Readers may know me for my columns at the Chronicle of the Horse about riding as an adult amateur, but I'm probably best known as the editor and talent agent for Jitterbug. Jitter is a Percheron/Thoroughbred cross who specializes in human management and training, and has her own column for the magazine, which is much more popular than anything under my byline. (As it should be, Jitterbug tells me.) My full-time job is actually as features editor for the Paulick Report, which is a horse racing news magazine. As a rider, I have dabbled in a few English disciplines over the years -- I started off hunter/jumper, then gradually switched to lower-level eventing when I got Jitterbug about nine years ago. Right now we're focusing on our dressage work and after a lot of years of frustration and pain, it's finally starting to become fun!
As an adult amateur and starving journalist, very little of my riding habit includes especially high-end brands (or anything that is, I've picked up gently used). I like to focus on comfort and color -- it's always sort of driven me crazy that a lot of riding clothes or gear came in sort of boring colors until recent years, so if I'm schooling I like to choose fun colors or patterns where I can.
Stretchy lycra helmet cover: One thing I do splurge on a bit is a good quality, ASTM-approved helmet. Safety is important to me; I wear my helmet every ride, so I want one that's a little beyond the minimum in terms of protection and comfort. I try to get something plain enough to wear to shows, usually some variety of Charles Owen, but I don't do the thing of 'having two sets of gear for showing vs. schooling' so I find a helmet cover to keep it clean and dust-free during the day-to-day. (I've had good luck getting Charles Owens at great prices on Tack Of The Day, often in the wintertime.)
This is part of my horse's gear rather than mine, but I've gotten in the habit of riding with a breastcollar. It started when I was trying to keep an old saddle from slipping back, but it's just gotten to be habit. I like the idea of having something to grab onto, especially if we're hacking out -- a built-in 'Oh crap strap,' if you will. The breastcollars I use for schooling are from Two Horse Tack. They're made from beta biothane so are water and sweat-proof, which is key for a draft cross in summer. We have light blue and white options.
Gloves: I know it makes me sound like Scarlett O'Hara, but I never ride without gloves if I can help it. Originally this started as a necessity when we were working in double reins for a while, but now I've noticed I get blisters even in single reins. If you're hoping to ride back-to-back days, that gets annoying really quickly. I've used SSG for years because they had fun color options (including, you guessed it, light blue) but recently decided to make the switch to Heritage.
As an adult amateur, I'm sometimes heading to a dinner with friends after a quick ride. While I'm not above throwing on a good baseball cap and heading out in breeches, that is apparently a little puzzling to non-riders. So, I've been looking for a good solution to combat helmet hair, which is particularly tricky since I have bangs which get smooshed and crimped by the helmet. I've been experimenting with different ways of tying bandanas and have lately settled on a Buff headband to do the trick.
I used to save tall boots for shows, but I've gotten used to riding in them routinely. It seems my calves are wider and also a little shorter than average (alluring, I know) so I've struggled to find boots that fit me in the foot but also don't pinch the backs of my legs when I zip up. I settled on Mountain Horse's zip-up varieties, which come with a strip of elastic built into the backs for a better fit. Even with daily wear, I can usually get several years out of a pair, especially if I'm diligent about conditioning.