Thursday, March 4, 2010

Courtney King injured while riding

 In a recent issue of Dressage Today a reader commended one of the high profile demo riders for wearing a helmet. In the premier U.S. dressage magazine, it's a big deal -- noteworthy --  when someone actually rides with a helmet. It merits a Letter to the Editor. I (and I'm sure a lot of others) wondered, Is it going to take someone getting seriously hurt to get people to understand dressage riders are not immune to falls and injury?

American Dressage News
Courtney King-Dye Severely Injured in Riding Accident
U.S. Olympic team rider Courtney King-Dye got severely injured in a riding accident at her farm in Florida yesterday March 3, 2010. Initial reports say that King-Dye sustained serious head trauma  and is currently in a drug induced coma in the Intensive Care Unit.
March 4 2010
Courtney fell from a client's horse, which she asked to move the haunches when its legs got tangled and slipped. Courtney hit her head which knocked her unconscious. She was transported by helicopter to  St. Mary’s Hospital in North Palm Beach, Florida, with a skull fracture.
blog it

To Courtney King Dye and her friends and family -- we send all of our prayers and thoughts of healing. 

Dammit dammit dammit
Horse-related injuries happen at any time, and for freakish reasons. It is, often as not, unrelated to talent of the rider, character of the horse, or safety of the environment. All riders, and yes even dressage riders, owe it to our families and our community to protect our safety as best we can. This means wearing a helmet. Even if you think it looks stupid. Even if your horse is a saint. Even if you ride the upper levels. If Courtney was wearing a helmet, it's probably why she is still alive. If she was not, well, right now it doesn't seem that important.  We just want her to  get better.

If any good is to come of this wretched incident, maybe we can use it to make people to rethink old habits -- a teachable moment as we say in higher ed. Let's encourage our fellow riders and boarders to wear helmets and remind them that even top riders like Courtney can take a fall. And if riders start wearing helmets, tell them they look Maaahhvelous!


  1. I am a new rider and horse owner. I have fallen off my 16.2hh horse twice. My head made contact both times. Fortunately, I was wearing a a helmet. I will always wear a helmet, I don't care how dorky it looks!!

  2. Praying for her and her family!
    So true that everyone should be wearing helmets, no matter what level you're at.

  3. Ouch! I'm shocked! Say it ain't so! I hope she makes a speedy and full recovery. It is sadly true, for how rewarding and fun horses are, accidents can happen.

    I saw somewhere Western hats with a helmet built in. I wonder if we could develop fashionable top hats with built in helmets?

  4. Completely agree! Very sound advice. I come from the stock horse side of the fence, and of course our people HATE to wear helmets. I always do however, and it's certainly saved me more than once. Like when my 20 year old QH's knee buckled once during a ride, due to undetected arthritis. He went down, I came off, and this story reminds me so much of that! Wear those helmets!

  5. AGREED...NO ONE plans to fall off, it just happens...wrote a blog on the exact topic a month or so ago...

    Best wishes for a very speedy recovery!

  6. I am one of those hard-core helmet advocates. We had a big-name trainer come look at a sale horse and refuse to don the required helmet to try the horse. He bought it without trying it! All I could think was "Really? Is the helmet so awful? How vain can you be?" Geesh!

    Hoping for the best for CK-D!

    word verification: reptini - a snake-like pasta? LOL

  7. Research done years ago regarding bicycle helmets revealed that the most compelling way to convince a person to wear a helmet (while bicycling) was to surround him/her with other helmet-wearers.

    It's something to consider.

    (mine is purple, with reflective purple flames)

  8. ...a kid gave me a compelling counter to "but I'm a good rider and/or my horse is so old and tame":


    Walk through a nest of angry buzzers and for a few minutes nobody is old and tame!

  9. Being the daughter of a brain injury case manager/registered nurse, I have had "Wear a helmet" ingrained in me. My first trainer enforced it for her youngings' (Saddleseat trainer), my second trainer enforced for ever single client, and my parents will beat me to death if they ever catch me without one. Undoubtably, there have been a few times (I can count on one hand) where I've hoped on for a quick walk around for no more than five minutes, but have always put a helmet on other wise. I've seen the effects of brain injuries that weren't from horses, and the way it affects the families and the fact that help is almost impossible to get has led me to make the choice for myself to put a helmet on pretty much every time I ride.

    I wonder how idiotic people are when they don't have them on... Don't they cherish their family, their horse? Why would they ever want to leave them?

    And of course, driving home from school today, I see a young girl on her horse. No helmet. iPod in. In a pasture, with a loose horse trotting along next to them. All the while close to the road. >.>

  10. Poor Courtney! Hopefully she recovers well! I watched a very good and decently accomplished young rider fall just a few weeks ago at a jumper show when she missed a distance to an in-and-out. She fell off and the horse, in an attempt not to step on her, tried to jump over her but kicked back with his hind leg and kicked her in the head! Needless to say, her helmet saved her life! While I admit that I have ridden bare-headed many times before I won't ever do it again! Horses, God love them, are just too unpredictable and sometimes it takes a first hand witness (or the injury of a really great dressage rider) to really prove to us all that we aren't invincible!

  11. You know, maybe I am insensitive, but I truly do not feel that badly for her. Yes, it sucks she is injured, but c'mon! Riding without a helmet is DANGEROUS. Heck, riding with a helmet is dangerous! But I have always thought it was completely ridiculous and stupid for all the "fancy pants" riders in any discipline to tool around without a helmet/wear top hats in competition. Riding without head protection is a huge risk and has serious repercussions.....and for the record I never ride without one. I may just be an adult ammy, but even if I was a Grand Prix rider (yay, right) I would still wear one at all times.

