equestrian sports eyewearMany horseback riders need some degree of vision correction, and others worry about eye protection while riding horses. Which is best?

Unfortunately, traditional glasses, sunglasses and contacts can get in the way of equestrian sports. Glasses tend to bounce around on the nose if they are not fitted correctly, while dirt and dust can agitate contacts. And any type of eyewear can become a hazard while riding horses.

When the goal is to protect both the eyes and the eyewear for horseback riders, the options are definitely limited.

Eyeglasses for Equestrian Sports

Glasses are a problem because they are not attached to the head, and helmets and other head protection devices can compromise the earpieces of glasses. When simply hacking around the arena or taking a leisurely trail ride in the woods, glasses should not pose much of a problem, but what about active equestrian sports?

Sports Sunglasses for Horseback Riders

Although there are currently no equestrian-specific eyewear options on the market for horseback riders, it is a good idea to explore safety eyeglasses as an alternative. These special glasses follow rigid ANSI rules to ensure eye safety while involved in equestrian (and other) sports and activities.

They typically have plastic and hard coated lenses that will not shatter in an accident, and often have wrap-around frames that ensure better protection around the ears and brow. Other safety features to consider when purchasing eyeglasses for horseback riders include:

  • Brow guard for impact absorption
  • Side guards
  • Flexible nose bridge
  • Scratch-resistant surface
  • 99.9 percent UV protection
  • Breakaway cords for clip-on attachments

It is possible to find eyewear for riding horses that are both attractive and functional, so do not worry about the aesthetic aspect at first. Instead, horseback riders should carefully evaluate the constitution of glasses for comfort and safety, which are infinitely more important.

Riding with Sunglasses

Everyone knows that the sun’s intensity can destroy an otherwise pleasant ride. Sunglasses help to cut down not only on the painful and annoying aspects of sunlight while riding horses, but also the dangerous effects of riding with unprotected eyes.

In most cases, it is possible to fit a pair of regular safety eyeglasses with alternative lenses to make them sunglasses. Horseback riders can also use clip-on shield attachments that do not replace the lenses at all, but simply provide a protective shield.

Many horseback riders have discovered that polarized sunglasses are ideal for equestrian sports. These specialty glasses are manufactured to reduce not only the direct light from the sun, but also the glare from glossy surfaces, such as water, metal and plastic.

Horseback riders should make sure that all types of eyewear, including sunglasses, are sufficiently comfortable for equestrian sports. From the nose bridge to the ear pieces, the glasses should fit snugly to the face with no shifting as the wearer moves.

Additionally, it is important to remember that sunglasses attachments that fit over existing eyeglasses can constitute a safety hazard. For example, if the attachments are made of glass rather than plastic, wedges might make it under the eyeglasses in an accident, damaging the eye.

Riding with Contacts

Some horseback riders do not like eyeglasses at all, and prefer the flexibility and inconspicuous nature of contact lenses. However, contacts are difficult to wear while riding horses because if dust, dirt and other debris find their way into the eye, the contact lens can aggravate any damage or irritation.

Consequently, most horseback riders keep a pair of safety eyeglasses for the barn, or wear polarized sunglasses over their contacts as an additional preventative measure. There are also amber-tinted contact lenses that will create a similar protection to sunglasses.

Should dirt or debris find its way into the eye while wearing contacts, horseback riders should remove the lenses immediately and wash out the eyes with water. Nearby water hoses work well for this purpose, and some riders even wear safety goggles over their contacts to avoid such a situation.

Evaluating your Options

Horseback riders should talk to their optometrists when soliciting fittings for eyewear. Whether they prefer eyeglasses, sunglasses or contacts, a professionals can help riders to find safe, comfortable solutions for any equestrian activity.