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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label reviews+safety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews+safety. Show all posts

October 26, 2015

Orange Is The New...Orange: Including My New Favourite Neck Strap!

Solo getting his glow on in last fall's gear
Autumn:  beautiful riding weather...and rifle season for deer!  This means it's time to play "decorate in reflective strips & blaze orange" to make sure there is no room for uncertainty -- I am indeed a dork on horseback, NOT an enormous doe.

Once again, the great folks at can help you & your partner stay safe with more accessories (enabling sequence initiated)!  Even outside of hunting seasons, being seen is critical, particularly if you ride near roads or in low light.

Orange You Glad I Can Use This Pun?

This October, they sent us a pair of their blaze orange reflective splint boots along with a matching nylon harness/yoke.  Both are emblazoned with broad reflective tape & bright print to appropriately scream, "HEADS UP!"

Sexy turf horse safety (sorry the orange looks yellow in pic)
One of the things I've appreciated about their products is the feeling that someone was thinking about what really matters to the average rider:  affordability & simplicity without completely sacrificing practical durability.

The boots are neoprene lined with solid, even stitching; they slid right into place & stay put while jumping without having to use "velcro death grip."  Which for those sensitive-skinned TBs, means no rubs either.  You bet they are lined up for use as turnout boots too (free bonus: finding your horse in a dark pasture gets much easier).

Can you see the boots??  ;P
I loved the easy clip around the neck of the yoke, which was also adjustable there & at the "make your own girth loop" attachment.  Visibility + neck strap rolled into one!  Although I think mine has the buckle stitched on incorrectly for the girth loop -- no worries, though, with their 100% happiness guarantee & free shipping both ways.
Reflect upon the visibility power!!
And my favourite part of both?  Hose 'em off when you're done, hang to dry, all clean!

Remember:  Knowledge IS Power...And Safety!

No matter where you are, always be aware of your local laws & regulations.  NC has a new law this year, making it legal to hunt deer with rifles on Sunday on private land (previously only bow-hunters & falconers could hunt Sundays).

So check your area's natural resource agency webpage:  we must all be responsible when sharing land & do our best to help prevent accidents.

U.S.: Get started finding yours here (although missing, uh, ours, LOL)
Our state's law requires all hunters to wear blaze orange in season & our Hunting Safety Education officers have done a great job making it a universally recognized symbol statewide.  We can use that to our advantage even if we're not the one in the deer stand.

Thank you again to Horze for sharing; check out more of their great line of safety gear (oh, I covet the sheet!!) & be seen, be safe, no matter what!

December 18, 2014

Horze Enables My Inner Boot Addict & Safety Police All At Once?!

Um, not that kind of grail boot...WTF is that?

I know, I had to take a few deep breaths too...

The Boots & The Blue

A few months ago, I shared my inadvertent discovery of the holy grail of bell boots:  no-turn boots that actually did not turn!  They continue their awesome, although they do live in the "special occasions" pile.  Ok, because I am not motivated enough to yank off the pull-ons Encore lives in...but also because they are so pretty.

Bee-yoo-tee-ful dark blue
In what I believe must be a covert agreement with the NSA, Horze discovered that in my initial "horse equipment acquisition" years, my weak spot of addiction lay smack in the middle of horse boots of every shape & size (geez, 2010 doesn't sound like that long ago, but pardon a moment of silence as I consider how much had not happened yet...).

Speaking of those boots of years past, I still have (& USE), in perfect condition, those Moxie ankle boots, the 5-strap Woofs from the trash can at Waredaca & both the Roma & N.E.W. front boots!

Click = embiggen
It turns out, though, that the beautiful matching shades of the No-Turn Boots & the Lyon Synthetic Gloves existed in a threesome.  I introduce to you the Horze Tendon Boot:  I challenge you to find a colour (there are NINETEEN) that doesn't match your ensemble!!

Naturally, there was only ONE appropriate choice for TFS & I confess I was taken aback a little by how much I liked them.  Both the plastic shell & the neoprene liner were just the right amount softer (mea culpa for that horrific grammar) than the Romas, lending the boot a nicer ability to mold to Encore's legs.  But they still felt sturdy, had strong velcro & stitching, and, erm, did I mention the matching...?

