If you're checking out this blog then it's highly likely that either you or your child has started their riding journey. You may be looking at all the various products and asking yourself, do I need this and what does it do!! Hopefully, this blog goes someway to answering that.
As the coach and owner of a riding school, I'm often asked what items are essential when starting to learn to ride and if I'm honest, initially not really much!
All riding schools are able to lend riding hats so there is no immediate rush to go out and purchase one. They are probably one of the more expensive items to buy and if you decide that you do not wish to continue riding, they are not that easy to sell on because generally customers are advised to not buy second hand hats.
The reason for this is that they may have been dropped or damaged in the past and despite looking ok on the outside, may be compromised inside and no longer able to offer the protection it should.
Once you know it's a sport that you wish to continue then make sure you go to a reputable retailer who are fully trained in hat fitting. There are numerous hats out there so it's important you get the correct one that fits your shape head. One size does definitely not fit all!
We often advise our beginner or novice riders to choose a skull cap over a smart hat with a peak. The reason for this is that when you're learning to ride there is a chance you may fall off as your balance is tested and new skills are developed. A skull cap has no peak so if you accidentally fall off then there is no peak to bang into the front of your face. This would definitely be our preference when riders are learning to jump.
So, what can I buy, I hear you say? Well, if you're desperate to splurge then look at buying a pair of gloves. They come in all sizes and colours and can save your fingers from rubs as well as keeping them warmer in the colder weather. Most of them come with reinforced areas where the reins go and a palm with grip so it helps you hold the reins.
The second item that you could consider is a pair of riding tights or breeches. Jeans are not comfortable to ride in as the seam that runs down the inside leg is hard and will rub against the saddle creating raw patches. The same goes for the crotch area unless they are very elasticated. It's very easy to pick up a reasonably priced pair of riding breeches, check out sales, Vinted or marketplace.
Often parents will send children in leggings which is fine initially but they can be thin and not offer much protection. Tracksuit bottoms are a better alternative and then you can look at treating your little one to a pair of riding tights or jodhpurs as they progress. In fact, this is the number one purchase for birthdays and Christmas.
Riding boots are not a necessary purchase either at the beginning. As long as you have a form of short boot with a heel and relatively flat sole. This is so you can move your foot and it does not get stuck or lodged in the stirrup. There are lots of riding boots out there which I'll cover in another blog and again it's important to get the right fit.
Finally, body protectors are the next item after hats we get asked about. These are a considered purchase because in short, they are not cheap. Some people want one straight away because it makes them feel more confident when riding whilst some children find them bulky and uncomfortable.
We often advise parents that once their child is off the lead rein or starting to canter or jump that they should consider looking at purchasing one and once they wish to XC then they are compulsory. Either way, they must be correctly fitted as a badly fitting body protector is worse than riding with no body protector.
We always pop our customers on a saddle when fitting to ensure the correct length as if they're too short they will offer no protection and too long and they'll bump on the saddle. They should also sit snug to the body, do not buy a body protector that is larger so your child can grow into it! This would deem them ineffective and could be dangerous as they could become hooked on the rear of the saddle. However, the correct fitting of a body protector is for another day and blog!