Picture the scene... Your vet arrives to assess your horse. And you need to trot him up. What are you wearing?
A pair of practical yard boots, jods covered in mud and a few stray shavings in your hair? Or a very extra skirt suit, high heels and a fancy fedora?
For most of us, it's likely to be the former... But for the riders of Britain's most prestigious eventing inspection, controlling their spirited competition horse, whilst hot-footing it down the tarmac in front of the world's media, wearing the latter is all in a day's work.
Badminton Horse Trials is on the horizon. For most of us, it's the mark of the beginning of a season full of shows and events, shopping and spectating and for me, getting my camera out and about and stocking up on blog content. I can't wait!
The trot-up fashion is always a hot topic amongst press and on social media.
The horse inspections are, of course, first and foremost to check that every horse competing is sound and fit to take part. But over the years, we've added a much more lighthearted, frivolous element and what each rider wears as they leg it up and down in front of Badminton House has become something of a spectacle.
Some riders opt for comfort and practicality, with sturdy boots, fail-safe trousers and a smart jacket. Where some go all-out and really rise to the occasion.
Previous trot-ups have seen female riders making light work of running in skyscraper stilettos. But have also bore witness to those who have fallen victim to a rogue ballet pump, in the past, losing one or two shoes along the way.
Not ideal, when you have half a ton of equine athlete on the other end of the reins, and bare tootsies to keep out of the way.
Last year, I commentated on Radio Badminton, with Lloyd Bell Productions, about this very topic, scrutinising the outfit choices of every individual to step in front of the Badminton crowds.
And from what I've seen in the past, I think the key to great trot-up fashion is striking a good balance.
Ensuring you include both style and practicality is the way forward in my opinion. An outfit that will allow you to run with your horse without worrying about bits falling off, or your modesty being exposed to the waiting paparazzi, is a must. Whilst still managing to appear that you've made an effort and put some thought into what you've worn.
That, for me, is a winning combination.
Try too hard and turn up in something completely unsuitable, and I think you risk looking a little over the top and silly. But if you don't make any effort whatsoever, that's a little disrespectful and dull... like turning up to a dinner party in your scruffy jeans. Some occasions require a level of etiquette and respect. In the equestrian calendar, the Badminton trot-up is definitely one such occasion.
There are certainly ways to make sure your outfit is fun and fancy, without compromising safety or your dignity.
If riders want to make an effort to stand out, accessories are a great way to do this. Hats, scarves, belts, pops of colour.
Matching your horse's coat colour, is a fun one. Or following the latest trends.
Last year we saw an abundance of long, flat or low heeled boots, which were both sensible, but stylish. And tweed capes and jackets, were certainly a well worn theme. Again, they allowed for freedom of movement, but were super smart and fit the bill.
This year, I would expect to see much of the same.
What has been the height of country fashion over the past year?
Tassles, fedoras, fancy belts, equestrian jewellery. There'll be lots of tweed, fur, leather and suede, gilets, capes and blazers. Everything you would expect from a smorgasbord of country clothing and accessories.
I love that trot-up fashion has become such a source of conversation and entertainment in itself. Far from it taking away from the importance of the horse inspection, I think it adds a sense of occasion and fun to an otherwise serious affair in the Badminton itinerary.
I will be chatting on Radio Badminton on behalf of the lovely Hiho Silver and once again will be picking out my favourite outfits and watching out for any fashion faux-pas.
Of course, I'll be keeping a keen eye out for any Mackenzie & George gems amongst the runners and riders. Roll on Badminton!
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