British rock icon Morrissey once noted: “such a little thing makes such a big difference.” For today’s edition of Piaffe Girl, the “little thing” in question is the always used but oft overlooked stock pin.
Like just about everything in equestrian sport, the ubiquitous stock has a practical origin. In the hunt field, the stock, secured by its sturdy pin, can be used as a bandage or sling. Hunt rules not only dictate the proper measurements of the tie, but also of the pin that goes with it. For gentlemen, this means a 3” plain gold pin, and for ladies the same, but 2.5”.
In the dressage world, our stock ties are purely ornamental, and the past few years in particular have seen a distinct move away from the traditional white tie and gold pin combination toward . . . well . . . bling. While a little sparkle is always nice, some of the newer designs leave the rider looking as if she’s being throttled by a bedazzler.
I’m certainly a fan of sparkle, and own a bling browband or two – or three – or four – but after receiving the latest dressage catalogue chock full of strass-overkill neckwear, I’ve decided that our sport needs a pintervention. I suspect that riders falling into the bling pin trap are searching for “something different.” Well, I’ve an answer for that: start collecting vintage pins. At last check, Ebay had nearly 2600 up for auction; most antique shops and flea markets have jewellery booths – check there too. You’re certain to find something both unique and attractive that adds an individualistic touch to your show apparel. If you’re worried about cost, most vintage sterling or gold pins run in the same price range as modern pieces from sport-specific retailers.
In addition to their practical use, vintage pins are fun to collect and make lovely gifts. Plus, they transition from center line to Main Street in a way retail pins can’t. Juanita, a fellow equestrian from the UK notes: “I wanted a change from my plain gold stockpin, something delicate and interesting but not too flashy. It had to be discreet enough for the hunting field and stylish enough for the show ring. [. . .] Going antique was the obvious choice, and when I saw this I knew straight away it was the one. I have ended up wearing it out of the saddle too; it looks great on a burgundy faux-fur stole.”
Let’s face it: dressage is a sport where we all (pretty much) dress identically. Other than our browbands, the one area we can show our individuality is in our choice of stockpin. Choose wisely. To put it bluntly – and I apologize to those I may offend – the shiny polyester ties with lashings of crystals look cheap. You and I know they’re spendy . . . but, nevertheless, they look cheap. You’ve put in thousands of hours; labored blood, sweat, and tears; sacrificed time with friends and family just to get those four and a half minutes of ring time. Your turnout should reflect that dedication. Always.
– Piaffe Girl