Thursday, March 10, 2011

Helmets and English People

Before we start, let me clarify.  I am speaking of people who ride in english saddles.  I am not speaking of people from the United Kingdom. Since most of the people I know are Americans, this essay is about them.  If I don't know you, I don't have any business writing about you, my UK readers.

Also, I want you to keep in mind this entry is all in good fun.  Ok?  Are we straight? Are we starting off on the right foot?  Good.

This entry goes back to the question:  Do you wear a helmet now?  Let me refresh your memory.  In case you didn't get through that diatribe about all of the questions I get post-accident, this is how it started:

"Yes, I wear a stupid freaking helmet now.  You have to understand, western riders of my age and older don't wear freaking helmets.  It's the equivalent to walking around with a dead chicken on your head.  It's weird.  You just don't do weird crap like that.  Look at professional rodeo riders and barrel racers.  How many of them are wearing helmets?  Not many."

As I was writing, I realized you may start thinking of english people.  You may think, "Well, in that horse show I was watching on tv, all the riders had on helmets."  A lot of non-riders don't know the difference between english and western riding.  They don't know what saddle is what.  They just know someone is on a horse with a saddle.

I'm going to give you a little help so you can see the difference.  Explaining it is going to cause a brief detour into equipment.  But, it'll be fun and you may learn something, too.

Ok, let's turn off the main topic for a minute and talk equipment.  English saddles look kind'a like little race horse saddles, but technically they are different. A horse you've seen jumping in competition, he's using an english saddle.  Do you have a mental image of an english saddle, now?

You must realize, even with these points of reference, there are different kinds of english saddles.  I won't go through them.  No point in getting overly technical.  It'll bore you and me.

Generally, if you've seen an english saddle, you've seen an english rider in it wearing her helmet.  Now, that's not always the case. In fact, hold on to your helmets, I own english saddles.  It does not mean I am an english person.  Get that thought out of your mind.  It's not who I am.

Most of the english saddles I own came with the farm when I bought it.  It was a Puerto Rican Paso Fino farm.  Puerto Rican Pasos are small stature horses.  You can use special Paso Fino tack on them or english tack.  Western equipment really doesn't fit Paso Finos very well.  Western equipment, though used on many breeds, is designed with Quarter Horses or similar breeds in mind.  It's for bigger horses but not draft horses.

Draft horses can use english or western equipment, it just has to be made to fit them.  Draft horse tack is a whole other topic that I won't go into.  I know about draft horse tack because I have a ton of it.  I'll tell you a little story about it on Saturday.  I'll swoon a little over my tack room then, too.  But, for now, on with this story.

Paso people are not english people just because they use english tack.  I'm going to teach you how to spot english people, just stick with me.  First, let me explain to you how non-english people like me occasionally ended-up with english tack.  It'll help you spot the real english people if you know this.

So, in my lovely tack room, I have this really nice english saddle. Even though I'm not an english person, I have a nice english saddle.  It is a high quality, hand made in England of French leather, close contact, english saddle.  I have it for the Paso Finos.  There is a method to my madness.

I knew when I bought my farm that my tack wouldn't fit the Paso Finos.  I knew I'd keep the best of the Pasos, although I planned to sell the rest of them. So, if I had to ride in an english saddle to fit the Pasos, it was going to be a good english saddle.

As a result of riding Merry and the late, great Belle, in this english saddle, I've become very comfortable in it.  I am not comfortable riding in any of the english disciplines.  I am simply comfortable in my english saddle.

I do not look like an english rider in my english saddle.  I have my english stirrups low.  I hold my english reins like I do western reins.  It's what you do in an equitation class of a western show, actually.  I am not an english rider.  Let's keep it straight.

I don't do dressage.  I am not a hunter-jumper.  I am not an english rider.  I admire their skills.  I may take dressage lessons one day. I think dressage is amazing.  But, I am not an english rider. I am certainly not an english person.

Ok, back on track to english people and the whole helmet thing.  English riders wear very specific clothing most of the time.  Even when they are riding for pleasure out and about, they have on clothing that makes it obvious they are english riders.  I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule.  I just don't know those people.  Most of the english people I know are really uptight.  They like to look the part.

English people wear jodhpurs or ridding breeches.  They wear tall boots or paddock boots with half chaps.  They wear little black hunt cap helmets.  That's what those velvet covered helmets are called, hunt caps.  They wear these things no matter where they are riding.

Now, when they are in more formal circumstances, they'll wear a button up blouse, a riding jacket, and maybe a stock pin at their neck.  They will also wear riding gloves in more formal circumstances.  Sometimes the gloves are worn outside of formal situations, it seems to be a matter of personal preference.

Younger english riders may not wear the hunt cap.  They may wear a regular riding helmet.  If you are in a show, the traditional velvet hunt cap is required.  Or, a velvet helmet cover that lets your riding helmet look like a hunt cap.  See, I know these things.  I haven't been held captive on a dude ranch.

But, no matter the situation or the extent to which they are wearing traditional riding garb, they are always wearing a helmet.  Always.  I don't know why. But, I've never seen an english person riding without a helmet.

Maybe it's safer.  Maybe it's cool.  Maybe they put a dead chicken on your head if you don't have your helmet.  I don't know.  I am not an english person.  I may know some of their customs, but I don't have the secret handbook.  So, I don't know why you never see one without their helmet on.

I am a western person.  I'm sure that is very obvious from my display name: Cowgirl Domino.  And, western people do not wear cowboy outfits all of the time.  In fact, we rarely wear cowboy outfits.  Those fancy shirts and big silver belt buckles are for horse shows or rodeos.

Cowboy hats are for shading your eyes and keeping the sun off of your face.  Some of us wear baseball caps instead. Unless you're in a show, then the cowboy hat is required.  Western people do not wear riding helmets, by and large.  And, we sure as hell don't wear hunt caps--no matter how old we are!  Ewww!

Now, younger western riders are beginning to wear helmets.  It's just like bike helmets.  When people my age and older were growing up, we didn't wear bike helmets either.  Or, skate board helmets, or much of the safety equipment today's kids are weighted down with.  Most of us lived.  Some of us think this stuff is getting excessive.  A lot of you think we're wrong.  That's fine.

So, yes, we think English riders are a little weird. And, so are their funny looking outfits and their helmets.  It's ok, they think we're weird.  You don't find a lot of intermixing among us. We generally don't like to do the same things on horseback.  RW and I, as well as a lot of other western people, respect the accomplishments of english riders.  We just don't want to look like them or hang around them too much.

Yes, there are english riders who are born horse people, too. They just wear funny outfits. Lighten-up, folks.  Smile!  Remember, I am only poking fun at my english friends. This is supposed to be funny, even if you're wearing one of those little hunt cap helmets.

Enjoy your day!  Thanks for reading!  Bye!

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