Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ten reasons I wear a helmet

I found this on a Web page. I don't know the lady, I'm sure she is very nice. The dressage community's denial of the risks of the sport is astonishing. Do they think they're immortal?

The helmetless Olympic rider Anky VG gets dumped. It does happen.

CORRECTION: Someone on COTH sent me a link to a better video, which shows that Anky is INDEED wearing a helmet. Way to go, Anky! She is shown helmet-less in a lot of videos, but maybe in a moment of clairvoyance she elected to wear one this time.

Ten reasons I wear a helmet
  1. I enjoy being ambulatory. It is fun to move my limbs about freely.
  2. I already have trouble remembering things.
  3. The new helmets come in great colors, they're light, and they work.
  4. I don't want to re-learn how to feed myself.
  5. Riding bare-headed is not cool.
  6. Longevity is cool.
  7. I don't have a living will.
  8. I like having fine motor skills more than having coiffed hair.
  9. I want to support therapeutic riders, not be one.
  10. Harvey is afraid of wheelchairs.

The inspiration for this article
Monday morning of this week, I received a call from Bev--a lady that has been riding Harvey. She had fallen off Harvey, and was taken to the hospital with a concussion. As part of the horse-sharing arrangement, she had agreed to wear a helmet when riding Harvey. She had skipped a helmet that day, she said, because Harvey had been "so quiet." Observers said that Harv "went up like a Lipazzaner" when she asked him to canter. I would never have dreamed that my 21 year old would behave this way. Bev reports that she is fine, and even said "this isn't my first concussion from riding." I'm so thankful that Bev is okay. She continues to ride without a helmet.

Injury During Contact With Horses from Southern Medical Journal
Summary statement for this article is "it appears from our data and the published worldwide experience that prevention of death due to horse-related injury is synonymous with prevention of fatal head injury."

American Academy of Pediatricians policy on riding and head injuries

American Medical Equestrian Association
Mid-Year 2004 report includes the Pony Club accident report.

Current Trends Injuries Associated with Horseback Riding --United States, 1987 and 1988

Spinal injuries resulting from horse riding accidents , Spinal Cord, June 2002, 40(6): 264-271


  1. Very well put.

    I'm also surprised to see barrel racers wearing cowboy hats, not helmets.

    The 4-H has a very scary movie about head injuries (equivalent of a driver's ed movie) that is very effective.

    Nice to find your blog!

  2. Amen! Why on earth would you consider taking a chance of riding without a helmet? It's sad that so many people don't realize how dangerous it is to get on top of a horse. Not to scare anybody, but even the quietest horse in the world can spook and send you flying. You just never know.

    I like reason #9 the best.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I do my best to wear my helmet, especially on greenies, but it is hard for me when I'm on my trusty mare.

    Jackie is right though, even the quietest horses can dump you!

  4. Thanks! I like #1. If nothing else, you'd think that the prospect of not being able to ride ever again would scare people into wearing one.

    Anne, I'll have to look for the 4H video, I'd found one from the American Riding Instructors Association, but I couldn't get it to embed.

  5. I didn't used to wear a helmet. I got dumped farily badly, but I was at a show and luckily I was wearing a helmet. Once I had kids I decided that I really needed to wear a helmet, and I've been wearing one ever since.

    I'm confused - if Harvey is your horse then don't you have some control over the situation? If it were me I'd insist she wear a helemt on him or stop riding him. Not only could she get hurt but then she could sue you. She might be your friend and not want to sue you but her insurance company doesn't care how nice you are and they will want to get all the money they can from you.

    Just my two cents...

  6. Hi Dressage mom,

    Yep, harv is mine, and I made wearing a helmet a condition of riding Harvey. This is a "mature" woman over 50, not a kid -- and I did trust her to follow my directive. This is a person who has had multiple concussions. I am truly baffled!

    The possibility of litigation is weighing heavy on my mind right now.