*places reverently in Pretty Boot Storage Basket with matchy bell boots*

Those are totes the trash-can Woofs...
And Safety Too?!

Be still my heart.  Because one pair wasn't enough.

Encore is a bit base-narrow behind, so he sometimes wears a set of Nunn Finer pastern wraps (always when studded, as at left).  However, the outer layer of these started falling off within one week of purchase.  I've continued to use them for several years, as the neoprene is fine.  The velcro is beginning to fail, so I do tape them with every use, so one could say it's becoming a bit of a pain.

Combine my casual lookout for their replacement & my insatiable desire for anything that says, "I AM NOT A DEER NOR CAN YOU CLAIM MY CORPSE RESEMBLED ONE" in our lovely NC Decembers and you get this:

The Horze Reflective Leg Straps, which fit nicely on the big boy's pasterns & have a handy built-in "velcro failure backup system" in the nylon strap.  My only trouble was deciding what to do with the end of the strap once fastened.

Keepers are not included, so I'll likely just keep the tape handy.  Much easier to throw a thin strip around the end of the strap & still have insanely bright reflective power!

Alternatively, I may cut the end off entirely, although this does limit one's adjustability somewhat.  I don't have any plans to buy Clydesdales in the near future though...  The plastic buckle itself is a wee bit fiddly, but definitely clamps down tight & we had no rubs on a long, muddy ride through the woods.

Two hooves up!  Although if there is a passing car or a camera flash or a reflection off your sunglasses, you may see them so brightly that you'll walk into trees for the next five minutes.  That could just be me...

I swear upon Solo, pastern reflection from flash not enhanced!!

Not Everyone Is A Grinch

In the spirit of the season, the friendly folks at Horze added this festive helmet cover to the box.  Grinchy-me hesitated at first, but then realized a bright red helmet is yet another great way to stay very, very visible (particularly to folks who make their own seasons...or don't follow any at all)!

Solo's wonderful Minion Erica (thank you for being badass, Erica!) submitted the cover to a grueling ground test:  I think I can see it!

Thank you so much AGAIN to the super-friendly folks at Horze for giving me the opportunity to want even more of their stuff try out their products & share the skeptic's perspective with you!

September 14, 2014

Ordering Could Save You Money…And Your Life!

Horze signup_competition
Click to enter & get a 15% off discount for new customers!
Yes, you may now call me a Horze ‘ho. Albeit within the confines of a most basic TFS Commandment:  thou shalt always receive open, honest feedback!

I continue to enjoy our appallingly stylish (if you’ve read for a while, you know my trendiness aversion!) bell boots & gloves (week two: still no holes!).  But the goodies don’t end there:  check out two more!

#1:  Tired Of Losing Money In Trampled, Peed-On, Rolled-In Hay?

Another equine product that makes you want to throw things & scream:  the Hay Net.  The holes are too big.  The holes are too small.  That drawstring at the top has demonic intent to prevent the loading of any actual hay.  If it doesn’t have a drawstring, the holes are too big...again.  If the holes are just right & it lacks an evil drawstring, well, you must have entered a parallel universe of impossible fantasies.

Currently, I hang a small-hole drawstring net in the trailer.  Yes, it makes me want to scream very bad words while filling it.  But I love that I no longer lose huge quantities of $$$$$ hay onto my trailer floor.  It frustrates the crap out of Encore; unless I pull out a bunch of “starter clumps” for him to grab, he believes it’s too much work & gives up.  *insert eyeroll here*  In the fields, I dole out flakes on the ground or in an old trough with a pin-holed bottom.  I don’t. do. round bales.  (Unless someone wants to mail me a $300 net & a spear for the tractor…)

Hay Net 2
The Horze Slow Hay Feeder Net looked like a promising solution:  HUGE open top with perfectly-sized holes with a simple hanging design that I could move between trailer & run-in in a snap.  While slightly more expensive than my $11 trailer net, at $24 it was still half the cost of the $55 wall-mount from CinchChix & more flexible.