  12. STB Eventer, it's not clear whether she was wearing one or not.

    Eventers more than any other type of rider (except maybe steeplechasing) know about serious injury and head injury.

    Now can I ask, was Darren M. Chiacchia *always* kind of a jerk, or did his fall and head injury change him?

  13. Always a jerk! ;-) Never liked him before the accident.....LOL!

  14. At Rolex last year, David OConnor and Darren had autograph signings about 5 booths apart. Both booths had long lines. David was meetin' and greetin', big smile, arms around fans getting picture taken. Darren sat behind the table, tight-lipped and not making eye contact. And then this recent incident...

  15. 3 years ago I suffered a very simiar injury as Courtney's. My young warmblood spooked, threw me, and kicked me in the head. I was wearng a helmet which took most of the impact but I still sustained a skull fracture and a subdural bleed. I lost a week of memory (I don't remember the accident) and had to withdraw from graduate school due to short term memory loss. I am so glad I was wearing a helmet, I know it could have been much much worse. I now work at a long-term facility for people with head injuries. Almost all happened on motorcycles or bikes when the people were not wearing helmets.

  16. Are you referring to last week's charges? What a #&%$* jerk.

  17. I accidentally got on my horse a few months ago without my helmet. (I had a winter hat on and my head "felt" helmeted.) I realized it partway through a very short hack in the woods. As soon as I did, I immediately dismounted and led my horse the rest of the way home.

    I too have a friend who was almost killed in a horse accident. She did have a helmet on and we credit it with saving her life. She still sustained some very serious trauma but would not be here today were it not for that helmet.

    I hope Courtney was at least partially protected. I will add a prayer for her recovery.

  18. Just a little aside to STB Eventer's comment which stated:

    "But I have always thought it was completely ridiculous and stupid for all the "fancy pants" riders in any discipline to tool around without a helmet/wear top hats in competition."

    Not that I'm arguing (because I think it's ridiculous too) but I just wanted to let you know that Grand Prix FEI riders are required to wear a top hat in competition...they actually aren't ALLOWED to wear a helmet. How ridiculous is that!?

  19. Anon, the HIV charges. It sounds to me like there is evidence he is guilty but he pead NG.

  20. According to this article she was not wearing a helmet.

  21. "Grand Prix FEI riders are required to wear a top hat in competition...they actually aren't ALLOWED to wear a helmet. How ridiculous is that!?"

    Live to Fly are you SURE about that? That's just hard to believe.

  22. Even a fall off of a small horse can whap your head. Add me to the list of helmet wearers. I always want to shout for glee when I see the rare child at a Western play day wearing a helmet. I wish the parents would do the same.

  23. A friend of mine had a client whose horse was a bit spooky. One day, at a horse show, some brats were throwing pebbles at the horses. This woman's horse freaked out, she fell off underneath him and the horse kicked her in the head. The helmet cracked, but the woman was okay. Thereafter, my friend kept the helmet in her tack room as a tacit reminder and as a lecture prop whenever someone complained about wearing a helmet. It drove the point home quite well.

  24. Heather Blitz is launching a helmet awareness campaign. I hope that she does not adopt the "do as I say, not as I do" type of example. The trainers must also wear helmets if they really want to make an impression on their students.

    Otherwise, there will always be a cutoff where people think that they are good enough to stop wearing one. As so many of the readers illustrated, rider ability is not the point.

  25. Not true about upper level dressage riders. They are NOT required to wear a tophat. Look in your USEF rulebook DR120 #4.

    "Any exhibitor may wear protective headgear at ANY LEVEL OF COMPETITION without penalty from the judge."

    Capitalization mine. ;-D So no, it is a fashion statement, not a requirement. If I ever made it above 4th level, I would still wear my helmet. I never will...First is all this ammy needs! LOL!

  26. couple of things -
    While the USEF may allow ASTM helmets at all levels, USEF is not the FEI. The FEI is what governs those riders competeing internationall at the Grand Prix level.

    That said, I can't seem to find a rule book on line to confirm what the rule says. I suspect that the GRand PRix attire is a top hat, and somewhere else there is a rule that says that helmets are acceptable at all levels.

    REGARDLESS, accidents happen - I can not even begin to count the number of broken stirrups, broken billets, and slipping saddles that have resulting in spills or near spills for me.

    My horse trips when his toes get a little long or the footing gets bad, or he just gets tired and falls on the forehand.

    I wear my helmet 98% of the time. The last time I didn't (a few months ago) my horse spooked at something and I almost came off. As I was trying to stay on, I kept thinking, "My trainer is going to KILL me for not wearing my helmet." She's riding at FEI levels, and she ALWAYS wears a helmet.

    What I would love to see is an ASTM approved top hat helmet.

    the other thing I think is CRITICAL for helmet wearers - they are only good for ONE FALL AND ONE FALL ONLY. As soon as you hit the helmet with any force, its time to get a new one. Most helmet manufacturers will offer a significant discount on a new helmet if you send the damaged helmet back explaining what happened. Helps with their research.

    hats on kids. DO it in honor of Courtney.

  27. I don't understand the "dorky" view people have on helmets. I think Charles Owen makes some really nice looking helmets! The GR8 is my favorite, but I also have a nice velvet Troxel that was more affordable and still is pretty cute to me!

  28. A Bay Horse: re Top Hat Helmet

    Coincidentally I was just reading last night, the March 2010 Dressage Today issue. See page 20:

  29. Brain buckets save lives. It's as simple as that!!

    I just ordered a new one. Thought I'd share it because it's so freaking awesome looking:

    Not a tophat, but it's pretty snazzy looking!

  30. L'Hiver have started making a safety hat for dressage riders - looks like a top hat, but it's as safe as a helmet. No excuse now for the top riders not to protect their noggins!


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