.