I know it’s not the same for everyone. Some people quite fashionably go from the barn to the real world wearing exactly the same thing. Not me. When I’m sorting laundry, the barn clothes get their own pile. The funniest part about barn clothes — or maybe just barn Christine, really — is people who usually see me at the barn don’t recognize me away from it.
This was made painfully obvious at the Royal, when we were all done up in our black tie best. I’d say hi to someone and see the slight edge of fear that comes from someone walking and talking to you when you don’t recognize them. I also met people that night who would later wander right past me at the barn, not realizing I was the same person. Because, really, how often do you wear a ballgown to the barn?
I do a bit of marketing and design work for my barn. I had a meeting in the middle of the day, and a girl’s night out later on that evening. So I got dressed up a bit nicer than I normally would for a workday and headed out to game plan 2017 with B. Afterwards, as I walked back to my car, a group of summer camp volunteers stopped to chat. One of the young riders was clearly eyeing my clothing and hair. It could have been called vulgar on a different person, but she was just clearly checking out the ‘non-barn’ Christine. Finally she said it out loud, “You look so different.”
Maybe I should wear makeup to the barn. I certainly did as a teen and young adult. Somewhere between keeping a brand new tiny human alive and restarting up my riding life, I decided I just don’t have time for that nonsense. Unless there are photos being taken at an event, or I’m somewhere representing my barn, I just can’t.
I suppose it’s sort of like back when I was a gym rat and I gave up the makeup so that I wouldn’t get sweat AND mascara into my eyes. I wasn’t at the gym to pick anyone up. The barn is no different. But there’s more to it than that.
At the barn I get to breathe. I’m away from the sounds and smells of Toronto, away from the crush of people and demands of my day. I don’t have to worry about my appearance, because I’m going to be covered in horse bits soon enough. My hair has to go up to ride, so why worry about fixing it to look lovely while down? And even if I do have it down and done nicely, I’m just going to get frustrated and yank it up out of my face at some point. It amazes me how many riders decide to keep our hair long; you’d think we’d all just embrace the pixie look.
Of course, I’m still me, whether I’m dressed up and wearing MAC or just barefaced in sweats. It took me a long time to realize that. And an even longer time to get to a point where I was okay walking outside without being “done.”
I think that might be one of the greatest things, for me personally, about getting older. I can see extra weight or grey hairs and not feel completely and totally crushed by feelings of worthlessness. In fact, I can look in the mirror most days and grudgingly admit that after everything I’ve put this body through, it’s holding its own against me.
I created a human with this body; grew her brain and bones and blood. She’s perfect to me, and everything I wanted to be as a younger girl. (Read: Blonde, blue eyed and thin.) So at some point I have to admit that I must be at least okay to create that kind of perfection.
It’s nice to dress up and have a special day or night where everything is in place and I’m perfectly photo-ready. But, honestly? As much as my younger self would be horrified to hear me say it, I think I’m just as happy in barn clothes.
The truth is, my daughter and my horse couldn’t care less either way.
Christine Sharpe is a Canadian who grew up riding Hunter/Jumper in the Southern USA. Now living in Toronto, she is a thirty-something who is recently back to riding after four years off and having her first child. Christine is aiming her Thoroughbred mare, Star, toward the Jumper Circuit and Warmblood Breed Inspections. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.