When I started to ride (back in June) I wore my battered old Blundstone boots, my less-nice jeans (Joe brand from Superstore, yo), and whatever t-shirt first appeared when I opened my dresser drawer. I was not a fashion plate, but this is actually normal for me, so whatever. I grabbed any helmet in the tack room that would fit me (I have a freakishly large head) and off I went.
When my riding teacher moved to a new facility, the selection of helmets (one in size Freakishly Large) vanished, so I bought my own helmet.
When I was a kid there was a show on TV called "Harriet's Magic Hats." It was about a woman (Harriet) whose niece would visit and try on any of the hats from Harriet's trunk. The act of putting the hat on (bakers hat, farmer hat, artist hat, etc) would transport the girl to an adventure with people who do that work. I loved that show - not only because of its catchy intro (admit it - it's still in your head, isn't it?) but because of the possibility. You can be anyone! In the whole world! And all you need is a hat!
It is a matter of great sorrow to me that there is no teacher hat.
Wearing that helmet, I started to feel like a real rider, someone who had a clue about what they were doing.
Then, around September, I noticed that I had long red welts on my calves after riding - the stirrup leathers were rubbing on my legs. Solution? One pair of half-chaps, courtesy of Lammle's Western Wear. (I am a third generation Albertan. All of my great-grandparents were homesteaders. I have never in my life before purchased anything from Lammle's.)
That did the trick, I'll tell you. No more chafing, and a much better ability to grip with my legs (using muscles that I never knew I had, either).
And it was only a matter of time until I went the final step - now I have fancy riding breeches, too.
There's a noticeable difference - I feel more comfortable, and I have a better idea of what's going on with the horse because of what I can feel through my legs. Also, no more rubbing in sensitive places.
So off I went the other day to my riding lesson, all decked out in the same old Blundstones, half-chaps and breeches, a real live equestrian helmet, and the fleece I bought at MEC so long ago that it's not even black any more. I felt like the real deal. I put all the tack on the horse myself, even the bridle (which I've never done before). And I was riding really well, too...
Until I fell off.
Landed on my well-padded arse and rolled.
My dignity is bruised, and my fancy pants are dusty.
But damn, at least I look the part.