As many know, for The Great Adventure (our charity ride from John O'Groats to Land's End), we were very fortunate to be sponsored by the wonderful Gatehouse Hats! They sent us three gilets, three fly veils and, most importantly to us: 3 riding hats! The hat that we went for was the Air Rider MKII because it was so light weight (and adjustable)!
When we started off from John O'Groats (actually we went from Duncansby Head which is the Northernmost point of Scotland and a mile or so up from John O'Groats), the weather was less than ideal. Particularly from about Day 6 until Day 11! We're not talking just a little bit of rain either... We're talking properly torrential to the point where we had waterproof trousers over leggings and jodhpurs and thin waterproof jackets over hoodies and jumpers, under our quilted waterproof hi-vis jackets and we were STILL soaked to the skin! The water was everywhere! Dripping down our necks and soaking through 3 pairs of gloves in an hour!
As we started getting closer to the border of England, the temperature started going up until we were on Day 18 and suddenly experiencing the heat wave that our friends in England had been talking about! It was really, really hot, and the heat wave stayed for almost the entire journey (just ditching us for a couple of days near Dartmoor when we had only t-shirts and thin waterproofs)! The heat was extremely oppressive at times and we could hardly catch our breath even just sat on the ponies! There's no right time of the day to do 6 to 12 hours of riding either so getting up early didn't really help us. All we could do was go for longer but much slower (we worked out that we were doing just over 3km an hour at one point when we were supposed to be doing 50km days... Not really doable so we did have to up the pace a bit then).
Now that we've set the (sometimes rather depressing) scene, I'm sure some people are thinking something along the lines of "didn't the water come in through the air vents of the riding hat?" Or "I bet their heads were really hot!" But you would be wrong on both counts! Despite the air vents on the front of the hats, the tops of our heads were about the only dry bit on our bodies when we had the downpours! We're not sure how it was possible, probably magic. On the days when it was ridiculously hot and we could barely breathe, we didn't even feel our hats when usually, we would be thinking "Get this thing off me!", as we were with pretty much all of our other clothes and our backpacks!
Having tested the hats in pretty extreme weather and for a very long time (how many of you are comfortable in your hat after 8 or 12 hours in the saddle?), we had already decided that they were our favourite hats ever!
Then we got home and got to appreciate the fact that they also look really smart and are BE, BS and BD legal so we got to use them in our first event of the year and our BSJA outings as well as a couple of unaffiliated shows and dressage tests!
As if that weren't enough, we had client horses in for sales livery and some of our own horses (generally rescues) to rehome. This lead to having at least 3 people turn up for their viewings having forgotten their hats! Thanks to the adjust ability of the Air Rider, we could just lend them one of ours to ride in!
These are really versatile hats and meet the safety standards amazingly! In our Air Rider, we have had ridden the length of the country, attended a trick riding lesson, Show Jumped, Evented, hacked and trained! We've also had three bad falls between two riders and three hats, one with a horse rearing and going over backwards, two fast falls (one resulting in broken ribs and the other injuring the rider and the person on the ground in one!) and none of these falls have resulted in any kind of head injuries despite some hard knocks! Unfortunately that probably means we should replace our hats but that's easy to do with the Air Rider as they RRP at around £100! This makes them one of the cheapest hats on the market that are competition legal and kite marked.
Huge thanks to Gatehouse for all of their support throughout The Great Adventure, as well as before and beyond!