Can we pause for a moment, take a breather from tradition, and talk about individuality in the show ring? And more specifically the wide, wonderful world of body art? Don’t get me wrong - I’m a sucker for a good standard uniform. I favor the clean, crisp and classic aesthetic of the tried and true riding habit. Give me the polished, the starched, the whitest of whites and the most tailored of coats. It’s enough to make this horse show-lovin’ girl weak at the knees.
But - and there’s always a but - my love for the OG showing uniform is equally matched by my love for, well, let’s call it “flair”. Maybe it’s the rebel in me, buried below the layers of show shirts and coats, tucked underneath the helmets and hiding behind the hair nets, all just waiting to peek out, proving once again that this traditional sport comes with some serious edge.
I’ve seen some great examples over the years of riders expressing their individuality in the show ring (like an AO gal in hunter-land with the best purple-grey hair I’ve ever laid eyes on) and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ve seen riders killing the body art game on Instagram. Years ago I came across such a rider who was as badass in the saddle as she was out, and I have been casually digitally stalking her ever since. As the years rolled on, and my interest persisted, I found myself pining to add more flair to my own body. But I worried about how it would all work and function with my riding getup. So what began as me asking for body art and piercing advice, from one equestrian to another, snowballed into an entire piece on equestrians, tattoos, and piercings. Oh my.
Meet Thelma Mavronicola: Cyprus-based show jumper, animal lover, and self-expression guru.
Alli Addison: Let’s begin with your disciplines, how long you’ve been riding, where you are based, who you train with, you know - all the standard first date questions.
Thelma Mavronicola: I have been around horses pretty much all my life and currently compete on my string of jumpers. I am based in Cyprus but have to travel to reach shows, so at the moment my horses are stabled in Bologna, Italy. I am lucky enough to work with a few top trainers, and in Italy, I get to take lessons with Luca Calabro, who is a very knowledgeable horseman with a contagiously positive attitude that I find really helps.
AA: Tell us more about your fur babies.
TM: At the moment the horses I show on are Wigicini, a 15-year-old KWPN mare who is the absolute love of my life, Suleika d’Argouges, a 12-year-old SF mare who is my current CSI2* horse, and Sunshine, my 5-year-old homebred gelding who is just now starting his career. I have a few more young ones back home that I hope to be able to bring over to Europe soon so they can get started with shows as well.
AA: With your horses currently in Italy, and you being in Cyprus, how do you manage all of that?
TM: Here is where it gets complicated - back home in Cyprus we operate a successful sales barn, as well as a riding school. So I must divide my time between there and here. When I am away from Italy, my groom does an amazing job keeping the horses happy and fit; one way we like to exercise them when I’m not there is to use side-reins with a surcingle and loose school them. It’s the most challenging part of this whole thing, but so far it works well in both countries. With a great team effort, our horses have been sold to many corners of the world and they are ranging from first ponies to Grand Prix winners, and parallel to that, I get to live my dreams and show my own horses.
AA: What does the current show season look like for you?
TM: I am really enjoying the National circuit in Italy, the shows are beautiful and the atmosphere is always positive. When possible I would like to jump some internationals and gain more and more experience.
AA: Ok, what we’re dying to know - let’s talk about your individuality and personal style, and the infamous ‘what did you lose your body art virginity to’ question.
TM: My personal style has evolved out of comfort, a love for art, and being a bit of a misfit for as long as I can remember! My first tattoo was a diamond and my first piercing was my ears at a very young age, as this is usual in Cypriot culture.
AA: Okay. Let’s rephrase. What was your first piercing, of your own volition?
TM: The first one of my own volition was a cartilage piercing on my ear. My best friend and I ran away from a school field trip to get piercings and listen to Marilyn Manson on our iPods.
AA: You typical angsty teen, you. So how many do you now have, and which are the most meaningful?
TM: I currently have 12 piercings, and the tattoos have sort of just turned into one very big one. I love the portrait of my grandfather as he is my inspiration and guiding light, and I also have a text my mother wrote in her own handwriting which is very special to me, then I’ve got some matching tattoos with two of my best friends which I treasure.
AA: What’s your take on expressing your individuality within a fairly traditional sport?
TM: To be honest, I don’t think that appearances play as big a role anymore. It’s almost as if nowadays it’s more unusual to find a non-tattooed or pierced person than it is to find someone who is. I have a routine similar to most who have a passion for the sport, and just focus on my horses and improving my skills as much as I can through hard work.
AA: Agreed. A great example of a modern-day equestrian. So, what does a typical show outfit consist of for you?
TM: I really love Cavalleria Toscana and Tailored Sportsman breeches, and of course my Parlantis. I am a fan of any fabric that is breathable and fits me well. I have a couple of very blingy western belts that I always wear. I wouldn’t normally wear so much bling in a non-horsey situation, but I find it fun to switch it up when showing.
AA: And your everyday schooling outfit?
TM: I mostly wear riding leggings, tanks, and my lovely square toe cognac Ariat Challenge field boots.
AA: Do you have any tips for other riders who want to add on more body art?
TM: Go for it! Just make sure to seek a reputable piercer/artist and take good care of them so they heal properly. I adore Silvia Zed who works out of her own studio - Shall Adore Tattoo - in London, Joao Bosco who is in California at the moment, Gianluca Fusco who works out of The Family Business in London, and I regularly visit Lowrider Tattoo in London. When I have some time back at home in Nicosia, Cyprus I go to Bad Choices Tattoo Club and Endangered Species.
AA: Adding any more anytime soon?
TM: I don’t think I’ll ever stop adding!
Photos courtesy of Thelma Mavronicola, graphics by Alli Addison.
Written by Alli Addison
Rode-before-she-could-walk California girl Alli Addison spends her days in the whirlwind that is kids, husband, career, horses and real life. She favors Cubano-Style lattes, black and white stripes, gel manicures and a good pair of sweatpants. She also continues to ask Santa for a dappled grey jumper, year after year, to no avail.