I’m going to take you all on a trip back in time for a moment. Back to horse shows when wool coats were the norm and we almost died of heatstroke each weekend. Maybe it would be extra hot and the stewards would wave coats for the day… but more than likely you’d look hopefully at your trainer only to have your heart sink when they said “No way, you’re showing in your coat no matter what… I don’t care if it's 98° and rising!” So you’d don your gorgeous albeit stuffy wool show coat and good ole’ velvet finished helmet and off you’d go for the day! I don’t know about you but I may have just had a small moment of PTSD from that flashback.
Horse show fashion has definitely come a long way since then and classic wool coats eventually transitioned into lighter tech lite materials and most recently mesh fabric. Yes, you heard that right, mesh… and no it's not as scary as you think. In this post, I’m going to dive into why mesh coats are becoming so popular, the different styles and price points, and how to choose the right one for you.
To Love or Hate?
When FITS first introduced the Zephyr several years ago, it was the first mesh jacket to hit the market on the U.S. We had a few runs of them, they made an appearance on the eventer scene. However the hunter jumper scene was slow to embrace the concept. It took 3 more years for the AA Motionlite to start popping up at horse shows. Truthfully you either loved them or adamantly HATED them! Even if you loved them, your trainer may have given you a big fat no when asked about them. So what is so great about them and why are some people opposed to them?
Way cooler than a traditional show coat- The biggest upside to a mesh coat is that they are way more breathable which helps keep you cool during hot horse shows. The ultra-thin perforated fabric allows for more airflow so you can have a breezy ride.
Lightweight- They are also less heavy than other coats. This helps keep you cooler and they are easier to transport.
More comfortable- The mesh fabric is stretchy so the coats are less restrictive than other options. You can move in them easier and have a better range of motion while you’re in the saddle. They are less structured and fit a variety of body types. They are especially helpful for children that are in between sizes or feel suffocated in a more structured option.
Breathability - On a hot sweltering day at the show, these coats can be an amazing addition to your wardrobe. That slight cooling breeze while you're on course helps your body release heat and help you stay focused on the task at hand.
Non-traditional- One of the biggest reasons why people aren’t fans of mesh coats is that they are less traditional than other coats. The mesh design is very modern and to some, gives a less polished look in the show ring. Horse people are very slow to embrace changes sometimes… remember the pushback when wrap collars were first introduced? I was one of the naysayers that said they would NEVER wear a wrap collar… and now I can’t imagine how we lived without them. I’ll admit, I’m even still a little hesitant on the whole mesh thing, but the ones I have put on are incredibly comfy and lightweight and I can see would be nice for the hot NC summers.
Unstructured- Another way that these coats are less traditional is that the design of them lacks the tailoring we've come to know and love. They generally are unlined, and the open mesh of the fabric often doesn't drape the body as nicely as traditional fabrics.
This can be good and bad. They look and fit fantastic on a lot of people but don’t give that built-in custom type silhouette you would get with a coat that has more substance to it. These coats are also a bit see-through when you’re up close and personal with them. While you can’t tell farther away, some people don’t like the look of it.
But not all mesh show coats are created equally! There are many different styles out there so you can find the best one for you. Some are more structured, some are made with finer mesh, and some are designed for maximum airflow. Whatever you’re looking for there is a mesh show coat to fit your style and budget. So here is a list of some of our favorites!
RJ Classic Harmony Show Coat - $279.99
This mesh coat is the perfect mix of modern technology and traditional style. If your trainer is hesitant about mesh coats, show them this one! The front of the jacket has solid panels for a classic look, but then the sleeves and back are mesh. So you get great airflow from the mesh portion while still presenting a professional style. The Harmony is available from sizes 00-16 in Short, Regular, and Long lengths, as well as girl’s sizes. Also, take a peek at the Melody and Rhapsody for jumper and hunter derby classes.
Samshield Alix Air Show Jacket - $790.00
The four way stretch material gives a second skin feel to the rider, allowing for optimum performance at all times. The stunning 'leaves in the wind' design featured on this jacket decorates the arms, sides and back with perforated dots, enhancing the breathability even further.
Animo Lipis Show Jacket - $799.00
Get the Italian style factor with all the benefits of a lightweight coat. The Lipis has a more solid front for a crisp look, while the sleeves are a thin mesh. This coat has a 3-button front and can be worn in all the rings.
Vestrum Valencia Show Coat - $869.00
Vestrum is a new brand on the circuit that is quickly wowing riders all over the world. This jacket is cut in a beautiful Italian Silhouette in that shorter Italian silhouette. The mesh on this coat is fine it gives the illusion of a traditional style coat. A hidden zipper keeps the jacket from bulging to a minimum for that seamless look in the show ring. Out of all the mesh show coats we've seen, this is the one we feel could actually be worn in the big eq classes, the mesh and fit are that detailed.
Whether you are on the mesh coat bandwagon or not, these coats are moving into the show circuits in a big way! All our favorite brands keep popping up with their take on the trend and are making them better and better each time. If you haven't tried one on, stop by any of our shops, we're happy to show you what we have and let you try them on to see if they might make your "must have " list for your next show.