I’ve previously written about the importance of safety and changes which have been made within equestrianism, as well as my insistence to always wear my own helmet when riding. So I thought I’d take things a step further by sharing some of my other favourite products – I’ve not been encouraged to do so by any of these manufacturers (they don’t have to pay me, though I’d never turn down freebies from those mentioned below!), so all of these opinions are strictly my own.
- Riding helmet: definitely the most important bit of kit, as regulars will know! I grew up wearing less-than-aesthetically-pleasing jockey skulls (be honest, the silks only go so far in making them pretty!) and was overjoyed when vented helmets came into development. My current one is a Champion, which I intend to update soon. It’s always been comfortable, particularly in warmer weather, and I happen to think it’s even a little pleasing to the eye – a great bonus
- Gloves: I’ve frequently been mocked for wearing gloves year-round, but I’m not afraid to admit to being a little precious about my hands, as well as preferring the grip gained by using gloves. My favourites these days are Ariat ones, which come in summer and winter varieties (though I tend to wear the insulated ones year-round). These are comfortable, well-made and again, stylish
- Sports bra: a saturated market these days, but a fairly recent development is underwired sports bras. Panache is my product of choice here, and again a brand I have a lot of loyalty for. These are comfortable, great quality and do an excellent job. Plus they come in a variety of fun colours
My must-haves end there! I don’t currently have my own horse, but I’m sure that if I did, I’d have a list of products I’d struggle without. The item at the top of my wishlist if I were to own or loan a horse now would be an air jacket. Along with vent helmets, these are hands down the best pieces of kit for riders which have been invented in my lifetime, and I’m utterly sold on them. Although there is still furious debate regarding the expense of this item of clothing, I think they’re worth it, and here’s why.
When I was in my teens, there was a sudden rise in the popularity of body protectors. Given that this was around the time when there were a lot of deaths in the eventing world, I can perhaps see why (there was also an increase in the litigation culture at that time, with many people choosing to sue riding centres over accidents). I was 15 when I first wore a body protector, having ridden for 11 years. I saw it as completely unnecessary – the riding school I then rode at instigated a policy that any rider participating in jumping had to wear one, due to an instructor sustaining an injury which required surgery.
Perhaps partly because I haven’t done it much, I’ve found it impossible to get used to riding in a body protector – when I first wore one, I was also undergoing brace treatment for my scoliosis, and the two devices felt very similar to me. Nobody would ever suggest riding in a hard-shell brace used for treating scoliosis! I find body protectors to be stiff, uncomfortable and difficult to ride intuitively in. Moreover, I think they can make falls more dangerous: as a rider, you learn to curl up and roll away as much as possible – some body protectors make this very difficult.
Manufacturers are open about the fact that air jackets and body protectors help to mitigate against different types of injuries – currently, one does not replace the other, though hybrid-type items have entered development, and this excites me. The general wisdom is that body protectors can prevent or minimise internal injuries (usually puncture injuries caused by broken ribs), whereas air jackets can prevent extensive crush injuries and other side effects of falls such as whiplash.
Given that safety equipment has only improved in recent times, my hope is that development continues in a positive way, and that riding safely continues to become cheaper and easier for all involved. I look forward to seeing how our sports move forward in years to come.
So Santa, if you’re listening: I’d like a new helmet and a Hit-Air please!
What are your must-haves for riding, rain or shine?