Post Injection Dressage Lesson

This lesson was a bit funny because NT had just gotten back from Aiken on Monday morning (like 4am-ish), and I hadn’t really gotten to ride much lately. On top of that, I hadn’t had a serious school on May since her injections (thanks to the weather), and our part leaser (PL) has a combined test on Sunday….

Sooooo I decided to Dressage, since I figured PL was going to be jumping during her lesson that week and then again at the competition. I also really wanted to see if we could pinpoint any improvement in her comfort level with a solid Dressage school. I pulled out the Dressage saddle, and when NT (or ET haha) asked what I wanted to work on, I kept it pretty simple. I wanted to work on our connection through transitions and adjust-ability within gaits. Nothing like the basics to keep you honest.

We started with some flexion work on a 20M circle at the trot. We focused on straight, then overbend, then straight, then counter-bend, all without losing rhythm. May quickly keyed into work and seemed really comfortable bending in both directions, pretty clearly a difference from our last lesson, where she was good but tense in the right bend. Once we had some good bending, NT sent us around the ring for some leg yields.

The leg yields were… fairly mediocre. I haven’t touched them in a while in favor of getting more adjust-ability back to front. But, when we went to do an extended trot down the long side, she gave me a serious effort. She really started to engage her hind end and push through… but my timing in extended trot is REALLY off, so I didn’t half halt soon enough annnnnd she broke to the canter. I was really happy to see the improvement there post-injections, and it definitely gave us something to work off of.

We worked on the same flexibility exercises at the canter, and again, she seemed much happier to shift her bend and balance around as asked. By the end of the ride, I felt like I had a good amount of “weight” in both reins, and I had a lot of influence over her body with my seat and legs. Can’t wait to bring this level of connection and obedience into the show ring!

Side Note: pictures are being dumb in WordPress today, so enjoy the GIFs.

Side Note 2: Being out of the gym for a couple of weeks is definitely impacting my riding, so I finally got back into my regular spin class last night.

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To The Women of Eventing

In honor of International Women’s Day, I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my favorite articles about women, eventing, and other high level equestrian sports in general. Happy reading!

Breaking the Glass Ceiling: The First Ladies of Eventing

By  on 

Amanda Ronan tells the story of two women, one American and one British, who helped destroy the cliche that eventing was too tough a sport for the fairer sex.

Do Women In Eventing Get A Fair Shake At The Leaderboard?

The last time a woman won the U.S. Eventing Association’s Rider of the Year award was in 1981, when Karen Stives topped the leaderboard with eight results on four horses.

It’s a startling statistic considering eventing is largely made up of women riders, and there have been so many women at the top level in the United States—Karen O’Connor, Kim Severson, Amy Tryon and Lynn Symansky, to name just a few.

Are Women Really Equal in Equestrian Sport?

By  – March 8, 2017

In honor of International Women’s Day, I decided to open up a topic that I’ve always been very passionate about: how do gender roles impact women (and men) in the equestrian world?

2019 Vet Visit Wrap Up

Now, May sees the vet more than once a  year, but she really only sees my lameness vet once a year. (KNOCK ON WOOD!) Last year, I had them come when I noticed a pretty significant (for May) hip drop. Short video below from 2018, so you all can see what I see:

At that time, they did a full lameness workup, and we decided to inject hocks and stifles. For a full, LONG write up on that one, there is a super detailed post: 2018 Vet Visit Wrap Up

This year, May seems to be doing really well coming out of winter. The increased workload from having a part leaser and moving to a barn that turns them out later during the week has really helped her keep some fitness. However, May is going to her first competition, a combined test, on March 17th, so I wanted to make sure she was doing as well as possible before we got into the season.

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Most of the work my lameness vet does is on racehorses, so May is a slightly different creature for them. The great part of that is that she is easy for them to remember among a sea of Chestnut and Bay thoroughbreds! As soon as my vet laid her hands on May on Saturday, she remembered the large buttons on the end of her splint bones, her stoic nature, and how tough it is to actually get under her (short and round).

May got a full palpation, including hoof testers. We discussed her being barefoot. Consensus was that she seems totally comfortable now, but if she starts showing signs of discomfort if the ground EVER DRIES OUT IN KY, then we will throw shoes back on. Works for me, since that has always been the plan.