  • I can walk up with 4 flakes balanced on one arm, pull the top wide open, & dump them in without loosing a bit
  • Easily holds at least 1/2 a square bale
  • Two simple mounting loops give you endless hanging options, including my carefully engineered “tie it to the rafters with hay string” technique
  • Two sets of short “shoelaces” are sewn into the top binding so you can dissuade Dobbin from just shoving his entire head in
  • Since the boys love to camp in their shed on rainy days, it lets Solo continue to “graze” under shelter & holds so much hay, I don’t have to worry about mid-day refills (not tested on Princess Encore-I-Like-To-Pee-In-My-Hay yet)
  • After I add a double-ended snap to each hanging loop, I can hang or move it anywhere by simply unclipping & don’t have to mount anything permanent
Hay Net 1 Arrows
Awesome MSPaint arrows indicate shoelaces
Minor Design Struggle:
  • The enormous top-load is amazing; it could be even better if the “shoelaces” were not both sewn onto the same binding edge.  I weave them to the other edge a couple times & tie a slip-knot for easy release, but it’s a bit awkward (hey, some people have weird, super-logical brains that struggle with lopsided things).
  • Alternatively (& what I initially thought the “shoelaces” were), a simple drawstring inside the top binding with a cord lock, like this, would be awesome!
One Sad Discovery:
  • Because the netting is softer than a traditional hay bag, it is easier for the horse to snag the hay, & hopefully will be less frustrating for Encore.  However, after about 5 solid days of Solo-use, the net string on a bottom corner is unraveling & pulling out of the side binding.  Mr. Shiny loves his hay & is serious about getting every scrap; it appears that the string is not strong enough for full-time shed residence. 
Despite this initial material failure, though, it shall receive some hay-string patching for continued use!  Horze DOES have a 30-day "happiness guarantee," should you have problems with any product, as well.  While not cut out for full-time “grazing,” I still think it has great functionality for trailering, temporary show-stabling, & other less “aggressive” situations where easy filling & hanging are key!

hunting visibility
Probably not the helmet I'd choose for deer season...
#2:  Serious Safety

While there are many things I love about the Carolinas, fall is not one of them.  It’s perfect riding weather, the trees break out their technicolour dreamcoats, the demonic insects begin their retreat.  What’s not to love?

Oh, it’s also rifle season for white-tailed deer.

A Little Perspective

As an employee of my state’s natural resource agency & a wildlife biologist, I get to see both sides of this…interesting time of year.  Nearly all of my co-workers hunt deer, as well as ducks, doves, turkeys, & feral hogs with bows, muzzleloaders, shotguns, & rifles, as personal preference varies.  And they do it right:  each one is careful, responsible, ethical, educated, & experienced.

wrong end of gun
MN wins the prize for Best Safety Graphics
Unfortunately, just like horse-world, riddled with double-edged swords, a conscientious participant in hunting-world is not a guarantee.  Outside of work, as a horse & property owner, I must always be alert for the bad apples.  It only takes one guy who thinks it’s funny to shoot a horse out from under someone, or brought a case of beer to the stand, or fires blindly at rustling leaves, or…it happens every year (and all over the country).

We Can & Should Share The Woods, But Be Proactive

As a result, many of us simply stay out of the woods once rifle season begins (the bow hunters & muzzleloaders are so much better at paying attention).  When we do head out on trails, we stick to state parks & private properties.  Even then, I always wear my very sexy DOT safety vest from work (sigh, trespassers…), attach a bear bell to my saddle (I need to fix that), & wear bright-coloured clothing.  I’ve got the vest on for tractor work too; the favoured.30-06 rifle can send a bullet 2-3 miles, so at least no one will be able to say I looked like a deer through the scope!

Solo Reflective Horze Strips Sept 2014 compressed
Glow-in-the-dark Solo!

I have finally completed my seven-year quest for very affordable riding accessories that didn’t make my horse sweat & screamed “THIS DEER-COLOURED CREATURE IS NOT A DEER!”  And the answer…is $4!!!!

A handy set of four hi-vis reflective sleeves with open ends, the Horze Bzeen String Covers, despite their odd name, incorporate the two best elements of product design:  versatility & simplicity.  I’m not sure if this is standard, but I received two that had velcro down one side & two slightly narrower sleeves that were sewn on both sides.  I slid one of the latter onto a browband & velcro’ed both of the former on my martingale for a test run.

You can definitely see them!  I’m very excited to have these additions to my safety arsenal & am already pondering how many I could fit on one horse!  The nylon fabric feels thin, but sturdy & can get tossed in washing machine whenever needed.

