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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Testing out those new riding boots

We tried out a new ranch today for riding lessons (our old one is moving a little too far north), and this one gave the girls a choice of wearing their bike helmets or borrowing student helmets. You already knew what the girls chose for today, right?***


They liked checking out all the new horses before their lessons. There was even a baby, only one-year old. Cute.


The girls are VERY serious about their horseback riding:DSC_2120LR

We liked that this new riding ring was covered. Oh man, such a treat on a blazing hot day.


I think this might be my new fave pic of the girls. They sure had fun today:DSC_2136LR

This was their third lesson, and their confidence on the horses grows each time. I’m not sure I was so brave at their age. The blue sparkle boots worked quite well, by the way. And the two young cowgirls working at the ranch were just captivated by Ro and Ree’s wild outfits. I guess they do stand out a bit in the standard blue-jean and brown-leather-boot crowd.

***So, a few big questions for horse lovers: do you have a fave brand of riding helmet? And which type, because it seems like there are a whole bunch of types of each brand. And do you have any sizing recommendations for little kids? And do you recommend getting a fixed helmet size or getting an adjustable one since the girls are growing? Oh man, we looked at riding helmets online a few weeks ago (no nearby stores carry them) and my head was spinning. Thanks in advance!


  1. Anonymous8/30/2012

    As a long time lurker and equestrian..I am quite surprised that the ranch allowed/suggested the use of bike helmets versus riding helmets. Please invest in or borrow ASTM/SEI approved helmets. As someone who has fallen off a horse probably 100 times, in countless situations, I will tell you that it WILL happen at some point and bike helmets DO NOT provide the same level of protection as a riding helmet. Your girls are adorable and I hope that riding gives them as many years of joy as it has given me- it is a fantastic lifelong sport !

    1. Hi, now I'm curious and will have to google it -- what's the difference between the two types of helmets? The ranch said "federal approved bicycle helmets" were ok or the girls could borrow the student helmets. So we definitely could borrow theirs if we needed to. I looked at buying riding helmets online a few weeks ago because I couldn't find a nearby store that sold them -- I think the brand was Troxel? -- but all the variations and guessing sizing scared me off.

    2. Anonymous8/30/2012

      I agree with the first commenter. Some barns do allow bike helmets, but its not a great idea. Both types of helmets are designed for the impacts most common in those sports, meaning that bike helmets protect the forehead area, while riding helmets protect the back of the head. They really shouldn't be used interchangeably. I'm really getting a kick out of seeing the girls learn to ride!

    3. Thanks for the info! Do you guys have any opinions on the different brands -- there were so many! And do you have any opinions on adjustable or fixed-size? And any sizing recommendations if we have to buy over the internet? I remember there were so many variations last time I looked...

      Hm, maybe I should add this as a note on the post and get a whole bunch of info. Off to do that.

  2. Love that they are riding horses! That is so fun. They already look comfortable riding. Wishing them years of joy with horses too! Great pics!!

    Aunt Jane

  3. Anonymous8/30/2012

    There has to be a store somewhere near you. If there are ranches there has to be suppliers. Just ask the school. We paid a small fortune for helmets but I'm glad we did. I don't know the brand. They do adjust in the back.

    Where did you get the sparkle boots? Don't they have to saddle up the horses and cool them off after the ride? My kids boots get filthy because they have to do everything as part of their lesson. They are supervised but my 6 year old knows how to pick the dirt out of the pony's hoof.

    1. That's a good idea, I'll call the new trainer and ask. I'll bet there are lots of places way further south of us (more south is more rural).

      The sparkle boots are from Children's Place, and they did get dusty (everything they were wearing got dirty) but there's nothing wrong with that! All the clothes went in the washer and we just smacked the boots together a few times and they're great. The girls know our saying "if you're not getting dirty you're probably not having enough fun" ;)

  4. I have to agree with Anonymous, if Ro and Ree are going to keep riding they really should be in ASTM/SEI approved helmets. The barn where H2 and S2 went to horse camp this summer allowed kids to ride in bike helmets which made me shudder. We aren't planning to add "real" riding lessons to the mix (yet) and they needed new helmets anyway, so I got them Nutcases and let them ride in those.

    Nutcases are *serious* kid bike helmets; they are not only certified as bike helmets, they are also certified as skateboarding, trick roller skating (who knew?), snow sport, water sport AND motorcycle helmets and I was still uncomfortable.