As usual, May showed no responses to palpation, so we took her out to jog and do flexions. The result? Ummmm she looked really damn sound. My vet was super pleased with how she looked. Her only comment was that she looks a TOUCH sticky in the hocks. She said that we could inject the stifles, if I really wanted to, or we could just do the hocks and wait on the stifles. Since, they’re available on Saturdays and are constantly working on racehorses in the area, it’s super easy to get them out. Plus, with the increased fitness this year, she might not need them again for a while.

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Annnnnd that is why I love that vet. We could have an honest conversation about what she sees and recommends vs. what my opinion is on my horse’s case. She recognizes and considers the fact that she is looking at a horse for 15 minutes one day a year, while I spend countless hours looking at, riding, and touching this horse all year.

I opted to just inject the hocks, see how she does, and go from there. I’m not someone that just injects to inject, so if she seems comfortable, I am more than happy to let it be.

May got the lightest dose of drugs ever. I think the tech helping out joked that it was like dosing a thoroughbred foal, but within a few minutes, May was swaying on her feet and looking gleefully drugged. While she settled into the drugs, the team got to work scrubbing down the injection sites. Honestly, the longest part of this whole thing is always prepping the injection site, and for that, I am super thankful. Sticking needles into the joint of a farm animal is not without peril.

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Kiss me. I’m drunk. 😂😂😂

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As with last year, there was a good amount of struggle getting the needles into her joints. We know they are fusing, so my vet just works hard to try and get as much into each joint as she can. This year, however, the right hock was easier to get into than the left hock. Overall, we got 2CCs in the right and 1.5CCs in the left.

I asked about x-raying the hocks, and her response was that we could if I wanted to; however, it wouldn’t really change the treatment plan. As long as her comfort level is managed with the injections and there is no acute lameness, it’s not really worth it. How dare she talk me out of just throwing dollar bills at my horse?

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Once the injections were done, my vet hung around for another 20 – 30 minutes discussing options to keep May feeling her best. (Can you tell I REALLY like this vet?) She asked if she was on any edible joint medication (no, she used to be and I felt it did nothing. I would prefer just to inject what needs it). She did recommend possibly starting a regimen of general support injectibles through the muscle. She would start with a loading dose of one injection a week for one month, and then drop down to once a month.

The vet did note that she would like May to be producing more joint fluid than she currently is. Since they are up and down our road all the time, they could just swing by and do it. So that is something I am considering. I want to see the results of the hock injections first, but given May’s increased workload this year… I think it might make sense. Anyone have any experiences?

Recovery time is a day off then back in light work, and she can return to full work on Thursday. Since today and tomorrow (Monday and Tuesday) have highs in the low 20s…. she is just getting these days off too. She gets plenty of turnout, so I am not concerned about her standing around. Can’t wait to see how she feels on Saturday!

How to Have a Dressage Lesson Next to Polo Practice

Typically, my lessons are on Tuesday nights, which tend to be unusually quiet at the barn, and honestly, I love that. By the time my lesson is over, the barn has mostly cleared out, and I get some quiet time to reflect on my lesson, pet my pony, and just relax. However, this week my lesson was on a Wednesday, sneaking it in right before NT spends a couple of weeks in Aiken (so jealous!).

This week, I pulled into the driveway to see a few horses tied to trailer by the indoor. Not thinking much of it. I got May all ready for a Dressage lesson. Since May has done a lot of jumping lately, I wanted to reestablish our connection and get some homework while NT was out of town. So the white boots and pad went on, I threw on my new spurs, and I headed out to the indoor. I got halfway there when I saw a white ball fly past the entrance, followed by a HERD of polo ponies.

Alright then… outdoor it is! While it was pretty warm (in the 50s and I ambitiously rode in a t-shirt because I only had heavy jackets and fleeces in my car), it was WINDY and CLOUDY. Since May had a fairly easy few days after last week’s jump-heavy rides, she was a bit up. Plus we were in the outdoor, with the jumps! And the polo team was in the indoor right next door to the outdoor. While May couldn’t really SEE them, she could definitely HEAR them.

I had a few minutes before NT headed to the ring, so I started with my usual “my aids mean something and you need to listen” routine. So we walked on the bit, and we halted. I try to be REALLY methodical about my aids when she’s like this, so I shifted my weight back, engaged my core, halted my seat, closed my thighs, and then rocked my hands back.

