Monday, January 31, 2011

Where will all the hunt caps go?

Hunt caps are out - helmets are in. It's the law of U.S. eventing and dressage now. So, where will all the hunt caps go? Will they be resurrected at CCI*s (where top hats and tail coats are "not encouraged" as they were in 1994 when I had my one chance to wear both!). Will they live on in unmounted awards ceremonies? Will anyone even bother to pack it any more? It's interesting - I'm sure the USEA Event Checklist used to include helmet/hunt cap - now it just says helmet. It's a good change - it's the right change - but, where will all the hunt caps go?

Everyone is wearing a helmet in dressage these days!

I was a pony club kid, and my mom is a nurse. When most kids were still riding around in velveteen hunt caps with elastic chin straps, I had the not-so fashionable and often laughed at "egg head" look. No black velvet for me - it was impractical and too hot! My mom opted for the plastic "eggshell" colored space-astronaut helmet (the "eggshell" color was supposed to keep me cool - it didn't). The padding came out a good 3 inches on all sides of my head, and vents were still 20 years away in design. I was also the first kid in Texas with a protective jumping vest (I drew the line at the padded underwear that came with it - I think I still have PTSD over those - I can see them perfectly in my mind even now - if you want the details, buy me a martini!).

So, how did my hunt cap sneak its way onto my head in the dressage show ring? It was a 20 year stealth operation. No way could I have convinced my mother to buy me a hunt cap to RIDE in - but I was able to convince her to buy me one for showing our miniature horses in their halter classes. Awwwhhh, aren't they cute?!

A few years later, my hunt cap made an appearance in some high school portraits with my event horse - slowly but surely making itself look normal with the big horses, even though it had yet to ride on the back of one! And then it sat in a closet for 10 years.

Older, wiser, smarter (?!) and back to competing with my mom now 3000 miles away - I dusted off the old hunt cap and took it for its first ride, for no particular reason. Over the past 4 years, it's been part of my dressage attire - occasionally, my helmet would feel like the hat of the day. But, most shows, it's been the hunt cap. I can't explain it, because I wear my helmet every time I ride, without exception - except in the dressage show ring! I can't say it's a fashion thing - I think the sleek black helmets of today are pretty sharp (SO thankful the egghead style has been refined!). I have no misconceptions that I'm too good to get hurt (ha ha ha - wanna compare battle wounds?!). And having studied cognitive science and neuroscience pretty extensively, I'm keenly aware that brain injuries are serious business. So, it's good the rules have changed. And maybe the new helmet look actually makes us look a little smarter?!

So, back to my original point: Hunt caps are out - helmets are in. But, what will happen to all the hunt caps? Will there be a surge to sell them on ebay as a relic? What about antique shops? Will they sit abandoned with old tack or collecting dust high on a shelf? Will you even be able to buy a new one if you wanted to? It's not it's fault - it did its job well. So, how about a little dignity for the hunt cap in retirement?!
Michael's is having a 40% off sale on shadow boxes and display cases, and wouldn't you know it - my hunt cap is the exact same size as a football, for which they make a display case!! So, today I retired my hunt cap in dignity. I gave it one last roll with the lint remover, and put it to rest in its glass case with a white padded bed (I added the white padding - footballs don't want to sleep on white padding!). It's a bit like Snow White. Maybe I'll take it out some day - for an unmounted awards ceremony or photos. But, maybe it will stay locked in its glass case forever.

After all, the helmet is looking pretty smart these days!


  1. Awesome post! I love that you created a display case for your hunt cap--how cool! (and the fish bowl for ribbons is definitely something I have been planning on borrowing since you posted it last week:) I grew up riding in the one helmet we had--an old velveteen helmet that belonged to my mother. I fell in it many times, but alas, did not know about the one fall rule! YIKES! I for one am so glad to see things changing. I am all for helmets; sometimes I even think we should wear them while driving!

  2. I may be 3,000 miles away but am happy to know that some lessons of your childhood made an impression! Had to bite my lip pretty hard to not say anything the first dressage show I saw you with it on! Thoughtless 30's! I found an old, dirty, torn hunt cap for $30 in a local antique store-----yours in a display case is much better. mom

  3. I switched to a helmet, even for dressage, a few years ago. My lovely hunt cap lives in a storage tack trunk in its bag. When I am rooting around in there looking for something I need I sometimes take it out and pet it. *sigh* It really is lovely and looks great on. The helmet rule is a good thing, but I do love my hunt cap.

  4. One of the reasons I'm having so much fun with this blog is getting to read people's comments! Barbara - I cannot tell you what a big smile you put on my face all day yesterday!! I LOVE that you pet your hunt cap!! I'm still smiling at that! THANK YOU!
    And Shane - I stole the idea for putting the ribbons in glass bowls from a COTH "behind barn doors" article - this AMAZING barn had this AMAZING tack room/office, with all these bowls (theirs had lids) lined up with ribbons stuffed in them. I love my ribbons so much and am so proud of each one - but had never figured out the right thing to do with them until I saw that picture! Check out Marshall's - they have great options that are super cheap!

  5. Well you could always sell it in England, around half the hunting field still wear them to jump five foot hedges, five barred gates, anything really all in the name of tradition (and vanity). It's also rare to see a British dressage event with a helmet in sight. Is everyone taking a huge risk? No. Sure a skull cap gives you additonal protection but it can also pull you off your horse if you hit a branch (maybe not in dressage!). The MFHA did extensive research into hunt caps finding even in 2011 they were suitable safety headgear for hunt staff (employees) to carry out their duties, based on this get your 'proper hat' out of that cabinet and kick on.