By Janet de Acevedo Macdonald ©
Have you ever witnessed the equestrian equivalent of a Super Bowl Half Time Show wardrobe malfunction? How many times have you watched, embarrassed, as a female handler bounced into the main ring alongside her exquisitely groomed steed seemingly unaware that all eyes were glued to her? Ladies, what follows is the forbidden topic that male trainers and other female equestrian competitors don't discuss in polite company. You've groomed and prepared your horse, but have you considered what your personal appearance communicates?
Showing in the main ring is absolutely the time to look your best, but it is not the time to wear your balconette, bralette, built-in, demi-cup, minimizer, novelty, or push-up Wonderbra. Those of us who compete in equestrian sports have no interest in binding our breasts and I'm not advocating we mirror our male counterparts by completely reigning in "our girls." Instead, let's show like well-dressed women with our breasts secured snuggly against harm and embarrassment. None of us want a wardrobe malfunction à la Janet Jackson's "BoobGate" nor do we want to be reduced to the sum of our parts.
Sports bras are not just for the well endowed and you should always wear one when showing your horse. Before you think a vest or jacket will keep you safe from malfunction, know that nothing covers your assets as well as a good sports bra.
Cooper's ligaments, the fibrous connections between our skin and pectoral muscles, primarily support breasts. Skin can be easily, irreversibly stretched if continually taxed. Wearing the right sports bra reduces breast movement, pain and the possibility of long-term damage as it improves your posture, an important component when competing.
According to Selaine Saxby, founder and director of the UK's LessBounce.com, the majority of women experience breast pain when exercising, which can cause discomfort and embarrassment.
Sports bra styles and favorites
Sports bras are available in several styles: traditional back closure, racer back, underwire, non-wire, crop top, and front fastening.
The front-fastening ENELL Sports Bra ($60-$80 range) is the favorite of Oprah Winfrey and NBC's The Biggest Loser. Using the science of superior bust support and comfort, ENELL designs sports apparel for well-endowed women. Nothing escapes this satiny front-closure baby. Ladies, your girls will be cradled during any high impact aerobic activity. If you don't find dashing in the main ring with an equine locomotive at the end of the lead to be a workout, your style could use more enthusiasm.
If you normally wear two sports bras to get the support you need, Moving Comfort's Calli Bra ($40-$50 range) is the one for you. Made for women with C-E cup sizes, this bra offers support, separation and comfort with a padded underwire and wide, adjustable straps.
Pure Lime High Impact Compression Bra ($40-$70 range) is one of the several highlighted undergarments for handlers and riders by SmartPakEquine.com.
A personal recommendation is not to wear the unmolded sports bras without another bra underneath because your breasts may shift to the middle of your chest, making you look and feel like an uncomfortable uniboob. When showing halter, the entry goes so quickly, you want to concentrate on enjoying the moment, not wondering if you look like a Dr. Seuss character.
My personal favorite is the Danskin Now style, available at Walmart ($8-$15 range) in a crop top, unmolded sports bra style. This combo not only passes my jiggle-reduction test, it's budget-friendly to boot.
Fitting and buying tips
The virtual Sports Bra Fitting Room at MovingComfort.com offers good decision-making tips:
- Your sports bra band should fit slightly snugger than a lingerie bra. Make sure you can comfortably take a deep breath with the bra fastened on the middle hook.
- Breasts should be completely held within the cups without overflowing and the cup fabric should be smooth because wrinkles or puckers indicate the cup is too big.
- A sports bra with an underwire should sit on your ribcage below the breast tissue and follow your natural shape.
- Straps should offer minimal stretch to reduce up-and-down breast movement. Wider straps will disperse the weight and feel more comfortable; the straps should not dig into or slide off your shoulders.
Look for sports bras with maximum control designed for intense workouts. You want to feel snug as a bug in a rug.
To underwire or not to underwire? It's a matter of preference, but, speaking from experience, it's irritating in too many ways to count to have the underwire slip from its seam at an inopportune time.
Dressed for the winner's circle
Finally, dress professionally to prove you're serious about competing. Buy a smartly tailored jacket at a local thrift shop--you'll not only support your community but at those prices you won't mind being lovingly nudged by a Show Sheen-gooped horse. When shopping, remember to look at the jacket's length, too. What does it do when you "raise and show?" Not only do we want eyes focused on our horse and not an unintentional Super Bowl Half Time Show, we don't want judges and spectators looking at our tummies, either.
At the gate, remember to stand up straight, shoulders back, breathe, and run into the main ring confident that it really will be all about the horse.
About the author: In addition to being a happy amateur competitor, Janet is a communications/public relations consultant. She and her husband Ian own US National Champion stallion, Legacys Renoir+, and live in Minnesota on Auld Macdonald Farm Arabians.