You might have noticed a bit of an unusual look to Sandy Ferrell’s riding attire if you were watching the hunters at the Devon Horse Show. Ferrell, who rode Because to the 3’9” green hunter championship, wore a safety vest over her coat in all her classes, taking it off only to jog and for awards.
In December 2015, Ferrell fell from a young horse and suffered three fractured vertebrae. “When I broke my back, one of my dear friends gave me a vest and said, ‘Will you please wear this vest.’ I said sure, and I wore it for a while,” she said.
“But then the zipper broke, and you can’t repair it. I put off getting another one, and went through all summer and fall last year without one. Then at Capital Challenge [Md.] last year I was flatting a horse and it stumbled badly and fell on top of me. I thought to myself, ‘I think I need to go back to wearing a vest.’ ”
Ferrell did escape further injury to her back in that fall, but she had a compound fracture of her thumb. “I had my gloves on, and my thumb was going wonk, out to one side, and I thought ‘I don’t think it’s supposed to look like that.’ I took it as just one of those signs of ‘you might want to put your vest back on.’ I bought one, put it on, and now I feel like it’s my seat belt.”
Ferrell wears a vest every time she rides now, and when she shows she puts a black vest over her normal coats and her shadbelly. “At first I thought people might be a little bit, I don’t know if disapproving is the word. But so many people have said, ‘Kudos to you.’ If you have a dark jacket on, you can’t even really see it, so it’s not like it takes away from ‘the look,’ ” she said. “I know I’ve crushed my body enough times now that it’s got to help me. We have our helmets, but I think anything you can do to protect yourself is good.”
To see all of the Chronicle’s coverage from the Devon Horse Show, click here. And make sure to read the June 19 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse for more in-depth coverage from Devon.