From barn to ballroom…. a horsey woman’s insights into looking drop dead gorgeous… or at least presentable!

Horsey women are quite a thing. Envied by many and feared by some, we are generally durable and pragmatic creatures who excel at spinning many plates. We spend so much time racing the clock whilst covered in mud and with hair full of hay, that sometimes we forget that we are supposed to be less tomboy, more lady.

Ruddy cheeks, cracked hands and short grubby fingernails are the harsh reality of the horsey woman’s daily life, especially in winter. Clothed head-to-toe in Dunnes Stores finest and with a top layer of Aldi ski wear, we don’t really cut a very womanly figure for much of the year.

I got to thinking. Surely there must be something we can do? I decided to approach a number of horsey women who are required to regularly transform themselves for work or for social purposes. How on earth do they do it? Read on for my top tips guide that will make you look and feel like you have a fairy godmother……

Thank you Fairy Godmother! Christa and her husband Niall scrub up just fine :)
Thank you Fairy Godmother! Christa and her husband Niall scrub up just fine 🙂

1) Hands and Nails.

Keeping your hands clean and soft and your nails looking respectable is a MAJOR headache for all outdoorsy women. Shaking hands with people can be mortifying if you have skin like sand paper and a layer of dirt under your nails. The two most commonly offered tips from our girls were WEAR GLOVES and also USE DARK COLOURED NAIL POLISH. Louisa Markes is a sheep farmer and event horse producer and she recommends using any hand soap you can find with a smell powerful enough to mask the stench of grubby animal.

Event rider Casey Webb has to juggle horses with university five days a week, as well as competing at the weekends. Casey says “I scrub my hands and use Atrixo hand cream every day. I also keep hand cream in my car and apply it throughout the day if my hands feel dry. It’s something I am very conscious of”.

Showjumper and young horse producer Sorcha North is a big fan of Shellac nail polish. Spending all day elbow deep in dirt is quite a test for any nail varnish, but Shellac rarely chips or thins. With a wide range of colours, you can keep your nails looking cheerful and smart all the time.

2) Face.

Spending any amount of time battling the elements is bad news for your face. Ruddy cheeks, broken veins and a weather-beaten look can add years to even the most youthful complexion. With so much choice available, it can be hard to select suitable products for your skincare regime. It’s all too easy to get confused – spf, all day hydration, anti-ageing…..where do you even start?

Caroline Moran is the Operations Director at Hibernian Insurance Healthcare. She also breeds and produces sports horses. Caroline swears by an application of Clarins Beauty Flash Balm before a meeting to keep her skin looking healthy.

Marie Claire Bellew works in the Retirement Solutions Team at Aviva. Her top face care tips are to exfoliate – she uses a Johnson and Johnson facial scrub – and then apply a good moisturiser. Both Marie Claire and Sorcha prefer to avoid make up as much as possible to prevent clogging pores. Louisa highly recommends Benefit’s Total Moisture moisturiser for keeping your face soft, blemish free and protected. Well, we can only try!

I tend to alternate between La Roche Posay Hydrophase Riche,and No 7 intense. I also love The Body Shop hemp range for face protection. Let’s face it, I’m a fair test for any product so if it can keep me looking alright throughout the farm year then it has to be good.

Our four legged friends (of all varieties) never judge us for our appearance. And that's probably just as well...
Our four legged friends (of all varieties) never judge us for our appearance. And that’s probably just as well…

3) Make Up.

Whist most horsey women tend to avoid make up a lot of the time, sometimes it’s necessary-knowing what works best for you is important if you want to avoid looking like a clown. Sadly this isn’t a knack I have yet mastered.

Sorcha says “I adore make up for the times when I need it. Benefit Oxygen foundation is the way forward, and Urban Decay eye shadows have a wide range of great palettes. Gel eyeliner is also a must.”

Marie Claire is another big fan of the Benefit range of products and regularly uses their concealer and mascara.

Louisa loves BB cream, calling it ‘fools makeup’ – great news for those of us less than adept with a mascara wand……she also uses Max Factor Masterpiece Max mascara and promises that it will prevent spider eyes and mascara anywhere but on your lashes, leaving a flattering and subtle appearance. No clowns here then!