And she ignored me.

So then I pulled, and she threw her head up and halted.

And there is May in a nutshell. She KNOWS these aids. We do them EVERY TIME I ride, but she will always give that little baby test to see if I REALLY mean them. If not corrected at that point, it all snowballs into a big hot mess of her questioning if I REALLY mean that aid…

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An old pic… but still valid

So we walked again, and again, I shifted my weight back, engaged my core, halted my seat, closed my thighs, and then rocked my hands back. And she slowwwllllyyy came to a halt. I let her move forward again, and repeated it in the other direction. After 3 – 5 repetitions, she is tuned in. So at that point, we can finally trot.

The trot was still a bit tuned out, so we just did big, loopy figure eights. I asked her to move off my legs and flex through her body. Buuuuut I actually don’t think this is still the best method of getting her to tune in at the trot. The walk/halt stuff is super important. And Trot/walk/halt tends to make her more tense instead of less.

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BUT NT to the rescue. I told her that May just felt really tuned out, so she had us trot and just work through our gaits within the gait. So we started with working trot, then stretchy trot, then working trot, then collected, then working etc etc etc. By the time we rotated to her “bad” side (going to the right), she was on my aids and listening. The right bend has gotten SO MUCH better.

Once we had all three variations of trot nailed down, we moved into the same exercise at the canter, but replaced stretchy trot with a medium canter. My left lead transition was really good. She was actually a bit sticky off my leg to go into the medium, and that stickiness created some struggled at the collected canter.

You know how I knew when we got the collected canter? May GRUNTED. She sounded like me mid spin class when I realize I have another 20 min to go and the instructor says we are going to “ramp up the resistance”. UGH. sunset-trot

To the right, I was not surprised to get a little more resistance with some head tossing and breaking down to the trot. Ultimately though, we did get a few steps of true collection, so that was pretty cool.

Finally, we moved onto a serpentine exercise. Trot across the short side of the arena, turn left, do a 10m half circle, trot across the short side, turn right, do a 10m half circle etc etc etc. All the way to the end of the arena and then back.

Given that there are a TON of jumps in the ring, I had to get a bit creative with my half circles. However, by the end of the exercise, May was the most connected and steady in the connection as I have ever felt her. She was tracking up, in front of my leg, and I felt like we could spring forward or halt dead with ease.

So when we finished the exercise, and NT said to do it again at the canter with simple, trot changes in between, I was super excited. The first half circle to the left was GLORIOUS. I really felt her step under herself and bring her shoulders around.

Then we went right… and it was a little messy. I sat back further. I added more leg. I engaged my seat more… but she was clearly over it. We managed to mostly pull it together to finish, but it was clear she was tired, and it was really hard. While it wasn’t perfect, it definitely gives me a great set of things to work on while NT is away, AND it gives me a great baseline before her injections on Saturday.

XCG

Obviously though… she wasn’t THAT tired. Because when I turned her out that night, she GALLOPED down the hill, JUMPED over the ditch at the bottom, GALLOPED back up the hill to get to the new hay bale in her field…

Do you have a specific routine you go through that helps your horse settle into work?

Forward Is The Answer

In last week’s Dressage lesson, we worked on adjust-ability. The vat majority of the lesson was spent on a 20M circle, pushing May forward and then bringing her back. Asking her to extend and collect, and in general, getting her more sensitive to my aids. It was a great lesson where NT and I were able to work through some issues I had been having and the result was a fairly elastic and on-the-aids horse. Good stuff! But I was decided, our next lesson (weather permitting, which is almost never does anymore) would be a jumping lesson.

Then… some pics popped up on my timehop. (anyone else still using that app?) These pics were the worst moment of my not-so-great SJ round at my first and only recognized BN horse trial. I would post them… but they are the photographer’s photos and not mine to share. However, I do have the video.

I looked at the pictures… and I watched the video. I laughed with some friends about the video… like, those fences don’t look SO big now (jump 3 is where the pics are from). Then I watched it again… and maybe a few more times.

I am sure there are more objective people who can point out a million issues to me. But the one that stands out is the fact that, up until the refusal, that horse is not in front of my leg. SURE we moved up to the first fence, but it was more that I was turning and gunning than riding a forward rhythm and balancing when necessary.

