AIKEN, SOUTH CAROLINA—It was hard to tell the competitors from the barre class participants last weekend in the adult amateur divisions at the Spring Charity Horse Show in Aiken. 

At least a dozen competitors in both the hunter and jumper divisions took a ‘business on top—party on the bottom’ approach to competitive attire, donning their usual show jackets and shirts, but ultimately refusing to change out of their work-from-home-mom uniform of 24/7 Lululemon leggings.

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” says Karen Ellis, founder of the ‘Lady Riders for Lulus’ Facebook Group who competed in Lululemons for the first time in the 0.90m jumper classes with her gelding, Bergamot Boy. “You can pretty much get away with any color show coat these days, at least in the jumpers—teal, lavender, even tan. Why should riding pants be any different? 

“Sure, they’ve become more comfortable in recent years, but they’re still breeches. They all have clips and zippers, and eventually, they either bunch up in weird ways under your boots or give you monkey butt. I’m in my Lululemon leggings from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Every. Single. Day—whether I’m on Zoom calls, or Momming-it-up at the zoo, or traveling to and from horse shows. 

“I can sit, I can sweat, I can work out if I want to, and they’re so comfortable, I literally forget I’m wearing pants.”

While attending a horse show last weekend, Ellis says she woke up early to get some work done—in her Lululemons, of course. “I was about to change into my breeches, and I was feeling overtired and nervous and stressed out about showing. I looked down at the buttery soft, tan-colored Lululemons I was wearing, and I just thought, Nope. Not today.” 

A self-described “take the bull by the horns” personality, Karen fired up her laptop and founded the Lady Riders for Lulus Group right then and there. She started recruiting friends and fellow amateurs who’d checked in at Aiken to follow her lead, with the idea they’d make their first “Lulus stand” at the horse show that very day. It was a long shot, Karen admits, but the response took her by surprise. 

“By 8:30 a.m. when I left for the show, we were up to 700 members, and at least half of the ‘women of a certain age’ competing in my division were wearing yoga pants for their rounds. I thought it might just be in the jumpers, but then I walked by the hunter rings, and at least six ladies in the lineup for the 36-and-over division were in their leggings. I just thought, Wow, these women are so brave,” Karen says. “It really caught on like wildfire.”

When asked if she wanted ‘proper attire’ in the show ring to eventually go the way of dressing up for airplanes, Karen was circumspect. “I think traditions are great, don’t get me wrong. But this is a post-COVID, post skinny-jean, post grocery shopping-in-person world, and we have different expectations now for comfort. 

“You can do anything in your Lululemons that you would normally do in your breeches: mount up, canter fences, get lead changes. Only now, you’re going to be doing it in chic-colored, weightless, breathable, four-way Lycra with a supportive-yet-flattering waistband,” Karen says. “There’s a reason I never wear anything else.”