Meet Jessica, Equivont CEO and Co-founder, and read about why she is a huge proponent for rider safety and the use of safety vests!
Like most horse girls, I grew up watching movies like Black Beauty, The Horse Whisperer, Flash, National Velvet and any other feel-good, come back movie with horses in it. Loving the story of the girl who never gave up on her horse and despite all odds ends up winning on a horse that shouldn’t have- hoping one day I would have my own story like this.
At 13 years old, my Disney/Horse story began. Turns out my first horse, Ciano (who was sold to us as a “kids horse”) started to come “undone”. There was baggage that slowly and then violently started to leak out of him at the time I was beginning to pick up the contact and understand how to take a feel of a horse.
Ciano became dangerous. Trainers refused to help us. He had every trick in the book- rearing, bucking, spinning, taking off. But that Disney fantasy remained in my heart- Ciano and I would make it through this together. Selling him was out of the question for me and my mom knew that.
Eventually, my farrier was an old cowboy who ended up helping us. We spent 6 months in the round pen, working through and retraining Ciano. My mom pleaded that I wear my tipperary vest during this as I was falling off frequently- often times more than once in one lesson. Vests weren’t cool then (unless you were on a cross country course). People threatened to report my mom to child protective services for letting me ride such a horse, so I agreed to wear the vest.
Jessica rocking her Tipperary Vest aboard Ciano
The second Ciano became more rideable, I didn’t want to be seen in the vest anymore. It was embarrassing as a kid. I was worried about what people would think rather than my bones.
Despite me falling off a lot during Ciano’s “crazy days” I was a kid made of rubber and never broke any bones. I went on to ride professionally and was known for having a “sticky seat” who could stay on anything thanks to Ciano’s rodeo-like training of me. I went many years thinking I was close to invincible.
Fast forward to November 2020, I shattered my tibial plateau at the mounting block at 31 years old. It required surgery and 8 weeks of non weight bearing activity. That was a wake up call. And actually a wake up call that was much needed. I was way past overdue for a serious injury.
Though there is no safety vest, helmet, or equipment that would have prevented this specific injury it made me re-evaluate how fragile we actually are. Having broken bones sucks. Having surgery sucks even more. Not being able to ride for weeks was the worst.
As I sat on the couch, I decided to go for the air vest. And that I should wear it whenever possible. I showed up for my jumping lesson with Lane Clarke in it. He said “Nice! You got a vest!” and I responded “yeah broken bones suck and I don’t want to do that again”. He agreed and mentioned that he wears it even when hacking because “[he doesn’t] get to choose when [he] falls off!”.
That was cool. It makes me happy to see people and particularly top riders normalizing the safety vests. It took a little bit of time with helmets but now we look at people not wearing helmets with a side eye. Let’s help make safety cool together.