Helmets, Gravity, and Human Superiority.

Leslie and AndanteAugust 1st is International Helmet Awareness Day. It’s the day Riders4Helmets started, in the wake of US Olympian Courtney King-Dye’s traumatic brain injury, to raise awareness and promote equestrian helmet use. Helmet retailers join in by giving discounts and tomorrow is the day.

This is the fifth year and every year I write about helmets because it’s so important. Every year, I repeat statistics like this: Equestrians are 20x more likely to sustain an injury than a motorcycle rider or that speed makes no difference. Many brain injuries happen while mounting. Last year I wrote about nearly getting in a bar fight on the topic. Previously, I wrote about a woman I met in a nursing home who haunts me still; she’s living my biggest personal fear. Every year riders who wear helmets cheer this day. Preaching to the choir is easy–and the other side is dug in and defensive.

If helmet use was about needing logical proof, overwhelming statistics about brain injury would convince people. There is no debate. Helmets are like seat belts; they save lives. Still, we had to pass a law. We pride ourselves in being the superior species but still put our politics above our intellect and common sense. Everyone has heard it all before and it’s disheartening. Even now mothers ride without helmets, mothers allow their children to ride without helmets. There’s an argument this conversation is hopeless. Does stubborn, self-defeating, belligerent foolishness–masquerading as personal choice–ever wear you down?

Instead of more ranting, can I tell you what I love about gravity? It’s dependable, as consistent and fair as any notion around. Gravity has no respect for governments or religions. No respect for emotions or personal codes. Gravity is a natural law. It’s never up for re-election, it isn’t racist or sexist or ageist or any other ‘ist’ imaginable. Gravity treats each of us equally regardless of income. Amen to that.

It’s enough to give you a real love of black and white distinctions in our world of gray excuses. There’s no buy-out. It isn’t personal. No one gets a pass, and as much as humans love to think they are the exception to the rule, none of us are. Preach personal choice all you want. Defy gravity on moral or ethical grounds. Have at it. But gravity will ignore us and our arrogance, while it pulls us down to collide with the truth.

What is it about humans that we squander our gifts? How did we get so ungrateful as to value our brain so little? I understand and respect ignorance, but how did it come to pass that willful stupidity became a valid choice? We lose horse-crazy little girls and strong equine professionals and backyard riders all the time. We languish in hindsight, wishing we had a do-over and even with that knowledge, some of us still think we are immune. None of us is that lucky.

In the end, gravity will win. Before that, Alzheimer’s will take some of us. It’s as uncontrollable as gravity.  None of us knows the future, but of all the gifts I’m blessed with, it’s my mind that I value the most; it’s my door to a world of wonder and beauty and freedom.

Last year someone posted a comment on my blog that I saved in my file of statistics. A woman said, “I wear one especially when on green horses because my daughter-in-law refuses to change my diapers.”

I had to laugh. My good brain will always giggle at gallows humor. It’s funny, unless of course you remember a young woman, confined in a nursing home, wearing diapers.

Humans. We’re supposed to be the smart ones but we could take a lesson in self-preservation from all the other “less-evolved” species.

Anna Blake. Infinity Farm.


A reminder that my memoir, Stable Relation, is on sale at all online booksellers. Here is the book trailer; you can find my author blog at www.annablake.com or on Facebook.

Anna Blake

0 thoughts on “Helmets, Gravity, and Human Superiority.”

  1. Great wake up call… I know I never wore a helmet when I was young, but have been blessed with instructors and friends that have set a great example for me since I began this horse journey as an adult. I do preach this as well. It drives me nuts to see a parent make their kids wear a helmet then chose not to themselves… who is going to take care of their beautiful healthy children when they succumb to gravity and left unable to care for even themselves. I always say, “I may not have many brains… but I will protect the few I have!” Sure they look funny, but on more than one occasion I can say I was glad I had it on! thanks Anna!

  2. Thank you for pointing out the reality of life here on earth. Just wish all people who indulge in equestrian activities would read and heed.

  3. Reading your book Stable Relation. It’s wonderful. Funny, moving, thought provoking and hugely inspiring. Thank you Anna.

      • Hey, Anna. LOVE your blog! I started riding at age 64 and trust me nobody knows as much as I do how invaluable the helmet is. I had a fall about 6 lessons in and the helmet actually cracked and I got a concussion. So grateful the barn where I ride insists on helmets! ( by the way, have ordered your book on Amazon and they say it’s out of stock. I hope that means it’s selling like hot cakes!)

