If you don’t know a horse girl, aren’t one yourself, or haven’t seen one on throwback TV shows like Wildfire, horse girls are, simply put, girls who love horses. Sometimes they ride them — but they don't have to; you can be a horse girl if you've never even been in the presence of a horse. Horse girls watched Spirit on VHS on a regular basis and preferred Felicity — a fellow horse girl — to the other American Girl dolls. The O.C.’s Summer Roberts was a horse girl (hello, Princess Sparkle), Beyoncé is a horse girl, and Kacey Musgraves is definitely a Horse Girl.
But despite their representation at the A-level, until recently, true horse girls haven't exactly enjoyed a vaunted social status. Their exceptionally long hair got pulled, and their detailed horse drawings folded up and passed around class. Urban Dictionary describes them as “girls who gallop on the track during gym class.” And frankly, some do: In Finland, hobbyhorse riding, according to The Wall Street Journal, is a growing sport that involves young girls riding fake horses, made of cloth or plastic horse heads attached to sticks. But it's not just hobbyhorse girls who were subject to mockery. Even those whose horse-related interests ended with My Little Pony T-shirts and binder stickers were often forbidden from sitting at the cool-kid table.
In the last few years, however, horse girls have found themselves at the centre of attention — and not because they can clear a fence with grace while galloping on all fours. Horse girls everywhere were vindicated when Musgraves performed “High Horse” horseback at the Houston Rodeo in 2019. At the same time, Western tropes were (once again) experiencing peak popularity, with Ganni’s heart-embossed cowboy boots and Canadian tuxedos spotted on every #GanniGirl from New York to Copenhagen, and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road (Remix)” — which saw the singer in an enviable selection of cowboy wares for the music video — reaching the tops of music charts.
Today celebrities aren’t wearing lace bodysuits while horseback at a packed arena, or a custom hot pink cowboy hat at the Grammys. Instead, like most things this year, the horse girl look has mellowed out since the pandemic, becoming more outdoorsy — think cottagecore vibes — than showy. With nowhere to actually go but outside, everyday horse girls have become standard sightings on social media feeds and beyond.
It began with Gigi and Bella Hadid, who spent a majority of quarantine last year at their sprawling farm in Pennsylvania, where every day is an episode of The Saddle Club. It was there that Gigi shot her little sister for the August cover of Elle — a shoot that included photos of her nuzzling up with her horse while wearing Hermés leather chaps, cleaning it in a Saint Laurent blazer, and riding it in a Dior dress. Since that shoot, Bella has posed with her horse on Instagram on countless occasions, calling him her “fearless son” and braiding his mane like you would your best friend’s hair.
On Instagram, entire lifestyle brands have embraced the sudden demand for equestrian style, like Recreational Habits, which launched in the pandemic and features a curated mood board titled @rhequestrianclub and preppy-athletic apparel. Runways, too, have become enamoured with horse girls. A model on a horse, albeit in a wedding gown, closed Chanel’s spring ‘21 Haute Couture show, while Celine’s fall ‘21 film featured a lineup of Gen Z models horseback riding. The most blatantly equestrian display was at Gucci’s fall ‘21 show, when models carried whips and crops while wearing riding boots, helmets, and tailored velvet blazers. Some models wore harnesses — others carried them. The film showcasing the new collection concluded with every horse girl’s dream: two white Stallions.
In turn, sartorial items that would once live only in the wardrobes of actual equestrians are becoming closet mainstays for all. Knee-high boots, like those featured at Gucci’s show, have surpassed both ankle-height and over-the-knee styles on our spring wishlists, while cowboy boots continue to reign supreme on runways. Stirrup leggings, a big trend of the last year, have single-handedly made leggings cool again, and shrunken, fitted polos are frequently spotted on Instagram and TikTok.
Arguably the most horse girl item of all — chaps — is back, too, and not just on Hadid or Kim Kardashian. According to fashion writer Laura Reilly, chaps are the one fashion item she’s most excited to wear post-pandemic. “My friend and I are planning a chap party in their honour,” she tells Refinery29. Reilly originally bought her leather chaps on eBay for “a Halloween that never happened.” “All of my friends have a pair in the back of their closets somewhere — they just need an excuse to wear them.” But really, with horse girls taking over fashion, is an excuse even necessary?