Trying Out My New Ice Vest

I have MS. Heat is bad for people with MS. This year my body told me that my wonderful technical fabric summer cooling shirt and breeches were not enough, and a long term forecast I saw warned of the possibility of over a month with no relief or rain (fortunately that forecast was not completely accurate, it has cooled down a little and we are getting rain today!)

I decided to try an ice vest again. I owned one several years ago and I used it in the summer heat (you can see it in my avatar photo), but finally one of the freeze packs burst. The technical fabric riding clothes seemed to help enough in the summer heat so I did not replace my cooling vest. I did try an evaporative cooling vest but I live in the humid, humid, humid South and the water in the vest did not evaporate and I ended up feeling hotter.

So I hit the web, looking for real ice vests.

After much comparison of several factors including cost, I ended up ordering a FlexiFreeze ice vest made by Maranda Enterprises in the USA. This vest uses packs of water ice divided into 96 little cubes which Velcro into the back of the vest and on both sides of the front of the vest itself, and the vest when it is set up it is pretty flexible. One thing that attracted me to this vest is that it is adjustable to fit anywhere from XS to 6X which meant my husband, a big guy, could also use it. It also has a neoprene shell which helps insulate the ice against the hot air.

I was SO EXCITED when it arrived. I popped the ice cube packs into the freezer (keeping them in the freezer overnight freezes them), and figured out how to get the vest tight enough on me so that the ice cube packs would rest close to my body. I read all the comments about this vest and noted that the comments as well as the literature from the company strongly recommend wearing at least a T-shirt under the ice vest so the little ice cubes to not freeze the skin. A day later I decided to wear my new ice vest to go out to my mailbox in the hottest part of the day. It worked well, I was not prostrated by the heat.

Then I wore it on Sunday to ride Cider, and again the vest helped keep me cool and I was quite pleased, the bottom of the vest did not hit the saddle and I could move around quite well. After my ride I felt better ALL DAY, and I could do more than usual. I was happy, BUT my skin looked like a horde of mosquitoes had fed on me, not all over but I got hives on my arms and some on my legs and waist.

At first I thought my skin problems came from mosquito bites, so I sprayed a DEET mosquito repellent over my skin. I STILL got more “mosquito bites”. Then I decided to wear my technical fabric long sleeve shirts and my old pair of technical fabric tights to put up a physical barrier against the mosquitoes and I still got more “mosquito bites.” Then I realized that the hives were where the neoprene shell of my ice vest had touched my skin OR where it had touched my technical fabric clothes (somehow it got through to my skin). Oh no, I am ALLERGIC TO NEOPRENE!

So when I did my lesson on Wednesday I did all that I could to avoid touching the neoprene shell. I wore a T-shirt under the vest to protect my skin from the ice and I also wore a T-shirt over the ice vest to protect my arms and hands from the neoprene. I had to get my husband to help me get into my vest and zip it up. I wore my technical fabric shirt over all of this, and it worked well as in I only got one more hive on my skin. I was fine during the lesson, and I recovered well after the lesson and the heat was nowhere near as crippling as it usually is this time of year, but since I needed help from my husband to get all this on and off I had to come up with another solution to my heat problem. So I went back to the web to look at ice vests that DO NOT have neoprene insulation.

I found, and ordered, “Light Weight Kool Max Zipper Front Vest” made by Polar Products, whose vest is made of cotton twill and I saw no mention of neoprene in their write ups. This vest also uses ice and I have to use a freezer to get the ice packs frozen. Unlike the FlexiFreeze ice vest, with the little ice cubes encased in flexible plastic the Kool Max vest has ice packs that are around 4”x 6” which go into pockets in the vest, so it is less flexible. It has not come yet so I do not know how it will do when I am in the saddle, but I will be able to put it over my shirt which means I can take it off easily if I get too cold.

Wearing my ice vest did effect me in the saddle while I got used to it. Debbie got after my hands a little bit, and my lower legs as well. The extra weight affected my balance some since I was not used to the weight plus the coldness of the ice. Bingo did not seem to mind at all, he just kept on plodding around the ring, obeying all my aids and generally acting like a horse with no problems at all, in fact Debbie remarked about how well he was doing. He halted by my second twitch of the bradoon rein from contact, and while his backing up was not quite as good as the week before he did consent to back up without too many problems. He kept contact fine, we did the three speeds of the walk, lots of big curves, some turns in place, and we trotted. During the second posting trot, since he was doing a plodding QH jog I started alternating my legs (when I sat down) and light indications with my hands (at the top of my post) and he livened up his trot some and I could feel more power coming through his body into my hands. Bingo was a good, good boy!

This has left me with the problem of what to do with my FlexiFreeze ice vest because of the neoprene shell. Luckily this ice vest is adjustable to fit both BIG and small people, so my husband decided he wanted us to keep it so he could use it outside in the summer heat. He has touched the neoprene a good bit and his skin has shown no reactions so I guess he is not allergic to the neoprene. In the mean time I have found the FlexiFreeze ice packs (which have no neoprene on them) quite useful in keeping me cool when my house gets hotter, I just put one on the pillows I lean against and I rest on it. My mind clears, I recover from physical exertion better, and my body works better. I just wish I was not allergic to the neoprene because this is a nice ice vest.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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