Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Pacific Northwest
• Horses: 0
Welcome to eventing!
You are in a fabulous location in that you have a number of big names within a few hours and lots and lots of events to choose from.
First, to address your question--a helmet is the ONE item on which I will always splurge. It's your noggin--hopefully it's worth protecting. The good news is that you no longer need lots of headgear. A single quality helmet is fine for all three phases. Until you are at a high level (and even then it's becoming more common) you can use an ordinary helmet for dressage and nobody thinks twice. So what I recommend is getting the most safe, comfortable, best-fitting helmet you can. Get it in black. Problem solved. That said, there are numerous brands out there. I personally like a Charles Owen J3 Skull cap, but that's because of the shape of my head. CO makes other helmets, too. GPA and others are also good. Look in a catalogue for ideas, but be sure to actually GO to a local tack shop. If your head is oval vs. round you may want different things, etc. You will need to try them on.
Remember that in the tack store every good helmet will look huge and bulky. Go with comfort and simple, classic lines. Obviously make sure it is certified and properly fitted. I'd steer clear of things like the old Troxels with the big vents, but they are fine, too if that's what works. My helmet was about $150, but I would spend more if needed. On the other hand I have tall boots that are 11 years old--that I bought in a clearance sale from a middle of the line brand. I just replaced my jacket (Christmas gift from mom). The previous one was older than I am and was purchased used for my sister and never fit me properly. So yes, I understand budget. I still splurge for the helmet.
Beyond that I'd say take some lessons, but a few good lessons with a good coach are worth TONS more than the cheaper lessons. You can find good instructors for cheap, but it's harder. Do your homework. You could even call up a bigger name nearby and be blunt--I am just starting out, I can't afford you, can you recommend someone that meets my needs, etc. They may or may not help you, but it can't hurt to try!