  5. Anonymous8/31/2012

    Put me in the camp of "real riding helmets necessary." I'd actually think twice about a riding school if they weren't insistent on an ASTM/SEI helmet.

    I'd rec IRH (International Riding Helmets). They're very easy to fit, affordable, available everywhere, their sizing is very reliable and they're certified. Troxel used to be the gold standard but they've slipped in the last decade.

    They're great starter helmets. I have both my girls (almost 8 and almost 6) in IRH ATH Switch helmets. Surely Ro and Ree would love the colour-switch in the centre too ;)

    Tip here: go to a tack store (as someone else said, there must be one around if there's horse ranches around) and get them fitted! If you order online or from a catalogue, find a tack store and get the fit checked anyway. Most do it for free. Even the best helmet is of little use if it's a poor fit, just like a carseat. And they do fit much differently than bike helmets.

    Keep us updated on their riding, and best luck to the little equestriennes!

  6. Anonymous8/31/2012

    Hi, I've been reading your blog for a while but don't usually feel qualified to comment (not being a parent etc!) Horseriding I can do though :) I can't stress how important the proper protection is when riding, especially since the girls are riding horses that are really too big for them (are there no ponies at the ranch?) As others have said bike helmets don't give the same type of protection at all, and it's incredibly irresponsible of the ranch to tell you that they were ok. On the same note you shouldn't be buying online without getting R&R fitted by a professional store first, and if the US is anything like over here (UK) then different brands fit differently so check that!

    Also, like anonymous says, see if the girls can get involved with tacking up and mucking out the horses - they're missing out on half the fun without that! Looking forward to seeing how they get on :)

  7. I have to second what everyone else said about bike helmets not being good enough, as well as grooming, tacking and mucking. My daughters (both 7) have been wearing Tipperary Sportage helmets since they were 2 (glorified pony rides back then). They have more back coverage than some other brands. Their instructor won't let them on the horses until they've done a thorough grooming including manes, tails and hooves, and most of the saddling and bridling themselves. Can't reach? Go and drag a mounting block over. Afterward they have to carry all their own equipment back to the tack room (those western saddles get heavy!) wash down the horses and lead them back to wherever they need to go. The girls love it and I feel like they're getting a great workout.

  8. M3 I've just grabbed Lily's helmet to look at the make and it is an Aegis, they are made here in Fl, it is also an adjustable.
    Her ranch was/is a stickler for safety and she even had to have particular boots.

    Aww, the girls look so cute and extremely confident , not a surprise on either count.

  9. I have followed your blog for years and my three year old daughter that is going to show wears a Charles Owens and you can get a cover for practice and also use it for showing. MANY TIMES AT DIFFERENT BARNES YOU CAN GET GENTLY used helmets some of girls wil pass them down. Most people on the east coast tend to use this brand but there are many...happy shopping. I love shopping for riding clothing.

  10. Anonymous8/31/2012

    I was thinking they stood out in all that brown, bright, happy little spots against the backdrop. Then i read how the other people reacted and smiled more.

    I passed your blog to family in NM whose lives are horses. I think they will like it.

  11. Cute! I love how the girls are bringing their unique sense of style to the riding circuit :)

  12. Anonymous8/31/2012

    Hi, I've reading your blog for a while and rarely comment.
    My daughter is also from China. Her head is a bit flat on
    the back. I went in person to the horse-specialized store
    and I let the professional find a perfect-fitting helmet. It
    is more expensive but so necessary, falling off a horse is
    no joke. I must say the store tried maybe 20 helmets b4
    they found one that wasn't jiggly.... You should not buy
    Online and risk it..... Good luck! Nikki

  13. Anonymous8/31/2012

    Hi M3 -- Another avid horse person here, and reader of your blog. Our family is full of riders, 3 generations in fact, and our 8-year-old daughter is actively showing in the county-level hunter/ jumper shows on her pony. LOVE seeing your girls riding. And I MUST find out where you got your sparkly boots. A few thoughts:

    1. I agree w/ all of the above statements re bike helmets. Bike helmets, as stated, are not properly designed to provide back-of-the-head impact, and are also not designed to withstand the same level/ degree of impact as riding helmets. Bikes are naturally MUCH lower to the ground, and impacts typically happen in the front of the head if the rider goes down. Even on small horses/ ponies, the kids are often flung off the horse with some force (on occasion they slip off, but it's usually a result of the movement of the horse), and you can't ever really predict where the child will fall. I agree that any barn that allows bike helmets should be questioned a little. 2. If the girls are not participating in the tack up/ untack process, they are missing a huge part of the fun. In our barn, the kids have to learn how to take the horse/ pony from its stall, all the way to riding, and back after riding to its stall. So the girls should find themselves pretty darn dirty at the end of it.

