By Laura Owens
On this blog, I will help you try to save some time researching riding apparel by giving you just the facts. Not only have I tried the products myself, but I have also poured over reviews to let you know what other riders have liked and disliked. Whenever I buy something new, I like to make sure I’m getting quality without breaking the bank. I do not have an unlimited budget when buying equipment, so I want to make sure that my purchases look good and last for a long time. Is it possible to be fashionable while also being frugal in this sport? Please don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected] if you have any more questions about the products I review!
I had just started to show horses when traditional velvet caps slowly started to disappear from the show ring and were replaced by helmets with modern technology. As a teenager, I remember my friends wearing the first models of GPA’s, often decorated with Swarovski crystals. At the time, these more tech-forward helmets were out of my budget and I remember trying to look for inexpensive options that looked and performed the part. In the past few years, there have been more advancements in helmet technology and a countless amount of choices for riders in all price ranges. In this blog, I will take a closer look at two of Charles Owen’s modern helmet options: the AYR8 and the Ayrbrush. I tried each for an extended period of time, riding in them at home and at shows, and was impressed with both.
The AYR8 leather look is priced at $440 (the suede version can be found for $370). To be honest, I liked the look of this helmet more than the Ayrbrush right out of the box. It looked just the right amount of traditional and modern without being too edgy. You take care of the surface just like other leather products and I used a leather shine sponge to give it a little more ‘oomph’. I have an oval shaped head and was pleased that the size 58 (7 1/8) fit me better than any other helmet I have worn. It utilizes the latest in thermo-regulation with its twelve front and rear ventilation holes (hidden by mesh). Having worn it in very hot conditions, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel the need to pull it off immediately after I was finished riding. It also stood up well in very rainy conditions, which surprised me. Yes, the leather was soaked, but by the next day, it looked as good as new. I felt like the low profile was very flattering and I think it would look good on just about anyone who wore it. Charles Owen has traditionally been known to fit oval heads best, but they are now making a round fit AYR8 (there is currently not a round fit Ayrbrush available). The leather harness was extremely easy to adjust, especially when I compare it to the GR8 I used to have — it always seemed to loosen after I had tightened it.
The Ayrbrush is the less expensive of the two options, priced around $350. The design is a more sporty and athletic look than the AYR8 as its surface is hard, similar to the Samshield Shadow Matt. This shell absorbs impact and is strengthened with glass-reinforced fibers, which made me feel safe from the start. Initially, I was concerned that it might be easily scratched, but after wearing it around for many days at the barn, I didn’t notice any issue. I also liked that when it got dusty, I just needed to use a cloth to wipe it off and it looked brand new. I didn’t wear it in wet conditions, but I imagine that it would be very moisture resistant. It seems to be a little tighter than my AYR8, which I have in the same size, and it hasn’t loosened up with wear. So, keep that in mind when trying it on. The leather strap is the same as the AYR8 and was just as easy to use. The brim seems to come down a little bit lower near the eyes than the AYR8, but that also helps with sun shielding. It also comes down lower in the back, which is a real selling point because I’ll take any helmet that covers more area and protects more of my head!
I got a lot of compliments on both the AYR8 leather-look and the Ayrbrush and I plan to alternate using them in the future, although I may lean a bit more towards the AYR8 because of its more traditional look. I have been extremely impressed with Charles Owen and their constant drive towards innovation. They have a wide variety of helmet choices available online (many more than the just the AYR8 and Ayrbrush) and are always coming up with new models that integrate exciting new technology. When compared to other helmets that cost upwards of $1000, I think Charles Owen does a great job at bringing the best in safety with reasonable prices. I thoroughly enjoyed riding in both of these helmets and believe they would be a great fit for just about any rider.