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Friday, June 28, 2013

IRH IR4G Riding Helmet

I fully intend to continue my KY/Rolex travelogue (when I have time), but I have to interrupt and tell you that I finally bought a new helmet and I LOVE IT!!!! Believe me, it's been a long road and a LOT of looking but I'm very happy with what I got. In case you think I haven't done my homework, here's how it went:

I made the mistake of trying this on first, at the WEG in 2010. You probably recognize the Charles Owen AYR8. Of course I loved it and it fit great. Problem: way too much $$$.
So then I went to the local tack shop, where I found this, the Ovation Deluxe Schooler. This is a very popular helmet, and it also looked and felt great. It is also a very good price, only $50.00

I was on the verge of buying one of these when I decided I really, truly wanted something a little more upscale that wasn't billed as for the "entry-level rider," and that I'd be happy to show in (what can I say, I'm not even riding right now, much less showing, but I like to plan ahead :-)). So I did some more looking online/in catalogs and thought this IRH Elite would be good:
When I tried this on, however, it didn't fit. Ugh. But this other kind of IRH, the ATH SSV, did fit and looked pretty good. Seemed like it might be a bit hot, though. My current helmet is so well-ventilated that I've been spoiled.
This is where I left things for quite a while. I looked at sales now and then trying to find a killer deal on the SSV but nothing really came up. Then I thought I'd wait until International Helmet Awareness Day (IHAD). Then, only a month or so ago, along came the new Dover catalog, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but a brand-new offering from IRH that was a perfect copy (they're good at that) of the One-K (out of my price range). Hmm... I was VERY interested.

I was even more interested when I visited the Riding Warehouse website for the first time (I think I Googled the name of the helmet, or followed a link from somewhere - not sure) and found the helmet for $30 less than Dover's price. AND - yes, they were discounting them further on IHAD! SOLD. Even though I'd never seen one in person, or tried one on, I had to have it. If it didn't fit it would go back, no matter how great it looked, as I'm not up for taking chances with my head.

It came today, and pending a test ride, I have to tell you I am THRILLED. It fits and looks great, snug but not headsplittingly-tight, and no mushroom head - really comes down nicely on the noggin. The harness is comfy and easily adjustable. It seems to be very well-ventilated. Here's an amazing thing: I knew the liner was removable, but it actually comes with an extra liner, which will certainly come in handy for really hot days! It also came in a nice drawstring bag. Again, I haven't actually ridden in the thing yet but I will be sure to report on performance when I do. As for now I could not be more pleased!

P.S. If you want one of these helmets, hurry up and call Riding Warehouse as their current stock is very limited. State Line Tack also has them for a good price as well, though.

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Thoroughbreds For All" Event in KY

Oh, dear... I am sorry I've been absent from the blogging scene. I have been expending a lot of creative energy over on my Millcreek Spreaders Facebook Page (hope you'll pay it a visit!), so this poor blog has fallen by the wayside. However, I am ready to get back to telling you about my trip to Kentucky in April.

The first event I attended, held the Friday night I arrived, was "Thoroughbreds For All." Sponsored by New Vocations Racehorse Adoption, this featured evaluations both in-hand and under saddle of some of their current horses by internationally-renowned 4* eventer Philip Dutton, former top jockey Chris McCarron, a Lexington veterinarian and an eventing trainer. I drove (at a rapid rate; I always seem to wind up having to jet around Lexington because I spend too much time yapping with the friend I stay with) to the farm and thankfully my phone GPS got me there in good order, because as usual it was down a winding country road and very easily missable. This is the second year the event has been held and they had a huge turnout of people!

Here's the view down the barn aisle. Of course I made a beeline to see the horses, even foregoing the tasty-looking buffet until after they had been inspected:
Naturally I fell madly in love with one of them. This guy was such a character - you could tell he will be some lucky person's total pocket pony, as he wanted nothing more than to engage with humans:

His name was English Major and I really hoped he would be one of the featured horses of the evening. But even without seeing him move, believe me, I was ready to throw him on a trailer and take off! (Note: He wasn't even grey. I guess I'm partial to chestnut with chrome, too. :-)

After I'd visited with the barn inhabitants, I had the pleasure of meeting up with none other than Stacy K., author of the Behind the Bit blog. I've been reading there for at least three years and was quite excited to hang out with her in person! It's not often that I get to attend events like this with a fellow equine enthusiast who really knows what's going on. We enjoyed the dinner buffet and settled in on the bleachers in the arena.

The first demo was Chris McCarron riding a TB fairly new to the NV program. This horse was being extremely looky-loo, I'm sure because a crowd on bleachers did not normally accompany his lessons. No doubt he fancied himself right back in the paddock at the track. Chris unsurprisingly dealt with him quite admirably, though Stacey and I agreed that neither one of us would want to ride a recently off-track TB in similar conditions.
Next about six horses were brought out in hand and walked and trotted around for the "judges." I found their commentary absolutely fascinating; I know quite a bit about conformation, and have some knowledge of how function follows form, but these folks picked up on all kinds of stuff. Plus, they were quite interested in the horses's background. For example, check out this stunner:
What a GORGEOUS boy! Really nice confo, too. Unfortunately, Philip and the vet made it quite clear that they would have serious reservations about putting this guy into any kind of sporthorse training. Reason being, he never even made it to the track due to ongoing suspensory issues (unspecified) to both fronts. Really a shame... I hope he finds a wonderful home with somebody who just wants to trail ride or do very low-level stuff, and love on their "Black Stallion" eye candy.

This one had a perfectly stunning head:
I get a kick out of TBs with very Arabian-looking heads, as they seem to be throwbacks to the three TB ancestors. Of course you can't "ride a head," as the saying goes, but rest of this fella wasn't bad, either, and he was one of the horses they brought back out under saddle. I was disappointed that my pal English Major didn't come out either time (more about him at the end).

Here are some pretty poor photos of the horses being worked:

The riders were all pros and they had a good time putting three of the NV horses who we'd seen in hand through their paces. All W/T/C'd around for a bit and then were challenged with some jumping. I'm not certain if any of these horses had even been walked over a pole before. However, a pole started them out, then little crossrails, then a straight fence and believe it or not, these brave riders then asked the newbies to negotiate an oxer. You can see that in my photos. Not big but when a horse has never even jumped before the results can be interesting, to say the least!

Mr. Chestnut Arabian Head turned out to be a nice boy. He had a good trot and an iffy canter the judges said would improve with work, but he had no qualms about hopping over the jumps. A little bay mare whom the judges had been lukewarm about in-hand also did a great job, jumping in good form, and if I recall correctly actually wound up getting the best assessment overall for sporthorse potential. She was pretty nondescript-looking but again, you can't judge a book by its cover, especially a horse!

All in all this was a terrific event. I came away feeling like I had a much better handle on how to evaluate a TB for H/J/eventing potential (should I ever have the need, and let's hope I do). If you have the opportunity I highly recommend attending!

P.S. Regarding English Major: Sometime last month NV officially offered him for adoption on their website. He went quickly... color me unsurprised, if sad that he wasn't coming home with me. :-) Here's their cover photo of him - is it any wonder someone snapped him up?