In the equestrian sport of eventing, we use a lot of gear. One piece of that puzzle is the safety gear we wear, particularly in the cross-country phase, where we jump solid obstacles in open fields or in the woods.
Anytime a horse and rider are out on cross-country, riders wear a safety vest made of high-density foam designed to help protect them if they fall. Some riders also wear an inflatable vest, called an air vest, for added protection. Air vests are more common for riders at higher levels of competition, but I wear one because I’m at greater risk of injury if I fall.
In lower-level competitions, riders wear their cross-country gear and safety vests for the show-jumping phase because we go directly from one event to the other. But the phases are separate at some competitions, and riders wear formal attire in show jumping. They dress in the equestrian equivalent of a shirt, tie, and suit jacket, with no additional safety gear.
This presents a conundrum for me. Most riders wear their safety vests only for the cross-country phase. But I wear mine whenever I jump, whether it’s practicing in the arena at home or in the woods jumping solid obstacles.
I don’t think there’s anything stopping me from wearing my safety vest over my formal show attire. But do I want to? I’m torn between following the norm and having an increased risk of injury, or looking bizarre in my suit jacket and cross-country safety gear.
It wouldn’t be the best idea to go without my safety gear, but sometimes I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. Wearing my gear would attract attention. I haven’t made a definite decision, but I’ll probably go ahead and look like a weirdo.
One thing I enjoy about riding is that my compensations and struggles are usually hidden. But in this instance, it’s going to be obvious. While I don’t care that people know I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome — I write this column — I don’t like when it singles me out when I am trying to minimize its impact on me. But sometimes I just have to roll with the punches and make sure I put my safety first.
Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.