August 03, 2010


There's an issue in the riding world that can really heat people up, an issue that shouldn't even be an issue in my opinion.  It's the issue of helmets.  Since I've been riding I've worn a helmet whenever riding horses....wait let me correct this a bit, not always.  I like, many other riders, sometimes opted not to wear a helmet for certain situations, such as when going on one of those wrangler led western trail rides.  I scold myself now the more I think about it.  Whenever you are on a horse you should wear a helmet, I don't care if it's a slow-pokie-walkie western trail ride or a Grand Prix dressage test!  Anything can happen on horseback whether you've ridden for a week or ridden for 30 years.  Courtney King-Dye was a Grand Prix dressage rider and earlier this year fell off a horse she was riding when he tripped....anyone ever been on a horse that tripped while walking?  Um yeah...hello!  She cracked her skull, went into a coma and has now just been released as an outpatient.  She is undergoing therapies of all kinds, has seizures and other issues...remember brain injuries don't mend like a broken bone! 

I've read and heard a lot of statements as to why someone wouldn't wear a helmet, "I don't intend to fall off, I'm an experienced rider, it makes me hot, it messes up my hair, I look dorky in a helmet, blah, blah, blah".  Courtney was a Grand Prix rider!  A sad argument I've read about (that just makes me mad!) is that some show judges may score you lower if you wear a helmet for certain disciplines!!! Show judges who think a rider, who rides perfectly well in the ring, is actually inferior because they are wearing a helmet should, to put it bluntly, get their heads out of their as**** and realize that safety is ALWAYS a priority over fashion or tradition!

He's wearing a helmet and the brim helmet shade makes it look more "traditional" Genius!!!
Way back in time, when many of our riding disciplines were in their infancy, helmets did not exist.  Derby's were worn in English country pleasure because gentlemen in their finest would ride their horses over their homestead/plantation/whatever you call it in England etc.  Top hats were traditional for dressage, cowboy hats for western riders.  Which brings me on a tangent here.  I've read some arguments for and against  western riders wearing helmets.  First off the traditional attire included a cowboy hat, to protect the cowboy from the elements and sun, gloves to protect their hands, chaps to protect their legs from the leather of the saddle, boots to protect their see where I am going here?  They wore these items to PROTECT themselves.  This was before the helmet, so why now that the helmet exists and has for a long time do cowboys not want to continue to increase their protection like they have traditionally?  Vanity and tradition are quite apparent in all riding disciplines from Dressage, English Country Pleasure, Western Pleasure to Cutting.  Many of these disciplines can be fast paced....barrel racers rarely wear a helmet yet they are running at top speeds.  Most English eventers wear helmets and some even wear those protective vests!  But alas some people will ride their horse over a course of jumps without a helmet!
I bet at least one of the many thoughts in this rider's head was "Man I'm glad I have my helmet on!"

So to convince you some more that wearing a helmet isn't showing others that you are a wimp or worried that you will fall but that you are smart and intelligent and thus want to protect that noggin which makes you that way, here are some facts I found online.  Take them or leave them:

18% of equestrian related injuries have a head injury component.  The human skull is shattered by a direct impact of only 5 miles per hour.  The average walk pace of a horse is 3-4 miles per hour, trot 8-10 mph, canter 10-17, gallop 30-40 mph depending on breed, fitness etc.  3 out of 5 horse related accidents are due to head injuries.  1 in 5 patients with a head injury from a horse accident result in long term disability (basically if you fall without a helmet you have a higher chance of injuring your head and if you injure your head you have a 20% chance of having long term issues!!!)  Make sure to use an equestrian helmet since they are specifically designed for falling off a horse.  Your head is falling from about 8 feet, that's a lot higher than a bicycle or roller blades.  Lastly various helmets cost between $25-$200, the average medical cost for head related injuries.....$89,000!!  Which sounds better to you?

We need to learn that helmets just make sense, no matter what pace you are riding, what discipline you are riding, how experienced you are or how "good" your horse is.  A Grand Prix rider fell because her horse had nothing to do with her being a bad rider or inexperienced or that her horse was a badly trained horse, she and the horse were at the Grand Prix level!  Horses can trip, spook or you CAN lose your balance.  Hitting your head on an arena post, a rock on the trail or even a soft grassy field (my last fall when I was 16!) can cause lifelong damage that is often irreversible.  I am glad I had a helmet during my falls off a horse!  Don't take the risk!  I know I will never be lax about this topic again, even on a tourist slow-pok-tail-to-nose trail ride...on goes the helmet!  When I have a horse, I will never let anyone on them without a noggin protector that's for sure.  I don't let people ride in my car without a seat belt either!

Just as handsome as a top hat!
Well I hope this wasn't too much of a soapbox post, I've just had this on my mind for a while now!  Safe riding everyone!

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