My only “in a perfect world” very picky detail changes

  • Either include velcro on every sleeve or give the buyer an option
  • Offer them in blaze orange, the universally (or at least in the US) recognized hunting safety colour 

Thank you so much again to the super-friendly folks at Horze for giving me the opportunity to want more of their stuff try out their great products & helping me share them with you!

May 14, 2013

It's All About Energy

One of my favourite things about working events has to be the people I meet.  Owners, trainers, product reps, sponsors, photographers, artists, vets...just about every category you can think of and a few you probably can't.

Wendy shows off her display space in the indoor arena.
At Southern Eighths, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Wendy McCaughan, a designer from Ireland who decided to take equestrian safety into her own hands by creating KanTeq and manufacturing custom fit body protectors.  The business model is very similar to that of my beloved Rodney Powell, but I learned, and Wendy confirmed, that he has gone out of business, gasp, sadness!  I have a body that is all kinds of odd shapes, so a made-to-form vest which has been certified is something I cling to with desperate hands.  All foams have a lifespan though (and it's not 20 years, sorry, my friends), as I have learned from several materials and textiles engineers, so what to do when I must replace my sturdy RP? 

Wendy had come to the US in late April to display her product at Rolex and we were lucky enough to have her stay over to the next weekend to visit South Carolina and provide some demos and information on falls and energy and how to think about protecting yourself as you inevitably hurl yourself from your steed.  As we do.

I've talked about my vest before and my basic thoughts on the types of protection available to us at this time.  Too bad we don't have knee protectors.

I apparently lack Irish style genes, but it doesn't stop me!
Wendy was kind enough to share with me, though, a lovely article that she had put together on energy management, with the help of the testers and engineers who examined the shock absorption properties of her vest (yes -- they tested it and she showed me the graphs of data, eeee, GEEK OUT!).  It was such a well-written and concise summary of the topic that I begged her permission to share it with you (if you haven't already seen it in BHS publications).  So without further ado and with a huge thanks to Wendy and KanTeq for not only supporting our long format event but also for just being a wonderful, kind, fun person to chat with and for letting me try on her sweet (blue!), very comfortable vest, which was both reassuringly solid and notably lighter than my RP, while at the same time giving me complete freedom to move (absolutely KEY in a fall; if you can't move, that impact energy is going to find its own way out = not good) and breathe.  That sentence is way too long...

My disclaimer:  I have received no incentives to share this product with you and have no stake other than my own safety parameters and intellectual curiosity.  I hold, as you know, quite firmly to my self-proclaimed title of Mme. Skeptic and Ms. Analyse-It-To-Death (that one's not so catchy).  But I was really impressed by the work and thought that went into this vest and with Wendy herself and her earnest desire to have an open, honest dialogue with riders and to provide them with effective protection, having evented herself on the other side of the ocean.

ENERGY MANAGEMENT – Body Protectors and Air Jackets Explained
Written by Wendy McCaughan

This article is intended to be a basic but factual and helpful piece for anyone who is confused by what is on offer in the market – there is no reference to brands including my own. My thanks to the Impact Engineer and Aeronautical Engineer who helped me get the physics right.

Body Protectors and Air Jackets perform in different ways.

The purpose of a traditional body protector is to help prevent injury to joints, bones and internal organs in the event of a riding accident when thrown from a horse or kicked. It does this by absorbing and spreading the forces involved. To a large extent body protectors are designed to emulate a ridged shell with spinal conformity and have the effect of wrapping around the ribcage. They should be impervious and ideally largely unbending around the circumference of the upper body, backed up by an impact absorbing and dispersing layer to cushion the blow. Too much flexion in the shell would allow blunt point impact to bend and possibly break a bone.

I finally got to do a Google Image search for physics!!!!!

An air jacket is designed to help provide protection by decelerating or slowing down the moment of impact.  However, to spread impact loads on the rider’s body, a body protector must also be worn because the inflated bladder of an air jacket will not dissipate sufficient energy – instead this energy is transferred from outside to inside, which is why there is a “bounce,” and must then be absorbed on the inside. BETA, the FEI, USEF, and BE insist that if you are wearing an air jacket it must be worn with a body protector to give sufficient impact absorption. 