Then I thought about my last lesson, which was inconsistent and scrambly. You know, the one where May chipped in so bad that I almost fell off. She was forward at the end… but not consistently in front of my leg. So when I showed up for my lesson, I warmed up with one intent: to get this horse in front of my leg. Transitions were sharp, and I didn’t hesitate to use my bat when my leg didn’t prompt her to SPRING forward.

NT came out to get our lesson started, and we decided to start on the one stride exercise. It was set up across the middle of the arena, along the short side to allow for square turns towards it, and then a square turn after. The cross rail set you up for straightness, and then the ride had to maintain the straight and forward over the narrow jump at the end.

The first couple of times, we trotted in each direction and made it a two stride between each fence. Then, we picked up the canter, and cantered it. (Below is during a course, but it gives you an idea.)

Honestly? It felt pretty easy. We had no issue converting from the two stride to the one stride. Although, May thought that turning and going forward should be mutually exclusive activities.

Course1

Since that went well, we moved onto our first course. The gymnastic, right turn, diagonal, six bending strides to the vertical then seven strides to the oxer… I made NT make the oxer smaller, and then I informed her that THAT was the LAST time I would be allowed to ask her to make anything smaller.

The one strides went great, and I made sure to really square off the turn after the last element. The right turn was pretty tight to jump two. (May and I ended up in the tree a bit in that corner).

I felt like I lost my rhythm a little bit around the corner, so despite jumping well over 2, I still pushed down the line… and straightened the line… and got to the 3rd jump in 5.5 strides instead of 6… Oops. Despite the extra stride, we were still ROLLING to the oxer. I gave a strong half halt, steadies and FIT IN the seventh stride a bit shorter than the earlier six. I asked May to halt instead of blowing me off.

I walked back to my trainer. Who… I think was trying not to laugh. Not because it was bad, but because the hoof prints of my line from 2 – 3 was a solid 3 – 4′ INSIDE the track laid by the lesson before mine… OOPS. “Go forward or straighten if you need to make up distance… don’t panic and do both.” Right Right. I tried again, and nailed it. I even managed to halt a couple of strides after the oxer pretty easily. Win!

Course2So we put together another course. Gymnastic, LEFT TURN, to oxer, RIGHT TURN to vertical and six strides to diagonal.

So I started by doing a thing that I shouldn’t do. I made the turn to the gymnastic, and pushed May riiiiiiight past the distance. Oops.

The rest of the gymnastic went well. The turn from 1 to 2 was a bit rough because May was anticipating the right turn, but I kept my leg on and it was fine. The oxer rode GREAT…. Then I yanked on the right rein and almost went right over May’s left shoulder in my attempt to turn right. Whoops. Smoothed it out and May skipped over the last two fences.

 

So we made the oxer and the vertical a bit bigger. NT had me make the turn to the gymnastic inside of the puddle to try and get me to stop pushing past the distance (WHO AM I?) The turn was better to the oxer (which rode AMAZING). The right turn after the oxer was better too! Then…. I stopped riding to the vertical… and my merry mare skipped over it. The last fence worked out fine then. Enjoy that vertical fail below.

I tried it again… and basically did the same thing. THEN I TRIED IT AGAIN. Committed to the damn thing, and it was perfect.

We ended on that, and May got stuffed full of cookies. It feels GOOD to be back in a program.

 

Getting With The Program

Last night, I had my first lesson in… a while. Anyone else sick of hearing me say this? I AM sick of hearing ME say this.

I had originally wanted to take a jumping lesson, but the flooded status of KY in general, ridiculous winds, the threat of MORE rain, and a dropping temperature meant that I decided on a Dressage lesson instead.

The barn was oddly quiet last night with just me and NT around that evening, so our lesson was a bit more casual than usual with lots of chatting and catching up on the state of May. (Future injections, 2019 plans, etc). I’ll probably write about the lesson tomorrow, but suffice to say, we have both seen a lot of progress thanks to her help this past fall and the work my half leaser has been putting in.

As with most eventers at this time of year, I am looking at the 2019 competition season. My grand goals are, and have been, to get back to a recognized horse trial at Beginner Novice. Last year was a “I am hope we get back into the show ring.” This year is a “I want to do this.”

So I started looking back. What made May and I capable of moving form starter to BN in 2016? How did we get to the point where we were schooling Novice sized SJ course with relative ease that summer?

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I remember this being fun.

