Product Review: An Equestrian Puts Flying Eyes Sunglasses to the Test

Our editor-in-chief, Stephanie, found a pair of glasses that’s perfect for the barn, arena, and out on the trail.
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Stephanie wearing flying eyes sunglasses
Typically I wear the magnetic tinted clip on my Flying Eyes glasses. | Photo Courtesy Hayley Barbato

Editor’s note: We at The Horse are horse owners like you. Certain equine-care products have impacted how we manage our own animals, and we want to share our experiences with you. These select products are ones we use and love every day.

I’d been seeing the world in soft focus from atop my horse, Happy, for a while. An optometrist confirmed I was nearsighted 20-plus years ago, but my vision was still good enough that I could get by without wearing glasses in most circumstances. When I was riding in Ireland and Spain and wanted to see the vistas more clearly, I wore my glasses, but otherwise it never occurred to me to wear them. Recently, however, I recognized my vision had worsened (thank you, middle age!), and it was time for an upgrade.

I wear sunglasses all the time—fair skin and blue eyes mean I’m squinting constantly—and for riding I’d been getting by with an old pair of cheap sport sunglasses that were unattractive and scratched-up but moderately functional. When I tried wearing my new prescription sunglasses, which I had purchased from a large retailer, under my riding helmet earlier this year, they pushed against my temples and the bridge of my nose and gave me an instant headache. Luckily, right about that time, a company called Flying Eyes (because historically they have catered to pilots wearing headsets or helmets) reached out to The Horse, asking if I’d want to review their glasses.

Flying Eyes speedily sent over four (cleaned and carefully packaged, which is good during a pandemic!) frames for me to try and decide which would work best for my face. I love that you can order these glasses with clear prescription lenses and magnetic clip-on tinted lenses to snap to the front. I picked out a style (the “Otus”), mailed back the sample frames using the label Flying Eyes had included, and ordered frames with a satin tortoise-tinted magnetic clip-on (what the company calls the shaded lenses) to snap to the front. I supplied Flying Eyes with my prescription, electing to order progressive lenses (again, thank you, middle age) so I would be able to use the glasses while I groom, tack, and ride. The customer service was incredible, and I felt confident I’d made the right choice.

Soon, my glasses arrived for testing. I slipped them on beneath my Charles Owen riding helmet, and there was plenty of room—they have very thin temples and are lightweight and flexible and didn’t push on my nose or squeeze my head the way my other glasses had. I hopped on Happy for a hack, followed by a flat school, and the glasses and clip stayed in place. In fact, I forgot they were there, which is how it should be with glasses while you’re riding.

flying eyes sunglasses
I’ve worn my Flying Eyes with the tinted clip while training and on trail rides with friends. | Stephanie L. Church/TheHorse.com

I knew the true test for the glasses and, specifically, the tinted magnetic clip was going to be either a blustery day or one where I was jumping. It wasn’t long before I met a confluence of those factors: In Aiken, South Carolina, in March, Happy and I went for a cross-country lesson on a ridiculously windy day. The frames and clips stayed put beneath my helmet throughout the hour and a half of riding, which involved gallops up and down hills, over jumps, up and down banks, and through water complexes. It was about that time I realized, hey, it’s kind of nice to see the jumps in sharp focus!

The clip only came off once, later, when I’d taken off my riding helmet and was hosing off Happy in the outdoor wash rack. One huge gust of wind hit my hair and face from just the right angle and dislodged the clip. So my recommendation would be to put the clip away for safe keeping on days like these. Or, if you expect this might be an issue for you on a regular basis, or you don’t swap back and forth between your regular glasses and sunglasses throughout the day, you can order the glasses with a tint and skip the clip.

Where I had to be careful of knocking off the clip was with my incessant habit of putting sunglasses on top of my head. So my rule for myself is the glasses and clips are either on my face, in their case, or on my face with the clip stashed in my riding breeches pocket. I have to say, though, for the times I did drop the clip, its polycarbonate lenses are not scratched, which is impressive in a barn environment. The frames are made from a material called Resilamide, which Flying Eyes describes as “an uncommon, rather expensive, aerospace polymer, which allows us to engineer our frames to be unbelievably thin and light, while also virtually unbreakable.” That also bodes well for a pair of frames you’ll be using around the barn.

Stephanie wearing flying eyes sunglasses
I wear the glasses without the clip in the barn and other lower-light situations. | Stephanie L. Church/TheHorse.com

With twice the lenses, you might wonder about what it’s like to keep them clean while riding. This hasn’t been a problem for me; I try to remember to stick the Flying Eyes lens cloth (or glasses bag, which is made from lens cloth) in my pocket for the longer rides where I expect there to be sweat and/or precipitation. Smudging between the lenses hasn’t been an issue, either. For the times I’ve forgotten to bring a lens cloth, my soft technical-fabric riding shirts have wiped the lenses just fine, though I wouldn’t recommend that be your regular practice.

It’s been three months with my Flying Eyes, and I wear them most days and am really enjoying them. Just last night I recognized, again, how great it was that I could wear them, sans clip, while trimming Happy’s bridle path and fetlocks, grooming, and tacking up, then just attach the clip for my ride. I was able to see my instructor, my circles and lines in the dressage arena, and the backdrop of a Central Kentucky sunset, in sharp focus.

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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