Physics of Impact

When falling from something there is the energy from gravity accelerating the person’s weight (mass) plus the energy given by the thing they fell off (bike, horse etc). Most riders are sitting at over 1.4 metres (4’8”) above the ground and may be traveling anywhere from 15-25 mph.  That is a long way to fall, even when the horse is stationary. Once on the ground there is the added danger of being kicked or trampled - an average horse weighs 1200-1500 lbs, (544 – 680 kg), so the risk to the rider is significant.

Newton’s third law of motion states: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction” i.e. push a ball and it rolls away, the more energy put into the push the further the ball goes. When landing, this energy has to go somewhere and often the energy goes into the rider’s body. Therefore the choice of safety garment must be shock absorbing so that the body inside is protected.

In a horse riding environment impact types would be:

-Flat impact on ground with no hard lumps,
-Blunt but point loaded impact i.e. a rock, tree root, fence post or rail,
-Sharp penetrative impact.

I would say that the first two and a combination of both are most likely. If when falling from a horse we hit, for example, a tree root or fence, the energy is transferred into a small area causing greater damage than if we fall onto flat ground. Therefore it is vital that the rider chooses the best shock absorbing and energy dispersing materials as their primary layer of protection (it is all about lessening the transfer of energy to the body). Body protector foams for use in the equestrian sector are designed to pass stringent impact tests.

Do not want.
Safety Standards

All body protectors carrying the EN: 13158 or BETA marked labels have been tested to one of 3 levels and this denotes that at each level the body protector is capable of absorbing and spreading a given amount of impact. Protectors meeting BETA Level 3 should provide a level of protection that is considered appropriate for normal horse riding, competitions and for working with horses. These certified body protectors also have specific dimensional and space requirements so that sufficient torso areas are protected.

Air jackets are not body protectors. Whatever the benefits of wearing these items, currently none of them meet the relevant European CE standard for body protectors for equestrian use. To pass the standard protectors must be independently tested by a European-approved laboratory, using impact performance test methods to simulate impact due to falls and kicks from horses.

March 12, 2011

This Is How We Roll: Safety Vests

This week has been spent rebuilding Solo's muscle and fitness.  Which means transitions, lateral work, hill work, and longeing.  Which means he is b.o.r.e.d.  As he comes out of the barn, he says "Please god, don't take me to the sandbox again.  PLEASE GOD!"  Today, a long wander through the woods on a warm sunny day is in order!

We are back to the vet next Thursday to check blood levels, etc and hopefully progress will continue.

This morning though, I wanted to talk about safety vests. A must-have item for any aspiring eventer and generally falling into the "big ticket item" category at prices from $100 to $500. Fortunately, unlike helmets, you can fall on them repeatedly without having to replace. Whew.

But the air vests are $800, you insist. Yes, yes they are. And they also require a conventional vest underneath. And they also have failed to provide me with sufficient data that they are anything more than yet another product riding on a tide of very successful marketing. I know there are people out there who claim, "It saved me!" but I claim, no, your conventional vest underneath and your helmet saved you. It's simple physics: an air vest CANNOT PROTECT YOU FROM A 1200 POUND HORSE CRUSHING YOU. Not going to happen; for that you need a rigid structure, like the Woof Exo's magnesium cage, which I have recently heard will soon no longer be available? An airbag will also not protect your neck from any of the torsional injuries which are usually associated with a fall from a horse; once again, you would need a rigid, fixed structure for that. In fact, it will not doing anything more than offer a bit of cushion from bumps and blows. Which is exactly what the conventional vest you are already wearing does. So, to this particular scientist, I cry redundancy.  However, if data (anecdotes do not equal data) does become available, I am open to hearing about it!

That said, if folks have the money and simply want to wear it (or you are a BNR and you get a free one, but then I doubt you are reading this smurf blog, ROFL!), knock yourself out. I do believe that it does offer an extra layer of bump protection, but that is not something I personally have that much money to throw at. But please don't make any wild and crazy claims unless you have good data to back it up.

Ok, moving on....

My criteria for my own vest: BETA 3 approved -- yes, I know this is not required. However, it tells me that some level of testing has been done on the product I am trusting my internal organs to! And it may be required in the future, at which point I do not want to have to re-shop. The vest must also be comfortable, not restrict range of motion, and be easy to put on/take off.