It wasn’t because I was younger (26 – 29 is not a huge jump… unlike 22 – 25 which seems MASSIVE). It wasn’t because I had access to a better trainer. (There are some serious similarities between NJ trainer and NT.) It wasn’t because May was more educated.

It was because I was in a regular program… and I haven’t been in one since.

Late 2016, we moved from NJ to KY just as show season was winding down and trainers in KY were looking towards Aiken and Ocala rather than their own backyards. Money was tight, and I let lessons fall into the category of “nice to have.”

^This feels like a lifetime ago…

Then in 2017, I had committed to lessons with my trainer at the time, but due to a job that had me traveling and her own schedule, we would average maybe 2 lessons a month… at best. Money was still tight, I got married in mid-summer, and the lack of competition goals meant that again, lessons fells to the back burner.

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Our First Lesson Together.

2018… I moved barns in mid competition season, but I still made it out to a couple of shows to get our feet wet again. (Literally and figuratively). Lessons started up again, and I was surprised at how much I felt like a fish out of water. My whole riding career had been focused on weekly lessons (and catch riding). Here I was, on my own horse, and feeling odd about lessons.

Then this year… I find myself really prioritizing lessons. So, for the first time since Spring of 2016, I have put myself into the weekly lesson rotation schedule. Fingers crossed that this has really been the missing link in my confidence lately!

So I really want to know – Are you a “weekly lessoner” or more of a “when I need them” or even a “don’t need no trainer” type of rider?

Quiet Week

Quiet week over here. The weather has gotten drunk with a 60-something degree day yesterday followed by some snow flurries this morning. May has been really good lately, and the warmth last week let her do some fun things (like a little fitness ride in the fields with our half leaser).

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This was all grass this weekend!

On Monday, I even threw one of my friends up on her to play around with the Dressage buttons. Note to self: my horse takes a lot of leg and core to really hold collection. No wonder my thighs and core/back muscles ache after a good dressage ride.

Other updates, May is (hopefully) going to get a trace clip tomorrow. We will see how she feels about it. Historically, I have drugged her for body clipping… but we have done a lot of work with clipped this past year getting her mane trimmed regularly. Fingers crossed that it’s not an issue.

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Partly nakey #may is all ready for winter! #horsesofinstagram

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Finally, May has her annual injections scheduled for the first weekend in March. My trainer is going down to Aiken, and May has started showing some stiffness behind. Part of it might be fatigue through her stifles due to ALL THE MUD. The lameness shows up as a slight hip drop when the top line and hind end isn’t engaged properly under saddle. It’s a pretty classic showing for her that she’s uncomfortable… even if she looks totally sound 90% of the time.

Given the increase in her workload going into Spring and Summer, I am committed to keeping her comfortable. Are you all making any steps to set yourselves and your horses up for great things come Spring?

A Lot To Do About Nothing

I don’t really have a whole lot to talk about this week, so enjoy some old media… Things at work got settled, so that is a big plus. But the weather has been pretty abysmal. Our indoor is open, so it does get quite cold. (shout out to Karen for sticking with it).

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On Saturday, lessons were being taught in the indoor and the outdoor was partially frozen, so we just hacked around the property for a while. (Half leaser had a GREAT ride on Sunday though.)

Originally, I was going to ride on Monday when the weather was still somewhat decent. Then adulting intervened, and it didn’t happen. Then yesterday it barely got out of the teens with the sun up… so my ride in the dark was a non-starter. Today? Well its 11AM and the windchill is down to -21F… so… no…

This weekend is going to be in the 50s…. so I think May will just get the middle of this week off. Oh well. Stay warm my friends!

First Thoughts – The Rest of the Dover Haul

Remember when I was pretending I was going to be all responsible and save my extra gift cards for new breeches? Well… that plan went out the window REAL FAST once I was in an actual tack shop. (Funny how that happens). I ended up going a bit… wild… for me, and I bought things I just generally wanted instead of things I in any way really need. It’s been a long time since I let myself indulge like this, and it felt pretty good. SO WHAT DID I GET?

