Sunday, October 9, 2011

Reason #9,467 to wear a helmet

Kitka update: At 7pm, Newman chased RK into a corner and they batted at each other, hissing/yowling and carrying on. I was bummed. At 10pm, they were both on  the bed with me, RK asleep, and Newman went over to RK and started licking his ear.  RK did not even wake up. They're working it out.

Some of the smartest people I know ride without helmets. I can't understand it. The argument I hear is "I wear a helmet on unfamiliar horses." Well, here is a perfect example of why that is specious reasoning. Go to the 40 second mark to see...


  1. Yikes. If you are unfortunate enough to be on a horse that falls, you never forget the circumstances of the fall. I think that this keeps you a little bit safer, if you can get past the realization that horses can come off their feet.

    I think the fall could have been prevented by a more experienced rider. My previous dressage instructor "caught" a horse who fell to his knees under saddle. She received a standing ovation and decided not to buy the horse. ;)

  2. A good reminder. One just never knows what will happen, to whom, when, where or why!

  3. "Prevented by a more experienced rider"? Sorry, but I disagree with that. If a horse is actually tripping and falling, no amount of pulling on the bit or sitting back is going to catch the horse. Doing so may even throw them more off balance, creating a worse fall.

    I've ridden horses who stumbled to their knees and recovered (very goofy, very green young'un who didn't always know where his feet were), but I've also ridden horses who went DOWN (old schoolmaster who just caught herself the wrong way and stumbled -- I rolled right off her shoulder at the last minute and landed on my feet in time to turn around and see her side hit the dirt... we both gave each other a look of utter amazement that said "What-the-hell-ass-just-happened??").
    In both cases, I reacted the same way -- sat quiet, gave the horse their head, and stayed in the center of the horse's back. Sometimes they recover (the greenie), and sometimes they don't (the old schoolmaster).
    Honestly, shit (excuse my language, I am not usually this coarse in my writing) happens!
    A horse falling to their knees is not something a rider can really effectively influence, in my humble opinion and experience. So in that, Val, I respectfully disagree with you.

    And to bring it back to the original point this blog article brought up... I wear a helmet almost EVERY ride. The only time I didn't was IHSA Western Semi-Finals. I wore a helmet for each qualifying class/competition leading up to it, but opted for a hat on the big day. I will admit that I let fashion override my common sense.

    But tell me I didn't look darn good!! :)

    Semi-Finals picture

  4. I've ridden with several people over the last few years with horses that tripped and fell while they were riding with me. It's painful to watch.

    And I've ridden with riders who choose not to wear a helmet because they trust their horse to keep them safe.

    But accidents still happen, and horses still trip and fall.

    Strap One On!!!


  5. Oh my! And yes, it can happen at any time. Someone I knew got hurt in a dressage show when her horse tangled a foot in the arena fencing and went down.

    As for the kitties, if Newman is licking RK's ear, then all will be well eventually. That's a pretty good sign of affection. Newman is kind of claiming RK by putting his scent on him and also engaging in very social behavior.

    I have a feeling things will calm down soon. (But note: My kitties get on like the greatest of friends nearly all the time, but sometimes even they have squabbles. Yesterday, there was a bit of an argument over who was going to sleep in one of the chairs.---kind of like sibling rivalries.)

  6. wow what timing! Today I rode Rosie at a canter for the first time since she fell last year with me. That fall... I was asking for canter, her first under saddle. She went to her knee's and backup, and I stayed on. Scared me bad enough I couldn't do it again. It took this long to work though that.

  7. THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU for posting this. THIS is the reason I separated my right shoulder badly (grade III). This is EXACTLY what I was doing ... on my calm, quiet, Friesian gelding.

    You watch the video and think about how sweet and calm that little horse looks. He wasn't doing anything wrong. Maybe not all pretty and framed up ... but just doing his job. Who knows what made him stumbleso violently, but it does happen to the best of them.

    If I hadn't been helmeted when I fell, I would have suffered a bad head injury AND a separated shoulder. Does anyone have any clue what kind of agony that would have been?? Thank goodness it was only one ... and that was bad enough.

  8. I've had horses fall on top of me three times. Even though one was a very peaceful fall, it's a risky moment. I never have and never will ride without a helmet: the same goes for Eldest. And I'd never ride at a stable where the owner or trainer thought it was okay to go without helmets: that's just building bad habits!