The first vest I owned was a secondhand eBay find.  It was comfortable and did the job for schooling, but I needed a little better fit as we moved on to competition.  Mum once again generously stepped up and offered to donate one for my birthday (parents like safe kids, LOL!).  So I ended up contacting the good folks at VTO saddlery and submitting a set of measurements for a Rodney Powell Elite vest.

I LOVE THIS VEST. And I have, uh, "field-tested" this vest. In all ways. Yeah, even that way. Hey, no, not that way! Get your mind out of the gutter!  You can laugh at my stupid picture face instead.

It fits like a glove. When you put it on, within two minutes, the foam conforms to your body and you no longer even notice you are wearing bloody body armour. My range of motion is completely unimpaired. After two Carolina summers, I can tell you it is no hotter than any other vests I have tried on, which is pretty impressive considering this is heavy-duty armour!  I also did get the shoulder pads -- I'm not sure I buy their claim that it will prevent collar bone breakage, but they certainly will absorb some impact to the shoulder in a fall on an otherwise unprotected area.  I can't say I wear them every time, but for big courses, I strap them on!

I highly, highly recommend this vest and the VTO folks to anyone in the market. Each vest is custom built to fit you based on a series of measurements you send in. They also have a model specifically designed for those of you with large female metronomes in the chest region. ;-) Can't tell you much more about that, sorry, I am happily not a member of that group! But Rodney Powell has made a great, great product that will serve you well in your eventing adventures, so I would encourage checking it out post haste!

February 18, 2011

This Is How We Roll: Helmets

It's warm outside! And Solo slowly begins to feel better, with a little less sag to his belly and a little more sparkle in his eye. Although he no longer trusts my sneaky hands: every time I approach his stall, if he cannot see two empty hands, he backs up warily, quite sure that I am about to either (a) stab a giant needle in his man-boobs or (b) squirt something nasty in his mouth.

Today, though, I thought I'd throw about a couple of helmet reviews as folks are getting ready for spring seasons (jealous!!!!) and checking to see how gear fared over the nasty winter.

Helmets are getting a lot of attention lately, but you know I've always been a helmet nazi. Thanks, mum, for instilling good safety habits! Remember, not only do you need a helmet (well, at least if I like you. If you are annoying and mean to your horse, meh, I don't care if you fall on your head), you need a helmet that (1) fits you correctly and (2) is in good condition.

That 10-year-old Troxel that you've fallen on six times and the dog chewed on? Yeah, sorry, it's got to go. Helmets should be replaced roughly every five-ish years OR after you fall on them. Whichever comes first.

I know it hurts to spend the money if you've just bought the thing and it only has one good clunk. But helmets work by absorbing shock in compressing foam. Once you have compressed the foam lining, it doesn't spring back. The helmet will no longer be able to absorb that shock and it will instead by directly transferred to your skull. Not cool. Ask lifeshighway how important that is.  So really not worth it, suck it up and replace it! For more info, check out the riders4helmets website.

On to what's in my tack room: two actually, and I have glowing love for both.

The very popular Tipperary Sportage. I've had two (the first one met the ground). Lightweight, very comfortable, and I really like the generous head coverage. Plenty of vents for those Carolina summers, which is of utmost importance. And best of all, at $60, AFFORDABLE. Because here's the truth: a $40 approved helmet works just as well (and in some cases, better) than a $350 (or $700 or $900) approved helmet. Don't let the damn marketers convince you that pricier is better. They have all passed the same tests so the science is the same.

I also like to have something a bit dressy and more "traditional" for dressage and for recognized horse trials. I had a very VERY old black velvet Troxel, but it has long outlived its time and it doesn't fit very well anymore, so it came time to replace it. I REFUSE to buy Charles Owen (because they are trendy and yes, I am THAT stubborn that if something is a hot trend, I won't touch it), so I turned to IRH. Mum very generously agreed to sponsor it for my birthday this year (thanks again, mum!) so I am now the thrilled owner of the IRH XR9 (why can't they give them normal names, what's with all the stupid numbers and crap?). It fits perfectly, is very light, uber-comfy, and as a bonus, looks nice on your melon. At around $130, it's not the cheapest one out there, but definitely one of the most affordable helmets that will dress you up for a recognized show.