Monday, August 06, 2007

Mad hatters

When I was kid, we wore velvet riding hats with elasticated straps. Usually, we shoved these straps over the peak and out of the way. We only took them down when we went hunting. I fell of frequently; luckily, the only lasting damage was to my pride.

Those were the days when elderly ladies riding side saddle to hounds were still a common sight. Wearing top hats and netted veils over their faces, they would jump five-bar gates with serene dignity. Portly, Christmas card men also sported top hats and occasionally, you would still see someone in a bowler. Oh, how I coveted a bowler…

Then along came Esther Rantzen with her crusade for safer riding hats. Things were never the same again. I remember my best friend’s mum buying her a jockey skull. She wore it without a silk. I thought it looked ugly and swore I’d never have one. I do though: it has a purple velvet cover. I also have a lightweight, vented suede-covered hat and a ‘posh’ navy velvet hat that comes out for best.

I remember, too, when back protectors first appeared. We thought they’d never catch on. Those of us who grew up without them find them awkward and wear them infrequently, but today’s little girls feel undressed without them. Health and safety has created a different world. We used to clamber on to the riding school ponies bareback and hatless and jog down the road to the field. If things got dodgy, you clung on to the mane and closed your eyes.

Legally, you don’t actually have to wear a riding hat after the age of 14. I think you’re a nutter if you don’t, though. The last time I got on a horse without a hat, I was bucked off, twice, in the space of two minutes. Luckily, I landed on my feet both times. The previous time I rode without a hat, I was also bucked off; I bashed my head on a stone and was seeing stars for a few minutes. You’d think I’d learn.

But it’s all down to personal choice. I have a friend who cracked two vertebrae in her back in a fall and she still doesn’t wear a back protector. I used to work with someone who had a similar accident and now won’t go near a horse unless she has her full body armour on. You pays your money and takes your choice.

12 comments:

ziggi said...

I bought a back protector after my fall - haven't worn it yet though! I want a hat with vents but more than anything I WANT A SADDLE boo hoo hoo hoo

Mopsa said...

Pays your money and makes your choice...unless of course you are riding at a riding school and they take all the flack and financial penalty if some pillock surreptitiously takes off the safety kit they are told they must wear. Resultant insurance nightmares are closing down heaps of schools where most of us had our first horsey love affair.

Arthur Clewley said...

M&M, I think too that much H&S is total nanny state nonsense, however as I'm more than likely only around today because of motorcycle crash hats, or at least not being fed through a straw, I think you are right on the hat issue, as you are rather a long way up on a horse. although ridinga bike ( or so I'm told, er hum) bare headed is much the superior experience. Nowadays the worst thing that might happen is I'll trip over my zimmer though...

Stay at home dad said...

I saw a lady riding a moped sidesaddle yesterday. Almost crashed staring as I overtook her ...

Gill said...

ooh, horses sound nearly as dangerous as coffee makers!

Marianne said...

Dangerous business, horse riding. You are brave. I had my first sailing lesson at the weekend with the MITPS. Tried not to think of falling overboard - actually the weather was perfect. What next?

@themill said...

Same thing with cricket helmets I suppose. Was Lady M the last one to hunt side saddle with you?
And SAHD a moped?!!!

Anonymous said...

I guess as with cars the problem is that anything which makes you safer has the benefit slightly neutralised by giving one a false sense of security which means one rides / drives a little faster and with less care, if only subconsciously...

Mind you, eminem, I think you should start a campaign to bring back bowler hats and riding side-saddle - very elegant...

muddyboots said...

what about elephant ear jodpurs? they really kept you warm in winter. l used to have 2 riding hats, crash helmet for x-country & posh velvet for dressage & showjumping. body protectors, well co-ordinating of course! saw in paper today lady at riding club show near halifax had died when youngster kicked her in the head, her velvet riding cap came off. horses are dangerous, we tend to forget how dangerous exactly.

Vanessa said...

I have a 'modern' crash helmet which is ok, if a little hot and I've never ridden in a back protector but they look awfully uncomfortable.

Mind you, last time I was at my folks, I came across my old velvet crash caps from when I was a kid in the '70s and when I looked inside it I realised that I'd forgotten that it was mostly strips of cork that protected our delicate bonces...

mutterings and meanderings said...

Ziggi, I want you to have a saddle too, hun!

Mopsa, the compensation culture sickens me. I may wel blog on it one day. I think you need to get some horses for that farm of yours.

AC, are you a Hell's Angel?

SAHD, I don't believe you!

Gill, I think coffee makers may just edge it ..

marianne, this is soundign serious ...

@themill - yes, lady M and (I think) Mrs H (of whom I was very afraid) and one magical Christmas Eve, theh old Duchess and her pals ...I was transfixed...

Anon, I believe the side saddle association is doign rather well without me! I'd love a go though ..Apparently it's harder to fall off when you're jumping sideways, but I'm not sure how true that is ..

MB, I heard about that accident. Why don't you ride anymore?

Vanessa, my theory is that we bounce better when we're kids ...If you're not used to a b protector you'll find it awfully uncomfortable and restrictive. I only do when I have to (or think I may go splat)

Stay at home dad said...

It's true I tell you! She was going extremely slowly and had an old-fashioned skirt and helmet on and everything ...