Many Horse Archery events around the world ask for you to wear your countries traditional attire for shooting from a horse. Thats because many countries have a long and colourful history of using archery from horseback for hunting, sport and warfare.
In Australia we have no history like that for this sport. Many of us use our families country of origin for inspiration, or we just wear something that we like. It is fun dressing up on your horse.
Hats are a very traditional part of any costume. But what you see here are not just hats. They are riding helmets !!
As a long time riding instructor and competitor in many disciplines I’ve had many falls and seen far more. To me the helmet, and correct footwear, are vital for the safety of the rider.
Yeah yeah, I’ve heard all the excuses, they’re hot, I get helmet hair, they are for beginners, they don’t look as cool as my cowboy hat, I trust my horse and the list goes on. But I’ve seen helmets save peoples lives first hand, so those arguments do not wash with me.
Yes they are hot and sweaty, no you don’t get the wind through your hair feeling like in a shampoo commercial…….. but I do like my brain where it is, firmly inside my skull, and I like my skull not to be broken as well.
It is very rare for you to find a photo of me without a hemet on. In fact I can only think of two instances in the last 15 years where that has happened and due to the commercial requirements of what I was doing. I felt very naked without my helmet on, let me tell ya.
Many years ago I made my first Costume Helmet. The purple one and I was pretty proud of it. I’ve since gone on and made many more and now have 6 helmets covered in various things depending on the look I want. Plus covers that can go over a helmet for my show group gang.
I went to my first international events and people didn’t know it was a helmet until I showed them. At my first World Championships in 2013 there was only myself and two riders from the UK who wore helmets. In 2017, at the Worlds, there were a vastly greater number of competitors wearing them ( approximately 25) and I felt very proud about that as well. Even at the Yabusame competitions that year, the Japanese were wearing more helmets ( and body protectors) than at my first comp there in 2011.
Even my students now make and wear costume helmets.
I travel the world training and competing, which means riding unfamiliar horses at break neck speeds without holding the reins whilst I shoot my bow. Exhilarating stuff to be sure. And I take on board the risks of doing this. But there are some countries I would not like to end up in hospital, let alone with a head injury !! So I take a helmet with me around the globe.
Now, how do you make a costume helmet I hear you ask ? Well, with a good ole hot glue gun and fabric, leather, faux fur whatever you want. Don’t go drilling holes in your helmet as that ruins the integrity and protectiveness of it. So everything you do has to be superficial and just ‘hang’ off or onto the helmet.
I use my old helmets, or buy the simple sport style ones and take the visor off or the plastic cover off and I’m just left with the foam. I know helmets can be expensive, but I figure my brain is worth it, and each time I have a new costume made I’ll make up a new costume helmet as well. Some people buy new shoes, belt and hand bag with a new outfit, I break out the faux fur and glue gun and cover another helmet.
And yes even my Jousting Helm has a jockey’s helmet inside as well….. that’s why its so bloody big !!
I love my adrenaline horse sports…. But I also like to be able to do them again and again.
So stay safe, be creative and just have some fun with it.
The Halloween themed QLD State Championships in 2016 brought out the fun side of staying safe and some great costumes and covered helmets.