First things first: Wear that body protector!
So, a brief history: I have been riding since July 2022 so at the time of writing that’s roughly 3-4 months. It is fair to say that I have developed a mild addiction to this newly discovered equestrian world and in that short space of time, I have tried a little bit of everything, including Cross-country (XC) (blog to follow on that when I eventually get around to it).
During my lessons, I wear a hat. It is mandatory, no ifs, no buts and the British Horse Society also recommends gloves however I tend not to out of fear of damaging my hands (from November 2020 until May 2022, my hands were covered in blisters and open sores due to a reaction I was having with work (that’s correct, I was allergic to work). I am very paranoid of exposing them to any unnecessary materials because the recovery from a flare up takes months.). I will however have to wear gloves as the weather gets colder. It is also recommended but not mandatory to wear a body protector. I’ve always been aware of body protector, several equestrians I follow on social media are huge advocates for them and it makes sense. If you fall badly, it could be life changing.
Working in an operating theatre in rural Norfolk means you meet people from all walks of life and I’ve helped treat patients with fractured ribs to internal bleeding from horse-related accidents. However, I’ve also met people who have become paralysed. But the one thing I’ve noticed about these patients is that they were all experienced equestrians with years of training and a broad knowledge of horses. Sometimes, things just don’t go to plan.
At my school, it’s expected that you wear a body protector for all activities outside the schooling arena such as XC or hacking due to the nature of the terrain and movement of the horse. For jumping, which is a key part of XC, it’s a no-brainer. When I participated in the XC activity day a few weeks ago, I hadn’t thought about protection. I was far more excited to be trying a new sport. I was fortunate that Kimblewick had a spare protector in my size that fit perfectly but since then, it’s been at the forefront of my mind that I need to make this investment.
Investment is the correct word, as a decent, level 3 body protector will set you back a good couple of hundred pounds. Being the devil’s advocate, I could then argue back at myself and say, “You can’t put a price on your own health…just ignore the American healthcare system…” (#freehealthcareforall). So yesterday, I bit the bullet, travelled to my local saddlery and was fitted for a Racesafe body protector.
I can’t stress this enough but please, please, please get yourselves professional fitted for a body protector. The ladies yesterday were checking my lower ribs were covered; they checked there was enough space between the protector and my shoulders… Honestly, it was worth the time to know my Racesafe is fitted to me and fits properly.
£275 later and I am finally the proud owner of a equestrian body protector. Later that day, I had a private riding lesson booked. I was riding Humphrey who has been out of action for a little while and was being reintroduced into the school. Humphrey is 17hh and his movement took a bit of getting used to after some time apart. One of the things I struggle most with is asking a horse to canter. I just can’t do it, my aids are all confused and the poor horses get very mixed signals. During my previous lesson, I’d ridden Lucy; a lovely 15hh mare who is very responsive and we had a really good session where I felt we were a real partnership. During yesterday’s lesson, Humphrey and I lacked that partnership. After some no-stirrup work (because its no stirrup November), we gave cantering another go. Humphrey is notorious for only ever giving me a 3 stride canter before he quits and this is with reasonable aids so I knew what I was up against. We got into position and tried to get the canter (my biggest issue is kicking my legs to ask for canter. I’m never stable enough in my stirrups and the sitting trot, which is hard enough, throws me off balance as I give the aid.). As predicted, Humphrey was reluctant. My instructor noticed that when I ask, I have a habit of leaning back too far which in turn puts tension on the reins, signally the horse to slow down. To see if we could correct this, she suggested I lean forward next time. So round we go again, Humphrey gives two strides, my instructor tells me to keep kicking him, he veers off the track because my reins are a tad too long then before I knew what has happening, I fell forwards, over Humphrys left shoulder and on to the ground in what felt like the longest fall in history.
I was quite shocked and in shock, I sat up, whimpering uncontrollably while muttering “I’m fine, I’m just I’m shock” over and over. I was and am still, fine, just some bruising to my left hip but nothing else. I don’t know how I fell to land on my hip like that but it was one of those things. Once I’d gathered myself and gotten back on Humphrey (I didn’t want to but I knew if I didn’t, I’d set myself back several months.), I relaxed and informed my instructor that in a weird and awful bit of karma, I’d been out and bought a body protector. Then the first time I fall off a horse, I don’t have it because I left it at home, monumentally on our piano stool so I could show my partner. Sods fucking law.
But if anything, this now shows me the importance of wearing it. Perhaps I needed to fall to appreciate it. But it is laughable that this all happened on the same day. Having my first fall makes me a true equestrian, right?
I just wanted to let everyone know that I really am fine and this was 100% my fault and my communication error. Humphrey did nothing wrong and after I fell, he just stood there, probably wondering what I was doing on the floor. I am forever talking to my horses so before I got back on, I cuddled him and apologised before we did a nice cool-down walk around the arena.
This is not a paid promotion.