by Catherine Winter
I’ve been a rider for longer than I haven’t. I grew up in the hunter/jumper world and was one of those kids that had no fear. I would ride anything and try anything. All of my broken bones have been a result of riding (or not riding depending on how you look at it).
During college and my early corporate life, I stepped away from riding, then dabbled a bit, then stepped away again. About 10 years ago, I began riding again in earnest both in the hunter and jumper rings. Five years ago, I began riding with Doug Payne, who spends about 50% of his time at hunter/jumper shows and the rest eventing. My relationship with Doug has evolved from rider to owner and I am now a partner in Doug’s Pan American Games mount, Starr Witness.
When I started riding with Doug, it seemed natural to try a little low level eventing, and I had an amazing mare that would do the A/O jumpers and hunter derbies in the same weekend, then would jump cross country the next. As I began to think about eventing competitively (at the beginner novice level, mind you), I went on a quest for a safety vest. I found that I had to visit multiple websites and a myriad of stores to research all of my different options. I wanted one place to find everything, and it didn’t exist. So I flew to the Land Rover Kentucky 3 Day Event to visit their legendary trade fair to try to learn about all of the different body protectors and safety vests. I said yes to the first generation Airowear AyrPS hybrid vest.
I continued to think about how difficult it was for me to research my different options and fast forward a few years, Ride EquiSafe was born. Choosing your safety equipment is such an important decision, and a deeply personal one. If you don’t choose something that you’re comfortable with, you won’t use it, which completely defeats the purpose.
My goal in creating Ride EquiSafe was to carry the broadest selection of rider safety equipment, including body protectors, air vests, safety stirrups and air vest compatible clothing, and to be brand agnostic. I don’t want people making decisions about their safety based solely on their trainer being sponsored by a particular company.
The company isn’t a regular tack shop – we don’t carry breeches, brushes, or bits. It’s difficult for a tack shop to specialize in this way because of the amount of training that’s required to become and expert on the topic, and the majority of tack shops, including the larger big box retailers, generally only carry a couple of brands.
A shopping experience for this type of equipment should be personalized, so with each person I encounter, I ask what their safety priorities are and then I provide information about options for them to consider. At the end of the day, I want people to make an informed decision about their safety equipment and to recognize what the different products can and cannot do.
The number of encounters that I’ve had from people wanting to learn about how to best protect themselves while riding proves that people are taking this seriously and they’re hungry for information. I’m glad to be able to provide the service at a time when there’s heightened focus on the topic due to tragic, high profile injuries over the past few years.
Do your research before choosing your equipment, and stay safe everyone!