  4. I’m in the “never wore a helmet when I was a kid” crowd. As we all did – took way too many chances & had falls etc on my good quiet horse & others. I started riding again in my 50s & still didn’t wear a helmet for a few years. A friend of mine did – one of the few! She was riding her young mare who got scared & was backing up – she held onto the reins – didn’t let them loosen &
    the mare caught her hind foot on a piece of concrete & went over backwards. Luckily, my friend was wearing a helmet – had a slight concussion & cracked a couple ribs. Her helmet had a big crack (!) in it – which tells how hard she hit. Goes without saying she bought another helmet before she rode again. Sadly, even though it wasn’t Lucky’s fault – she never was quite comfortable with the horse (she still has her though – mare is 30 this year) I bought a helmet after that, too. And my grandchildren of course had worn helmets from the first moment they got on a horses.
    Then there was the “incident” at a team penning – a young man had an accident with his horse – either got thrown or went over backwards – no helmet – was injured badly – came back & rode at the team penning later on – of course, with no helmet! And like the gal you spoke to in the bar – didn’t learn anything from it.
    I’m sure that all of us were aware of accidents like this – hopefully most learned from it.

  5. On Tuesday of this week, my horse tripped and fell with me – in the middle of an arena with soft footing, instead of near the rock retaining walls or the wood fence or the fir trees lining the various sides. My helmeted head hit nothing, but I was acutely aware of “what might have been.” Every ride; every time.

    • That’s it. So many of us have close calls all the time. It’s important to take away the right message. Glad you had a soft landing, glad you are okay. Most of all, glad for your helmet.

  6. You wrote “Last year someone posted a comment on my blog that I saved in my file of statistics. A woman said, “I wear one especially when on green horses because my daughter-in-law refuses to change my diapers.”” My husband said the same thing about me decades ago. I make my living with my brain, so I have been a helmet wearer for 20 years now, in spite of being a western rider.

    • I respect that. I have clients who take some rudeness from western riders, although she rides in that tack as well. It’s silly, but I’m with you. I like my brain.

  7. Two weeks ago, my horse also fell with me on her. Tripped on a root. We were walking and literally walking into the gate from the trails. Fortunately, my head did not head the ground. But I was wearing a helmet. I still got hurt because the pommel of my saddle dug into my side and bruised my ribs and liver. Most of the women at my barn do not wear helmets. They all have the “what are the chances?” attitude. Many are in the health care field. I just don’t get it.

  8. Thank you for re-enforcing a simple, powerful safety tool that too many riders ignore. I never ride without my helmet!!!

  9. I had two instructors who set good examples by nearly being part the tragic stats. Both extremely gifted with horse, but my hunter trainer had a freak fall that left her temporarily blind (two weeks), and my Dressage trainer had a young horse loose balance on a turn which gave him amnesia (to this day, his memory of that week never returned). Their experiences were enough to get me to wear a helmet most of the time that I rode … and age has taken care of the rest!

  10. Helmets have come such a long way, too. Get properly fitted at a good store, find one that’s comfortable, and as a runner on the trail said to me, “You look smart.” I can’t tell you how many miles I’ve driven in my helmet after a ride. (oops. Oh well.)

    • Agreed. Every time I get a new helmet it’s twice as comfortable as the last one. It’s crazy but the one I have now somehow gets rid of headaches. Probably not as crazy as driving home in it, you are my hero.

  11. Ah yes, the individual’s choice. That would be fine if we all were “islands,” but I assume you have people who love you and would be heartbroken to lose you, or even worse, see you struggling daily in a compromised state of physical/mental ability. And do you have enough health insurance to pay for long-term care if you should need it as a result of your choice, or would the rest of us tax payers have to help support you in a hospital or nursing home? I get your thinking; I spent formative years on a farm/ranch in the Panhandle of Texas breaking colts and herding cattle and riding around like a wild Indian. And before that I lived in Southern CA where the traffic was bad even then, and we never wore seat belts. It IS possible to get older and wiser…. Thanks for letting ME vent!

  12. Amen, Anna! I’ve met many people who wear helmets, but refuse to wear them when they show “western.” They wear their hats on show days, as if the potential for an accident were lower instead of it actually probably being higher, given the number of horses in the arena and the energy flowing. I think people worry that they won’t score as well wearing a helmet. Maybe they’re right. However, I’d much rather score a little lower in a show and have my brain intact, than take that chance. I insist my daughter wear her helmet, too. Thanks for the great reminder about National Helmet Day. I’ll pass it along. 🙂

    • Again, I am not sure what the resistance is with western riders. If it’s judges, that has to change. I can’t imagine a judge, or any equine professional, voting against safety. Thanks, glad you buck the trend.

    • Thank you, Anna. I appreciate it the compliment and I am always happy to hear the book is making its way. Leave a review on Amazon, if you like, but either way, thanks.

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