Flexi Spur Set

So I haven’t even tried these out yet, so have no real opinion on them. I really love my new boots (and will love them more once it’s not winter and I can wear normal pants under them). Unfortunately, I love them so much that I have hesitated putting spurs on them for fear of scratching them. My favorite spurs are… somewhere… I have no idea where, and the spurs I have been using are just little nubs that I am 90% convinced only have a placebo effect.

flexi spur setSo when I spied the spur rack, I immediately wondered if I could find a pair of rubber coated spurs. The rubber coated Stubben ones were $60…. I hemmed and hawed, and then looked at the basket at the bottom. There sat some unobtrusive black and rubber spurs. I liked the length and smoothness of the actual spur, the rubber coated interior, and the price point ($18… including fabric straps.) SOLD.

Then, I got home and mildly panicked that they weren’t legal because they weren’t metal. Here’s the actual rule (bolding is mine):

Spurs are optional for all three tests. Spurs capable of wounding a horse are forbidden. Spurs must be of smooth metal. If there is a shank it must not be longer than 4 cm (1 9/16 inches, measured from the boot to the end of the spur) and must point only towards the rear. If the shank is curved, the spurs must be worn only with the shank directed downwards. Metal or plastic spurs with round hard plastic or metal knobs “Impulse spurs” and “Dummy spurs” with no shank are allowed.

Since these are smooth and not particularly long, I think we are good. Anyone reading this differently? Worst case scenario, I can always change out my spurs for shows, but I like the idea of having the rubberized material stabilizing the spur against my boot.

LeMieux™ X-Grip EuroJump Square Pad in Navy

Alright, this dude is on sale for $130 right now… so it is still above what I typically pay for saddle pads (my white, smartpak branded pads.)

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56970721092__40a8415f-09ab-4146-ba4a-ab7280861807I have wanted something grippy and stock absorbing for XC. I have been using a ECP pad (the ecogold knockoff), and I like it…. but it definitely doesn’t fit quite right under the stubben. (also, if I do end up going to any rated shows, it would be nice to have one pad for SJ and another for XC). I also wanted to have a color with my next pad and NAVY! so YAY!

I rode in it on Tuesday. It seemed to have some shock absorption, but I didn’t feel as disconnected from the saddle as I did with my ogilvy. Everything stayed in place for the short ride, and it fit far better under my 18″ stubben. So far so good! And I am excited to have a fancy pad for things… because that’s important? I told you guys, this haul was not totally rational.

Professional´s Choice® VenTECH™ Contoured Jump Girth

Is this not the worst stock photo you have ever seen? And it’s literally the only photo of this product available… cool guys.

prochoice girth

I have been putting off getting a new girth for May for basically… forever. Her old as dirt SmartPak girth is starting to rust… and since the Stubben has really short billets (and May can hold her breath like no horse I have ever met), it’s also too short. I guess a new girth was somewhat sitting in the back of my mind when we went to look at helmets.

Then, after I put the helmet on the counter… this girth was RIGHT THERE.

First thoughts:

  • I love that the liner removes for easy washing (it was a feature of my old girth that I actually used)
  • The carabiner clip is held flat with a sturdy (seeming) piece of leather. I haven’t played around with this yet, but it’s always a handy feature. (But something I would 100% avoid if May was ever in bar shoes. I don’t care how “safe” it looks at the onset.)
  • The elastic is surprisingly long. I guess this is to keep down the bulk under your leg? In my case, it just made it somewhat easier to get on a fat horse who chooses to be fatter when saddles.
  • Speaking of fat horses, non slip is my friend and non-negotiable.
  • May HATES long leather girths, so I was a bit worried that the stiffer exterior on this one (Dover says it’s a TPU shell? but it just feels like plastic) would bother her. But it is flexible enough to be comfortable, and is better shaped for her forward girth groove than a traditional girth.

After using it on Tuesday, I was pretty pleased with how well it distributes pressure, despite the shape. May seemed to like it as well, and it looks quite nice with my saddle.

Overall, I am pretty happy with my “impulse” purchases at first glance, but I will definitely let you all know how these things age!

Have you bought anything “fun but not totally necessary” lately?

The Great Helmet Try On

Now, it might not have been the wisest decision to push forward with my trip to Cincinnati on Sunday. Saturday it rained all day, and then temps dropped into the single digits and it snowed. In fact, a lot of churches around Louisville actually cancelled services. Buuuuuut I had an insanely tough week at work*, and I was dying for some retail therapy.

As we were getting dressed, I asked the husband if he was sure it would be ok. “It’s one major highway. It will be fine.”

