Ralph Lauren and the Glamorous Equestrian Lifestyle

Another gem that was making the Internet circuit, with no clue as to its origin except for the "Maryland, USA" at the end.


So. I was in the mall the other day, and was noticing a display of Ralph Lauren clothing that was accented by some well-placed English saddles, polo mallets, and even a few photogenic straw bales (you have never seen such glowingly clean straw in your entire life). There were some posters on the walls between the racks that showed impeccably dressed ladies and gentleman, lounging in a palatial and equally spotless stable, or leading a perfectly groomed mount through the tall grass. There were mock hunt coats, mock breeches, and even mock boots. Depicting and selling the life and times of the horsey set isn't exactly new territory for Ralph Lauren, but the sentiment here is clear: "Ah the life and times of the horsey set. Country life, palatial estates, glowing, well-groomed mounts-glamour, personified."

Excuse me one second.


Phew! OK, I feel better now. While I will admit that there is a certain amount of money involved in horses, what most people fail to realize is that we nutty horse people spend whatever we have, on the horses, and that country life is far more dirt, sweat, bug, and hard labor intensive than is ever seen in the Ralph Lauren catalog. Take the Ralph Lauren catalog, drag it through the mud, and leave it out the elements for a few days, and then you'll have a closer idea to what most horse people's lifestyle is truly like. Rather than the spotless country frocks, and (horrors) white pants of Ralph's world, most horse folk are usually found in "barn clothes". This is the euphemism that we use for "clothes most people would be embarrassed to give away to the Good Will." In the summertime, barn clothes are usually some kind of cut-off shorts, usually stained, usually with holes, and usually of a style and color that could kindly be referred to as "out." The t-shirt or tank top usually has a matching set of stains and rips, and often carries the logo from some long forgotten competition or adventure.

In the wintertime, we often look like stained abominable snowman. You know those days when non-horse folk sit inside their houses, watching the snow fall and wind howl, and say, "t'aint fit for man nor beast." Well, those are the days we still have to go out and feed and muck and look after our horses. If you really are a fashionista of the barn set, your preferred winter outfit doubtless includes some item manufactured by the Carhart company (I have the overalls), which keep you warm and dry in the worst weather, but are as attractive and fashionable as industrial tarp. On days when the Carharts seem too heavy, jeans (with long underwear visible under the rips),sweatshirts, ski hat, gloves-basically think "suburban hobo" and you have the look we are going for.

And as far as the glamorous activities of country life, well, they are too numerous to mention. There's nothing more glamorous than spending a day knee deep in the manure pile (because it needs to be shifted), sweating it out for several hours on horseback in the blazing sun (because that left lead canter needs to be better), and then having your arms lengthened because the yearling had his first good look at the neighbors dog while you were walking him down to the field.

Or there is the mowing and weed eating which tends to stain your shins an especially attractive tint of green that makes it look like you've massacred an alien horde. Or how about the "healthy glow" you get from dragging the ring-the resultant dust gives you a nice "tan" without the use of messy creams or lotions!

At the end of a given Saturday, rather than martinis with the beautiful people down at the hunt club, I usually only have the strength to ring up for pizza and watch Trading Spaces (trying to get ideas of ways to make my neglected house look better without actually putting any money into it).

But what about showing? That must be glamorous right? All the hunt coats and polished boots and braided manes. Indeed, what could be more glamorous than that? Well, after getting up at 4:00am, bathing the horse (which of course transfers all the dirt and loose hair on to you),cleaning all the tack and equipment (which gets you covered in polish, soap, and Brasso), braiding, loading horse and all equipment in to the trailer, driving several hours to the middle of nowhere, unloading, wiping off, tacking up, and getting on, well, by 9:00am you look like something the cat ate, threw up, and then dragged in.

Funny, of all the equestrian archetypes I've seen in old Ralphie boy's catalogs, I don't remember the Girl With Black Shoe Polish on Her Nose, Dirt On Her Legs, A Stain of Unknown Origin on Her T-Shirt, and Hair Crusted Out In Several Directions By Sweat and Helmet Head. If they did feature that doyenne in a photo shoot, instead of the usual sultry expression, her face might register mild nausea from having just swallowed a braiding band. Or possibly a bug.

Without question, the most glamorous week of my life took place early in 1995. I was living with a roommate on a farm of 15 horses in small town, on a dirt road, in what is pretty much the middle of nowhere Virginia. For those of you who didn't live on the eastern seaboard in 1996, you may have forgotten we had a significant blizzard here. Our house, barn, road, driveway, everything was covered with feet, and feet, and feet of snow. We had drifts that were 8-10 feet high, and we were trapped on our farm for 9 days before the National Guard was able to get the blowers in to free us. Now, we were hardly the only ones trapped by the storm, yet when everyone else was lounging by the fire, or playing in the snow, my roommate and I were slogging through hip-deep snow back and forth from the barn several times a day, to bring hay, chip ice off the water buckets, and hand walk the horses up and down the aisle to help keep their guts moving as the drifts had trapped them in the barn. We were cold and wet for 9 days. But our horses all came through the experience healthy and happy, and to us that was all that mattered.

So Ralph, I'm waiting for the call-my horses and I are ready for your next snapshot of country life.

Maryland, USA

[ Home | Horsey Links | Electronic Equestrians | Horse Funnies ]