    RE helmets, our daughter now wears a Charles Owen all the time -- showing and schooling. They run about $150 a piece, and are not adjustable. http://www.doversaddlery.com/charles-owen-jr8/p/X1-36209/

    However, at this level for your daughters, I would not invest in a CO. Troxel is popular choice for casual riders, and can be found in a number of patterns and such. They come with adjustable backs. http://www.doversaddlery.com/riding-helmets/c/1201/filter/100000002103eq100000002593/

    The key to the adjustable ones is to tighten them before every single ride, and then do a mid-ride check again. If the helmet begins to fall forward, sideways, backwards, immediately reset/re-tighten. Kids can hate the feel of tight helmets, but they need to be able to stay on the child's head regardless of the strap's position and tightness. If you go to a tack store, they will ask the child to bend over and put their heads down, with the strap unhooked, to ensure a good fit.

    There are other good brands as well: IRH is a fabulous, mid-range brand, and Tipperary have additional coverage. The girls can also put on colored helmet covers and such to make them sparkle.

    Remember that not all heads are equally shaped, so not all helmets will fit well. Look online for a tack shop near you, even if you have to drive an hour+ and have the girls try on a lot of helmets, even if you then buy online.

    When my daughter first started riding, I also put her in a protective vest. Yes, I was "that mom" but I feared body injuries and internal damage in the event of a fall. She wore this one: http://www.doversaddlery.com/tipperary-eventer-protective-riding-vest/p/X1-4045/

    She still wears it when she goes on trail rides. She doesn't wear it anymore for standard riding but I'm glad that I had it as she was learning to ride. There are only 2 kinds of riders: those that have fallen off, and those that will fall off. It's just part of the process.

    Sorry if we have made horse riding seem like such a scary process! It really is, in my opinion, the best sport on earth. But I'm biased :)

    -- TEM (San Diego)

    1. Anonymous9/06/2012

      Although I know nothing about horses I have a girlfriend that breeds jumps and almost lives with her four legged friends. Although you dont want to be "that" mother I think when the girls get out of the arena I would invest in the protective vest. My gf is in her 30's and riding and jumping at a professional level and NEVER rides without a vest, your ribs are just too fragile and like all the others have said, when you fall off you want all the protection you can get especially for little developing spines and bodies.

      Perhaps work on the philosophy when they fall off what would you like to see them wearing, ie good boots, good helmet and chest protection? I guess it comes down to your preference what you feel is ok at the level of riding they are at at the time... good luck

  14. Anonymous8/31/2012

    long time lurker as well, and have to second what was said above - the girls should ride in an approved riding helmet, and I'd think twice about continuing at a riding school that says bike helmets are ok. Troxel's are good, realiable (and cheaper!) helmets, otherwise tipperary's are a good choice to keep their skulls safe! save charles owens, GPAs for later in life when their heads stop growing as much. good luck - hope they don't start asking for a pony for another couple of years :)

    1. Oh the pony ship has already sailed... ;-) They started asking for one six months ago...

  15. Way too cute! The girls look so comfortable and confident! Happy riding, girls!!

  16. yes tacking is half the ride! great bonding time with the pony, too. i'm just a trail rider, self-taught (i.e. hours of teen years falling off repeatedly :) and as such wanted to second the falling statement. i say, 'it's not a question of if you will fall off, but when'.
    some have recommended bike helments to me (non-horsey folks) and i'm glad to have a good reason to decline their offers after reading these comments. i have an adjustable (horseback riding) helmet that i need to put to more use. body just doesn't spring back like it did in the teen years, lol.

    1. Eden, this made me laugh - just yesterday I was saying to the husband that maybe I should take riding lessons at the same time as the girls (I used to ride when I was a kid) and then just as quickly I said "nevermind, it would probably kill this old body now" Heh. We'll see.