And… it was fine. Sort of. We definitely hit some areas of the highway that hadn’t been plowed… some areas where only one lane had been plowed, and some areas where they were trying to plow/spread salt. The whole way up, I was refreshing the store’s facebook page. Begging it not to suddenly pop up that they had decided to close for the day.

At around 11:15AM, we pulled into the partially plowed parking lot. And I emerged from a salt and slush encrusted Jeep into weather that was just peeking into the double digits. (at least the sun was out!)

I walked into a fully staffed Dover… and we were the only people in the store. Then, I proceeded to be THE MOST annoying customer I think that woman had ever helped. It’s not that I wasn’t polite… I just wanted to try on all the things.

“What helmet do you have now?” the saleswoman asked, clearly hoping for a quick sale.

“A OneK, but it’s been a few years. I really want to try some other stuff.”

bothelmetI started with the coveted Back on Track TraumaVoid helmet. Middle of the pack in terms of cost, but with all the bells and whistles I was looking for. The helmet fits right in on the shelf with the Charles Owens’, Samshield’s, OneKs and IRHs. The weight was comparable with the CO and Samshield. Maybe a TOUCH heavier than the OneK, but it wasn’t that noticeable. I doubt you could tell the difference on your head. We measured my head (since my current OneK is just a “M”), and the Dover salesperson scurried into the back to service probably the only customer of the day.

The Back on Track TraumaVoid came out. I pulled my hair neatly into my hair net and… it wasn’t even close. Ok. Let’s go a sive up. Nope. Let me put my hair down. NOPE. Let’s go one more size up… I finally got it on my head. And it was horrifically uncomfortable. It seemed that the only place it put pressure on my head was on my temples. I think I have a wide, oval head… like a rounded rectangle. >.< I shifted it around to try and get it more comfortable. I put my hair down, then up again. It just didn’t fit. I didn’t even try to buckle it up.  It wasn’t going to work.

Ok then… Let’s try the Charles Owen. They were a bit more expensive than the TV, but cogyr8they were 20% off! They had the round version, so I excitedly threw that one onto my head. And it was like it was only making contact with the front and back of my head… So… no. Maybe I am mistaken…  maybe the regular CO will fit my head.

She grabbed one for me, and I put it on. It looked SO CLASSY. It fit pretty good. A bit tight at my temples, but not super uncomfortable like the TV. I shook my head around, and it stayed put. I know the CO are known for compressing down a bit, so I figured it would probably break in. Then I started thinking, what if it doesn’t with the removable liner? Or what if it breaks in too much? Is my head starting to hurt because of the pressure or because I am stuck is some kind of paradox of choice?

I looked to the husband for his thoughts. They’re all black… and they all look the same.

oneksuede“You know…” I started as I looked at the saleswoman… “Maybe I can just try on the Suede Defender OneK.” For a split second, I thought the saleswoman was going to roll her eyes at me, but she’s a pro. She just nodded and found one for me.

“This one comes with an extra removable liner.” (now we were speaking my language.) I stared at the helmet. It’s not flashy, but I don’t tend to like how I look in boring helmets. Anything more flashy just makes me more uncomfortable.

I slid the OneK on my head, and the saleswoman immediately went “oh.”

Why “oh”? Because even from 5 ft away, she could immediately tell that it fit PERFECTLY. The OneK just hugs around my head. There are no gaps. There are no pressure points. It is just even, comfortable pressure all the way around my head. It comes down low enough to not feel like it is just sitting on top of my head, and the chin straps sits comfortably behind my actual chin, but in front of my neck.

So that was that. New Technology is REALLY cool, and I hope it catches into some other helmet brands. Unfortunately, it won’t benefit me until it comes in a helmet that fits my head.

Long and short of the story? Try on as many helmets as you can whenever the opportunity presents itself. When you know, you know. I’ll talk about the rest of my haul after I get to put them on my horse tonight!

*Work got so bad last week that as soon as I could escape on Friday. I went to the barn. I think my bloodshot eyes and not so subtly running nose immediately alerted everyone to how things were going for me. My half leaser had a lesson right after I arrived, but no one would move forward with the lesson until I got on my horse and took her for a walk alone around the field to clear my head.

I stayed that night until my toes froze and I could no longer feel my hands (I had none of my winter barn clothes in my car). But my heart and head were both lighter for it.