  9. ayyyy, terrible- poor girl, poor pony. I just watched the movie Buck the other night (late to the bandwagon, but it's great!) but was so distracted by all the riders starting these green horses without wearing helmets!! I think I saw maybe 2 or 3 Western riders in helmets...

  10. Absolutely: wear a helmet every time! I fell with a horse once -uneven leg pressure on a PSG schoolmaster and I pretty much leg yielded him into the angled kick wall. He went down and I went down. It was a soft landing followed by a mutual Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Needless to say I fixed my uneven leg pressure! I'd have to have reflexes of a Jedi to have anticipated the fall before I hit the ground.

  11. I was on a horse who fell once. The owner was out of town and she hired me to exercise him in her absence. When we went into canter he went down out of nowhere.

    I later found out he was a notorious stumbler, and this woman gave me no head's up whatsoever. She was definitely keepin' it classy.

    I was wearing a helmet, as always. :)

  12. The only thing a rider can generally do is stay centered, try not to hit their mouth, and pray. The only way the experience of the rider matters is if they can't stay back, thus giving the horse too much weight to try to heave back up.

    On a forward trip like this one, it usually is a matter of a)how "awake" the horse was, b) how fast you are going, and if there is a slope, and c) how limber or athletic the horse is so he can get his hocks underneath him to lift everyone back up.

    After that, it's luck. I've fortunately only had one horse fall all the way down in a trip like this, although sat a hell of lot of them through the years. That praying part kicks in right as my shoulders go back and my pelvic angle opens ;-)

  13. I never ride without a helmet. It's got nothing to do with green horses, inexperienced riders or happens! If you fall from a startled horse that is standing still...your head has perhaps 6 feet to fall. Watch "Every time, every ride" (or something like that.) I've taught riding for ten years and have never let anybody get on one of my horses without a helmet. Extreme...maybe. But I feel good about it.

  14. We were required to wear helmets in college. Thankfully.

    I was riding a new horse who was supposedly a dressage horse in his previous life, but turned like a motorcycle. We were working on circles and trying to get proper bend/balance, and hit a deep spot. Later the ER doctor asked if I blacked out, and I responded with "not that I remember?" I had a very minor concussion, but am eternally grateful I had a helmet on!

    Since then, the only times I've gotten on without a helmet were by accident.

  15. It is SOOO not worth it to not wear a helmet.. A few years ago my husband & I did a trail ride on the beach (yes, it was through a rental place, but these horses were well taken care of) and as I was the most experience rider of the group, they placed me at the end of the line, but right in front of a brand new guide, as in, we were his very first group ever. :)

    So we are riding along, everyone's having a great time, & we get to the sand dunes. Everyone else makes it down ok, but my horse happened to trip going down the dune. He went to his knees, & my instinct was to sit wayyy back so he could collect himself again, which he did, no problem. We contiued with no further problems, but if a less experienced rider had been on him, it could have been much, much worse. & of course, no one had helmets on that day.

    (the poor guide, I heard this GASP!!! behind me, & after me & my horse were situated again, I turned to look & this guy was WHITE! lol! It scared him more than me!)

    Bottom line, my head is always protected now.


  16. Oh my goodness, my heart about stopped when that horse went down! I kept wondering what could possibly go wrong - he looked like such a sweetie, just doing his job and taking such good care of his rider. Just terrifying - I sure hope everyone was OK.

    I'm a card-carrying member of the Always Wears A Helmet Club. I feel naked without one. In fact we were joking last night, as I strapped on my half chaps over my (tennis) shoes to go on a short (bareback) jaunt with a friend - at least I've got my helmet on!

  17. Liz,

    No problem if you disagree with me. I too have been on a green horse who fell and on a green horse who found his footing and unscrambled his legs before going down. I did not actually see my former instructor "catch" the horse who fell to his knees, but I believe that it happened. She was a wickedly good rider.

    I still think that the fall in the video would never have happened if the horse was more attentive and off his forehand, which would have been possible with a more experienced rider. Nothing against the rider, I just find it interesting to analyze for the sake of learning. I am sure that all riders would like to prevent a preventable fall.

    OH yes, and I ride with a helmet every time.

  18. RE: Val's comment. A quick review of the laws of gravity shows a rider seated on a horse could not lift the animal in any way. I can't think of any human with the strength to lift one even while not seated on it, either.


    If it can happen to her, it can happen to you. Just wear a helmet!


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