Pictured: Elizabeth Bima on her mare, Savvy, completing their first 50 mile ride together. Photo Credit: Darice Whyte

Written by: Elizabeth Bima

I’m no spring chicken – I’m not exactly a winter chicken but definitely closer to a late fall chicken than a spring chicken.  As such, I tend not to bounce as well as I used to.  Each unscheduled dismount tends to leave me more sore and bruised than the last…and I tend to land on my tail bone.  Ouch.  That tendency combined with my green and very reactive mare got me to thinking about airbag vests a few weeks ago.  This led to much googling and a very detailed spreadsheet on the pros and cons of available brands and models.  Price didn’t really weight into it.  They’re all stupidly expensive.    Fully armed and prepared with my vast research, I approached the husband.   His response – “I don’t think those will do much for you.  You should research the most common riding related injuries.”  I knew exactly what that meant – sticker shock.  Sigh.  Wanting to keep the peace but make him feel guilty at the same time, I went into passive aggressive mode and told him I wouldn’t buy one since I have plenty of sick leave and long term disability at work.   Two days later I fell on my tail bone.  After writhing around on the ground for awhile, I got up and shot a text to the husband angrily informing him of my fate and advising I would be buying a vest post haste.  I then kissed my mare on the nose. 

I ordered a vest and 5 replacement CO2 cartridges that very night.  I ended up choosing the Hit Air Advantage because it seems to offer the best bedonkadonk protection and appears less cumbersome than other brands.  I begged, pleaded (I may have cried a bit) with the tack shop to ship my vest extra fast priority post so that it would arrive before my first endurance ride of the season – less than two weeks away.  I then set about to icing my posterior and consuming enough Aleve to knock out, well, a horse.   

The vest arrived on the Monday before my Saturday ride.  I’m really not sure I would have gone ahead with the ride on Saturday if it hadn’t.  My tail bone still aches and, while I can still ride, I didn’t relish the thought of potentially landing on it again.  This, I knew, would make me anxious which would make Freckles anxious which would increase the chance of a repeat tailbone thumping.  I was so relieved when the vest arrived earlier than expected. 

Saturday morning of the ride dawned cold and crazy windy.  The horses were somewhat fresh.  But was I worried?   Nope, nope, nope.  I had my secret weapon – Mr. Sausage (if you see the vest inflated, you’ll understand the moniker).  Twenty three miles into our fifty mile ride, Freckles spooked when we ran over some saplings and they said hello to her belly.  She jumped off to the side while I basically stayed in place.  I could feel the tension on the lanyard attaching Mr. Sausage to my saddle and had a moment when I wondered if it would inflate.  The next thing I knew, I was wearing an air-filled corset and hitting the ground.  I felt the impact but no pain.  Awesome!!!  My little mare spooked at the sound of the vest inflating and ran off a bit.  My riding buddy (the wonderful Ethen Garn) took off after her.  It took a bit of effort to get back up since I was encased in sausages.  By the time I was on my feet, Freckles was trotting back to me.  I kissed her on the nose, remounted and we completed the last two miles of our loop while the vest deflated. 

I didn’t replace the cartridge on the trail since it was my first time doing so and I wanted to take my time and make sure it was done properly.  After we got back to ride camp, vetted in and sat down for a rest, I watched and followed a video explaining how to change the cartridge.  It was easy.  I’m confident I’ll be able to do it quite quickly on the trail next time.  I managed to stay on the rest of the ride. 

All in all, I’m super happy I bought the vest.  Stupid expensive, yes.  But as my dear friend, Darice Whyte said, she’s spent money on stupider stuff.  Hers is on order!!!  

Elizabeth and Savvy completing a vet check with Dr Glenn Sinclair. Photo Credit: Darice Whyte

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