  7. I just read Grey Horse Matters list of horsey pet peeves, and was wondering if you'd consider doing a post on rescue organizations. Your research is so thorough I know that it would be helpful for many (like me!) who would like to donate to good organizations but don't know which ones can be trusted.

  8. I always wore a helmet and insisted my kids did. I discovered to my dismay that most western riders that we rode with didn't wear them. It's not fashionable. I think the shows force the issue with juniors tho'. But like Anne said adults in western competition don't wear them! It's like wearing seat belts. If you get into the habit, you feel weird without it.

  9. Love this blog, mom always says I don't want to take care of you in a wheelchair.

  10. Amen.

    I'm an FEI level rider/trainer. I wear a helmet - even on my upper level horses. I'd LOVE for someone to invent a top hat that is also a helmet. For my upper guys I warm up in my helmet and then don my top hat. People sometimes think that as they become more experienced they no longer need a helmet. Until horses stop being horses (and doing stupid horse things) I'll continue to wear mine. I think it's incredibly foolish not to. :) It's time for the "heroes" of the sport to start setting a better example.

  11. You know, I have always thought that Grand Prix riders should have a certified type helmet too! I wonder if Troxel has ever considered this.

  12. Amen Sister!

    I am a trauma nurse, and every horse riding injury that comes in is because the rider wasn't wearing a helmet. Of course, I go and give them the speech that even the quietest of horses can spook/buck/trip and all I get is the blank stare.

    Sometimes, I think it's Darwin's law.

  13. The 4H video is called "First Ride, Every Ride" if that helps you find it.

    A woman made the video when her daughter was injured (Killed?) when riding saddleseat without a helmet - as the attire is so different. so sad.

  14. I used to ride without a helmet all the time, in fact everybody around me did.
    Not anymore.
    Although to be absolutely fair, I do sometimes ride the so-called quiet horses without a hat but truly, I know I shouldn't.
    I need to get disciplined and wear a hat 100% of the time not just 99.9% - this 1% can cost me a lot of damage...

  15. I love this article, had have forwarded it around. A helmet is never an optional piece of equipment, in my opinion. I even make my trainer wear a helmet when she's on my horse!

    Love reading your blog!!

  16. Amen to that. My 3 yr old wears hers all the time. I wear mine riding young horses and jumpers.
    As an 8 yr old child I had a pony bolt and go over a jump. I came off backwards, hit a rock, broke my arm, my cheekbone and cracked my helmet like an egg. If it hadn't been for the helmet I would not be here.
    After you're 18, it's your choice. But until then, my kid wears one. End of story.

  17. There's so many helmet stories on Jessica Jahiel's site -

    I know they aren't as fun as going bareheaded, but that 'one time' is a real possibility.

    I really enjoy your blog - wonderful research!

  18. I hate stuff on my head. I don't wear hats often even when it is -30windchill outside, but I suck it up and wear a helmet. There is no reason not to in my opinion. I can say that I haven't always worn helmet, but I too saw the 4-h movie and saw Jesus.

  19. I'm back to say that my daughter was riding WITH a helmet and got a concussion. The helmet is split. Thank God for that 4-H video, because this was one of those rides where she was just messing around with the horse in the pasture -- no ambitions, just riding bareback.

    She threw up. She had a headache. She's had to have spinal x-rays. So far everything seems to be getting better but we're to watch closely over the next few days and no riding for a few weeks (in case of re-injury).


  20. Anne, I'm so glad your daughter is okay. You should write the video producer with your story. It's doing some good out there!

  21. Troxel has a great new Safety Resource Center. Check it out!

  22. Sorry to leave a comment on such an old post, but as much as I love the blog and the talents of your loveley trainer, you may want to put your foot down and insist she wear a helmet while on YOUR horse. Liability is certainly one consideration, but the guilt you'd feel if Riley stumbled etc would be just as bad. Just my 2 cents.


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