Blog .:. February 2014 2 Entries

Quick Update

21 February 2014 Comments

Fin has stayed in work with the H/J trainer while I have been sidelined, and he is coming along great.

I’m guessing we’re at somewhere between 20 and 30 rides now. The focus is on going straight and forward but in a rhythm—not rushing. He’s going in a very light but steady contact and is very accepting of it.

The Saddlebred and DHH breeding means he carries himself a little more upright in front than I am used to, but it’s not the tense/bulging neck carriage that you see with breeds not built to move this way. As long as he’s not flipping his nose and imitating a giraffe, we’re letting him carry himself how he wants and figure out his balance. As he’s started to get stronger, he’s also started to experiment more with stretching down and forward, which is nice to see.

He’s also developing a better attention span, although it’s still definitely a baby attention span. However, he just wants to look—he’s not spooking or jumping around or being an idiot. He’s done some impressive neck contortions on days when he really, really wants to look at something and is also trying to listen to the rider and go where he’s asked, though.

We haven’t cantered him yet as he really needed to gain some muscle and strength first. He’s reached the point where he’s balanced enough and carrying himself well enough at the trot that he’ll be able to canter under saddle without falling apart or lumbering on his front end, though, so the canter will come soon.

Generally, he’s just a super boy who is coming along just the way I’d like him to.

And this week I was finally feeling recovered enough to get back on a horse, so I hopped on him Monday and just walked around for ten minutes. I’ve been dealing with sciatic nerve pain and maybe something tweaked in my hip, so I wanted to be sure that riding would not make it worse. Since Monday went well, I had a lesson on Wednesday and we did some walk/trot. It was a short lesson—again, being cautious to make sure my back and hip are good—but it felt really good to be back on and doing something with him.

I’ve been happy watching him go with the trainer, and I was even happier when I got on him. He’s very responsive (for a greenie still learning!) to the seat and leg.

We’ll be making another trip down to my dressage trainer in the near future. The last time she saw him, he had only just been backed (two or three rides on him?) and was still learning that leg = forward and that steering was a possibility.

So things are good. Slow, steady progress, just the way it should be.

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Deconstructing a Helmet

9 February 2014 Comments

Last week, I had an unplanned dismount. The fall itself was not bad—I basically rolled over the horse’s shoulder—but I landed flat on my back on the ground. Graceful, I’m not.

It looks like a tweaked some of the muscles in my back, so it will probably be a couple weeks yet before I get back in the saddle. In the meantime, the barn trainer is riding Fin for me, so he’ll stay in work.

I wear a helmet every ride. My helmet happens to be one of Troxel’s cheapest helmets. It’s not particularly flattering, but it is lightweight, has big vents, and has cloth liners I can take out and wash. Given what Texas summers are like, all three of these things matter much more to me than making a fashion statement.

And I should say “My helmet happened to be….” It is no longer a working helmet.

After things were squared away, I finally looked at it and saw the shell cracked on the right side:

I would have replaced the helmet even without the crack, because once the lining on a helmet compresses, its integrity is damaged and its safety capabilities are compromised. This is true whether you see the damage or not.

But since the helmet was cracked and clearly damaged, I decided to take it apart because taking things apart is fun for science.

OK, not really for science, to be honest. What do I know about physics and impact force, beyond some vaguely-remembered high school and college required classes? Nothing, that’s what. My brother routinely wipes the floor with me when we play pool, because angles and vectors are a mystery to me.

Still, taking stuff apart. It’s fun.

First I stripped off the visor, the harness, and the tape holding the outer shell to the liner:

Other than making a mess on my table, that was not very impressive. Next, I popped the shell off and inspected it. The liner was scuffed here and there, but nothing that photographed well. I wasn’t even sure if the scuffs were from the fall or just from regular use—I don’t abuse my helmets by dropping them or leaving them in the car, but I also don’t handle them with kid gloves.

I turned my attention to the all-important, shock-absorbing shell of the helmet:

I never really thought about the vent covers before, but if I had, I think I would have assumed the mesh material went all the way over the helmet shell, as a sort of extra reinforcing structure. Apparently not. I also have no idea what the white tape was doing or why it was running over the top of the helmet, but I’ll assume there’s a very good reason behind it.

When I pulled the mesh and the white tape off, I finally started to see some signs of damage to the helmet:

This is the left side of the helmet, so the opposite side from where the crack in the shell was. The vertical stripe going up and over the helmet was where the white tape had been sitting, and it appeared to be a little compressed compared to the rest of the helmet.

The helmet has these small circles/clusters of points pretty uniformly spaced over the shell. You can see them best in the green circle, where the glue from the mesh highlights them a little. They are raised and stand out slightly from the rest of the lining.

If you look in the red circle, you can see some of the clusters are the same dark color as the line from the tape. They appear to have been compressed, I’m assuming from this fall, and they are the only visible sign of damage on this side of the helmet.

There were no dents or cracks on the left side, and there was nothing at all on the right side—not even compressed little clusters.

The back of the helmet, though, shows some very obvious damage:

The dark black areas have the same compressed look and texture as the little clusters on the left side of the helmet. In addition, when I look at the area underneath them (the fact that they are located on the vents is handy), there is a definite texture difference between them and undamaged areas.

All the undamaged vents have clear little circle patterns showing all the way down. These areas are entirely flat, with some evidence of vertical stress marks/lines.

To my totally unscientific, layman’s point of view, I assume this is what happens when the foam compresses.

Even though the shell cracked on the right side of the helmet, I could find no damage over there. To test my compression theory out, I tried banging the lining on the floor a few times. I got some weird looks from my cats and one or two areas that got a dark, shiny-ish look to them, but no real damage.

I guess it’s a good thing I am not living like a caveman, because bashing objects is apparently not my strong suit.

My other suspicion with these two obviously damaged areas is that they may be heat-related damage. However, I don’t see similar damage anywhere else on the helmet, and I’m not sure that heat damage would cause such obvious structural changes throughout the thickness of the foam in these two locations but not cause any other damage elsewhere on the helmet.

The damage also matches my fall—I landed flat and rolled to the left. I still don’t understand why the shell cracked on the right side, but it did.

After I saw the damage to the lining, I went back to the shell to see if I could find any matching scuff marks or scratches. I really couldn’t. If the shell had not cracked on the right, the helmet would have appeared completely undamaged after the fall. But there are clearly some significant damage areas on the back of the helmet and, while i couldn’t capture it in a photo, you’ll have to trust me that there are obvious physical changes all the way down the side of the foam in those areas.

This is why they say to replace helmets after every fall, even if they look OK on the outside. You just don’t know how badly the lining has compressed and how compromised it is.

As you probably know, most helmet manufacturers will give you a discount on a new helmet if you fall and send your helmet in to them. I did not do that with this helmet because Troxel’s replacement policy is good for two years, and I’d had this one for three. And, like I said, I wanted to take stuff apart. Because it’s fun.

I’ve already gone out and bought a new helmet. I was hoping to pick up the same model again, since this helmet clearly did its job—I walked away from the fall without even a headache—but unfortunately Troxel changed the style of the harness on this model. The new harness does not work for me at all and it made the helmet feel very unstable. My new helmet is an Ovation—still one of the lightweight, plastic, bubble-head helmets with no fashion sense whatsoever, but it fits well, it’s comfortable to wear, and, knock on wood, I’ll be replacing when it hits the five year mark without ever having to test its safety capabilities.

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