      Oh, and the girls do tacking (although I didn't know it was called that) with a curry, brush, pick, and equipment. They love that part.

  17. I love my troxel helment. And I definitely recommend the adjustable ones (with the twisty button thing on the back of the helmet). It allows for growth and also variation on hair styles. Bike helmets are okay for the beginning, but real riding helmets are definitely preferable. They provide protection in the places needed, as well as their internal make up is different. The foam inside is made to compress upon a fall, therefore keeping your brain from shaking so much. A bike helmet doesn't do that.


  18. Anonymous8/31/2012

    "original" anonymous commenter here. I agree with the further comments that a Troxel would do just fine for beginners. I have also had a Tipperary that I loved, and would be suitable - lightweight, well fitting, and reasonably priced. It is very necessary, as other stated, that they be fitted professionally. If their is a ranch/riding school around, there is certainly a tack store somewhere relatively local. The girls would probably love a trip there to check out all of the interesting "accessories" and horsey stuff. The helmet should fit very snugly- you should see the skin on their forehead. wrinkle when you wiggle the brim. If the little fashionistas want something fun, like their bike helmets, fun covers such as these can be popped on the helmet: http://www.justforponies.com/zocksprinthelmetcovers.aspx.

    1. Oh no, those covers are too cute!! Dare I show the girls?

      Did some googling and found two possible stores so we'll head to one of them this weekend. Fun!

  19. Anonymous8/31/2012

    I'm also in the "real riding helmet" camp. Bike helmets just aren't designed for the impact that can result from a fall off a horse. Both of my past two helmets have been International; the first lasted me about 12 years before the padding disintegrated. I've had the current one for 8 and it's still going strong (no head-impact falls, so no need to replace either). International used to run a bit cheaper than Troxel, not sure if that's still the case. A helmet designed for schooling versus showing will save you a huge amount of money and they come in fun colors. My air-lite is purple and kind of sparkly. My schooling helmet also weighs far less than the show helmets my campers own. I also like removable visors. They give you a better range of vision. Definitely go for an adjustable fit. My older helmet was sized and I had no problems with it, but the current one fits just as well and is adjustable. I see someone mentioned helmet covers. My favorite feature there is that as the girls' tastes mature, you can replace a helmet cover for significantly less than replacing a helmet.

  20. When you get their helmets see if they have some kid riding gloves. They help with their hand positioning as their little fingers won't slide on the reins as much. They look like they are having fun and it's awesome that they can ride together. Then they will learn to steer and maneuver around the arena better. Good luck!

  21. Anonymous9/02/2012

    Another real riding helmet person here. If you read the specs for certified riding helmets, they're designed to protect heads from the single-point impact of being kicked in the head by a horse. Also, another vote for being concerned about a stable that allows kids to wear riding helmets, especially when they have loaner helmets available. This is coming from someone who broke a helmet and a rib, but not my head, falling off a horse.

  22. Hey M3! you will need to try them on in person because Asian skulls are different from non-Mongolian ones. Wren is from Central China, Henan Provence, and her head is also bigger than most kids her size in addition to being shaped differently.
    She picked an adult XS size Troxel. She loves the pink and silver frosted color and the silver horse with flowing mane!!
    We loved going to Dover Saddlery because they gave great advice, and didn't try to sell us something we didn't need. Also, they spent 15 minutes finding the best helmet fit. With her slim hips the irideon pants worked best. Her riding instructor doesn't allow boots without a heel to catch the stirrup or ones with zippers on the inside of the shoe as it might scratch the horse.

  23. No help here with accessories (unless you're looking for fashion help riding Cinderella's Carousel at the Magic Kingdom :o) but wanted to say how adorable and grown up your girls look riding! So confident! What a wonderful sport for them to be involved in!!

  24. New Day Foster Home just got precious twin girls who I think look JUST like Ro and Ree!


  25. So glad you asked the question about the helmets. One of my twins has been taking lessons all summer and the other will start this month. (She was a little timid until she saw her sister try it out.) We've been using a bike helmet also. I think we'll be borrowing the riding helmets until we get our own! By the way, do your girls have "Young Rider" magazine? We got our first copy today and my girls loved it!

    1. Oh I'll have to check that one out, hadn't heard of it!