All I can say here is.... think how much tack could have been cleaned in the time it took to create that face?!
All I can say here is…. think how much tack could have been cleaned in the time it took to create that face?!

4) Clothes

Most of us horsey women are quite comfortable setting fire to our bank cards buying the best Devoucoux and CWD stuff we can get our hands on, but faced with having to find something new to wear we unravel into uncooperative, grumpy animals.

Like most horsey women, Caroline hates shopping. She prefers to buy online and finds great pieces at outlets like Dorothy Perkins and Debenhams. Smart, not cripplingly expensive AND delivered to your door. Sadly for some of us, we have unfortunate body shapes that conventional clothing lines just don’t fit, making a trip to the shops is an unavoidable evil.

No smiles around here for shopping…. unless we’ve someone else’s credit card and all afternoon to spend online in an equestrian superstore…


I myself have a fat arse and thighs, sparrow calves, flippers for feet, a long back, tiny waist, short legs and a huge, football shaped head. I’m pretty sure that even Gok Wan would give up on me. Shopping can reduce me to tears of bitter frustration whilst cursing my STUPID genetics. I am also hopeless at matching items, which is complicated by my love of bright colours and peculiar items.

Sorcha has no such difficulty and adores getting into the shops for a proper look around. Staples in her wardrobe are a Bohm and Bee cape and a beautiful Italian leather jacket.

Casey loves her Dubarry deck shoes and a knee length Horseware coat. Add a pair of jeans and a nice top and you have a smart-casual outfit that suits most day to day occasions.

Of course, we can’t not mention everybody’s favourite ‘go-to’ shop – Penneys. Marie Claire and Louisa love picking up various bits and pieces. Stylish and affordable items allow lots of outfit variation every day.

For cheap yard clothes, I highly recommend Dunnes. Their jeans, jumpers and fleeces last forever and somehow even manage to fit ME…….of course, their economical outdoor wear can occasionally lead to a fashion faux pas if you buy his and hers. Myself and my husband sometimes end up wearing matching fleeces. We aren’t THAT couple. Honestly.

5) Speaking of fashion disasters…….

Casey – “recently I was running late from riding horses to get back to my house to tutor, I arrived at the same time as the group of kids who I was teaching. So I didn’t have time to get changed, so I was tutoring in my jodhpurs and jumper I had been riding in, which there was some hay on. Turns out two of the three kids in the group had hay fever and they were coughing and sneezing quite vigorously! Quite embarrassing that my fashion disaster actually caused someone else to be ill!”

Marie Claire “I briefly had a large hole in my work trousers in the nether region. As I had no sewing kit at work I had to ensure I kept my legs together for the day and no bending over at the printer or picking stuff up from the ground. Luckily my underwear was the same colour, so I averted disaster. Or I think I did anyhow – nobody mentioned otherwise…THANKFULLY!”

Caroline – “Ugh!!! Panda eyes before serious presentation……. As I got out of the car it started to lash rain (proper downpour). I didn’t mind the hair too much, but I had just tried a new liquid eye liner…. This promptly made me look like something from beyond and would it wash off….? Of course not… I had to just laugh it off and get on with it.”

Sorcha – “Worst fashion disaster would have to be a pink strapless dress I once wore to a hunt ball… it made me look like the fairy off the Christmas tree and in a bad way!!”

Louisa – “My greatest disaster came recently enough. The Westmeath hunt ball at the beginning of 2015. I had found, in Debenhams, the perfect dress. It was long, suitably sparkely, good slit up one leg, and cheap. The princely sum of €80. It was my ideal dress. No spandex required and no fancy pancy cross hatch double wired side fastening over the Shoulder boulder holder needed. I thought I had it nailed. Paired with my trusty green leather jacket and dark nails I went off.

It seems, that it was not only me who thought this dress was the perfect specimen for a hunt ball. Not one other, but two other ladies, dressed in said dress turned up. Every girl’s worst nightmare, doubled. Mortifying.”

So now you know what to buy, what to try and what to avoid to have you looking sleek and well turned out for 2016. Enjoy, ladies!




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