“Check your ears for mud,” Rosie van Cutsem states firmly. “My mother told me that the first time I went hunting in Ireland, and she’s quite right. It’s extraordinary how mud gets everywhere, and if you’re going straight from the saddle to a dancefloor you don’t want to take half an Irish bog with you!”
Founder of luxury clothing company TROY London and private members’ club Riding Club London (RCL), van Cutsem has long experience of looking good both in and out of the saddle.
The lack of equestrian opportunities and horsey conversation for people living and working in the capital was the inspiration behind the RCL. Since it was founded in 2008 by van Cutsem and fellow rider Ashley Parasram, the club has outstripped expectations, offering everything from showjumping and polo lessons to hacks in Windsor Great Park and riding holidays in France and Ireland. Similarly TROY, which van Cutsem launched with her sister Lucia Ruck Keene in the autumn of 2014, fulfils the need for outdoor clothes that are both practical and elegant, using the finest materials to create pieces that can be worn in country and city alike.
There are all kinds of high-tech riding gear on the market now, much of it excellent, but for long days out riding, van Cutsem prefers natural wool. “Vintage wool coats are naturally water-repellent,” she explains. “Old-fashioned wool jodhpurs are the same, and undoubtedly elegant. Don’t dry clean them, though, as that will destroy the waterproofing — just leave them to dry and then brush the mud off with wire wool.”
She particularly likes TROY’s luxe jodhpurs, which look as good in London as on horseback: “They look elegant, with real-leather detailing, and the stretch Italian wool easily stands up to five hours in the saddle.”
For a point-to-point or a blustery walk in Battersea Park, she loves the TROY parka, with its raccoon-fur-trimmed hood and quilted lining that will stand up against unseasonable snow, or the wax parka, made off 100% cotton milled in England and given a dry-wax finish to protect against showers.
For the little touches, van Cutsem recommends scouring antique fairs for stock pins, whips, flasks and gloves. “I have a beautiful stock pin with a handbag on it that is great fun.” Fortunately, van Cutsem’s friend, Sarah Byrne has recently founded Open for Vintage, which stocks a delightful range of pre-loved jewellery and designer pieces — perfect for a day’s racing, too.
Van Cutsem has recently started riding side-saddle, the most elegant — and increasingly popular — style for ladies to adopt. Indeed, as well as looking beautiful, many women say it feels more secure. But if you want to do it properly, there is a whole new wardrobe involved, such as traditional kidskin gloves, which can take some putting together.
However, it’s what lies underneath the elegant, close-fitting jacket and sweeping skirt that often makes a side-saddle habit look and feel perfect. “Wear tights under your breeches to stop them rubbing on the leaping head,” advises van Cutsem. “A back brace will support your lower back and keep your back straight — just like a corset!”
She has a thought for the gentlemen, too: “Don’t wear super-tight britches. A bit of wiggle room makes all the difference!”
Above all, though, remember that, however exhausted or muddy you may be, you will still look terrific if you’re smiling. Van Cutsem even managed to look good on a soaking-wet day in Ireland, despite half a boot-sole hanging off after she tripped on a paving stone — which just shows that if you at least make sure you’re clean and neat when you step out of the door, whatever happens afterwards just adds character. Confidence, especially assisted by well-made clothes, is the most stylish thing of all.
Top image: courtesy of Octavia Pollock and Rosie van Cutsem