Dress For Success & Safety
~ CH Staff
Dress for success. You’ve heard this said a million times. Does it work? The answer is a big fat yes. As an athlete there is an additional factor you should include in your ‘fashionista’ musings and that is safety.
No doubt you’d like to live a long and happy life so while hat’s off to you for working hard every day to educate students in horsemanship, whenever you are mounted or are working with an unruly horse on the ground, please be sure to wear an A.S.T.M. certified helmet.
As an instructor you seek to inspire your students and dress code can be part of their horsemanship knowledge that will serve to keep them safe and effective in the saddle and around horses in general. That is a legacy that is better than any blue ribbon.
What about riding gloves? Many clinic participants cringe when a clinician brings up the notion that bare hands are good for many things but not necessarily safe when riding or training horses. You know right? Never to coil a lead rope or longe line around your hand for if the horse takes off in a fright and yanks the line and it wraps around your fingers injury can result. If a horse backs up quickly when being loaded on a trailer or led around a rope wrapped around the hand can cause major injury including loss of fingers.. When riding you can come off your horse and the fingers can become wrapped in the reins. Gloves help protect your hands and help you grip the reins.
Be careful using emergency straps on saddles. You can easily tear digital ligaments if a hand becomes caught in the emergency strap during dismount. What! It was there for safety but right? But fingers in the strap do happen and while the majority of your body weight or ‘person’ may descend to the ground from a tall horse, such as a 16.3 h.h. ‘wee beastie’, if your hand remains attached to the pommel of the saddle injury will certainly result. The injury will be much worse without gloves.
As far as breeches go it is obviously wonderful to have a full seat pair for learning the sitting trot and at least a knee patch for jumping. As an instructor you may rather wear jeans but wearing breeches doesn’t just look more professional, they enable you to hop on a student’s horse at a moment’s notice to ‘sort it out’ when it is not in an obliging mood. Denim can look smart and in today’s world you can buy stretchy denim breeches. These are very comfortable and come in boot cut or regular breech style and will take the rigors of barn duties.
Footwear should always have at least a ½ inch heel, so your foot does not slide through a stirrup iron and become trapped if you fall. The width of the stirrup should allow ½ inch to each side of whatever footwear you choose. Don’t assume that falling off will never happen, even if you are a professional. Sorry. It will.
When starting young horses chaps worn with paddock boots give added flexibility in the ankle and improve your agility when mounting and dismounting. Even advanced riders use chaps for those early rides. Chaps also add another layer so if you do come off there is less chance of being grazed by a passing hoof. Well. Hopefully it is passing by and doesn’t make contact. Incidentally wearing a protective vest on young horses is also a good idea. Why not? It can save you from injury.
To finish off your ‘stylin’ look you may determine to follow the traditional route with a slim fit jacket or vest. Awesome. Do it. Nothing looks better than a fitted look when riding. Perhaps in the summer a riding blouse with S.P.F. protection. Definitely. That is smart. Sun does equal cancer. We all spend much time in the sunshine in our pursuit of horsey happiness and the sun is not the friend it purports to be. A cap or hat that actually protects your ears as well as your face from the sun is also a good idea.
Perhaps you are tempted to wear a loose T-Shirt or a baggy shirt? Not such a bright idea. Your day probably involves time with some type of farm equipment right? A tractor? Manure spreader? Hay conveyor? Baggy clothes are the perfect way to sustain a major injury. Loose clothing may become caught in the spreader and pull your arm into the machine or may hook on a tractor gearstick as you descend the ladder hitting it into gear. Well. You get the idea.
Don’t overlook the need to wear an accurate watch and please switch off the cell phone. Be professional and ensure your lessons run on time and that your students enjoy their maximum time in the saddle but don’t run past the hour. Those extra minutes are not free time it is your time. Your time is worth money. So take your time seriously. If you don’t, nobody else will either. Chat can be reserved for your evening lounge on the verandah, iced tea (or something stronger) in hand. Now you can break out the shorts!