I have a LOT of pictures and film of me riding with out a helmet. I have always been pretty ambivalent about helmet usage. Recently however, I have had a real change of heart. In the past, I wore a helmet when I was on questionable young horses only. I have often gotten the “eye” for wearing a helmet on “safe” horses. However, I have had a few bad falls in the past 4 years that made me thankful I had a helmet on, but it still didn’t scare me into wearing one all the time. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the therapeutic riding facility that I volunteer at where I ride their horses to keep them fit and tuned up. I didn’t have my helmet. I came out ready to ride, and the owner said, “You need a helmet” and pointed in the direction they were stored. I strapped one on and away I went. The next time I went, I made sure I brought a helmet. I have a Troxel helmet I have had for years and had those big falls with. My husband bought me a new Charles Owen last Christmas so I figured the Troxel could stay in the car and then I would have it the next time I volunteer. My helmet was sitting on the floor board on the passenger side and something caught my eye. The next stop light I came to I snatched it up to have a look. Not only was it *dented* in several places, it was CRACKED! I have hit my head so hard I cracked and dented my helmet in multiple places, multiple times and didn’t even know it! I started to imagine how it would have felt if it was my head and how I
would have REALLY noticed if it was my head. I also thought of the football player who died recently who swore he had concussions even when he wore a helmet, and I thought of my cowboy friends who never wear helmets and I have seen them come off unbelievably hard….. then I thought of Parkinson’s Disease and it’s links to concussions and I have a cousin with a head injury from a car accident 25 years ago and his struggles in life….
All I can say is, during Rolex Kentucky I bought my daughter a new beautiful pink helmet that she loves and since we bought it I make her wear it every time she gets on her pony. Here is the real Biggie: Two days ago I was working with one of my young horses who is very gentle but very big. I thought “he is doing well, I will just sit on him quick”. I have ridden him a few times so I was comfortable just sitting on him for a second. I hadn’t brought my helmet to the ring because I had only planned to do ground work with him. I thought, “well, I will just sit on him quick and jump off”. I stuck my foot in the stirrup and started bouncing to push myself up there, when suddenly visions started flashing in my head of him bucking wildly out of control and me falling backwards and slamming my head on the ground and him kicking me in the head and Lyndsey White passionately talking about helmets in her english accent and commenting how ridiculous it was that I wouldn’t be wearing one…
I stopped, petted his neck, walked him back to the barn and called it a day. It was the first time in my life where I actually decided not to do something with a horse I felt was safe just because I didn’t have my helmet with me. It really is silly not to wear one and it really is peer ogling that has made me half committed in the first place. The funny thing is as a motorcycle enthusiast, I always thought a person was insane if they got on a bike without a decent helmet, it didn’t make one lick of sense that I would feel that passionately about motorcycle safety and not equestrian safety?! Maybe I had hit my head a few too many times after all….
This all brings me to why I wrote this: Take part in Helmet Awareness Day, encourage your peers to make the commitment to save their brain- I have, will you? Visit www.riders4helmets.com/ihad/ for details