It's really important to think about reflective wear and what colour suits our hacking surroundings. As a rider who spends a lot of time hacking on country lanes, being seen and standing out is something I feel very passionate about! It's quite apparent that although riders are more aware of the importance of being seen, and less worried about the old fashioned stigmatism of not looking "cool," they are missing some major factors that need to be taken into consideration whilst choosing the appropriate reflective wear.
Gone are the days of the plain yellow hi-vis being our only choice in the tack shop! We are now spoilt with an unlimited choice of innovative designs from some great British Equestrian brands to help kit out horse and rider from head to hoof. To name a few:
Equisafety at Boudica Equestrian, Eqco Designs, V-Bandz, and many more!
Covered country lanes, open wide roads, or off road farmland? Wear items that will stand out best against your hacking surroundings.
Bay or dark coloured horses are particularly difficult to spot on covered country lanes. And just because you're riding a grey horse doesn't mean you are brighter at all times, especially if you are just a silhouette from the sun shining behind you into the drivers eye.
In the event of you both parting company, your horse could make his or her own way home without you. You want them to be seen, right?
1. You will be seen far more easily if emergency services or friends are out looking for you.
2. Your horse has a far better chance of getting home safe if he does decide to head back home to his friends without you.
The more hi-vis the better, but it's always good to consider sharing reflective wear with a friend if one of you are a bit sparse on your collection. The lead horse would benefit from a breast plate, front leg wraps, and a nose/browband cover, whilst the horse behind would benefit from an exercise sheet if the weather permits, as well as leg wraps on the hinds.
As a driver, the first things I notice when approaching a horse and rider on the road are:
1. Leg wraps, because of the motion of the horse walking they appear to flag up a lot quicker to me at driver eye level.
2. Reflective breast plate, lots of visible surface area on the horses chest from a front view.
3. Reflective exercise sheet, also great if you are the combination at the back of the ride.
4. Noseband or browband reflective covers.
5. Reflective stirrup bands - side view.
6. Reflective rein covers - side view
7. Riders reflective jacket/gilet/tabard.
8. Riders reflective hat band.
I do understand that it can be an expense we put to one side, but try to see it as an investment in safety.
If you decide to invest in reflective wear and worried about the cost, you could try spreading the cost by buying what would be your key components to your hi-vis kit. This is of course different for each individual horse and rider and something that you would need to decide for yourself. I would however, consider something hi-vis for you and your horse as a starting point, even if it's just one item each.
A little equestrian life hack, (excuse the pun) which is slightly contradicting to the great brands mentioned above earlier! But if you are on a budget and looking to renew your existing hi-vis collection or, add to it, then I can recommend eBay or sport shops where you can find suitable jackets in the form of running attire, as well as flashing lights which work fab for riders arms or legs. I mean, you won't find hat bands, browband covers or exercise sheets, but their flashing lights are pretty handy for clipping on to breast plates, or reflective exercise sheet rug loops for adding that extra bit of visibility on dull days.
You can't get better than the equestrian real deal when it comes to hi-vis, but we have to be realistic in a very real world where we all need to be safe, and if that means shopping elsewhere for a few select items at a non equestrian brand to enable us to be seen out hacking, then sometimes it has to be done.
That being said, a new hi-vis jacket and an upgrade of Lizzy and Charlies collection is on my list before the winter for sure, which I will be heading straight for the above mentioned equestrian brands!