Be-Here-Now: Focus on Safety (Helmets and Response Time)

 

You’re standing in a tennis court just behind the baseline, being mildly uncomfortable in your tennis togs because the glare off your legs, like any good horsewoman’s, is near blinding. Right about then, a bullet whizzes by your ear. You know it was a tennis ball, point to the server. Taking a few strides on the baseline to the other service court, this time you lean forward and squint your eyes to avoid the glare and see the other player. Bullet again. In hindsight, why carry the racket if you aren’t going to use it? And let’s be honest, it isn’t like you’re trying to return Serena’s serve (129mph). Try again, you see your opponent’s service motion, you actually know when it’s coming, so just …another bullet.

Not a fair comparison, you say? Because you’re a rider, not a tennis player well-schooled in tennis ball attacks? You’re right, it isn’t fair, but not for that reason. Tennis is easy and slow. Horses have a reaction time seven times quicker than a human. It’s the quickest reaction time of any domestic animal. That includes border collies; think about that.

The horse’s reflex to perceived danger is so instinctual that it seems instantaneous. Unpredictable, beyond choice, certainly not a question of trust, but a flight response originating in the horse’s nervous system and not open to mental debate. Prey animals are dead if they think twice. I’d use the example of humans flinching from an oncoming punch, but the truth is we usually get hit before we flinch because we are seven times slower than horses.

It isn’t fair. A thousand pounds of muscle and bone, with a lightning-fast response time versus a puny human who’s generally distracted with their own thoughts and good intentions. Not even close. No wonder we get hurt.

Most TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) happen when we’re riding but injuries on the ground are common enough. “Dismounted injuries require hospitalization approximately 42% of the time, while mounted injuries require hospitalization in only 30% of incidents,” according to Brainline.org.

A quick scroll through Facebook and I’m oozing calming signals myself. Are we doing some weird version of a firewalk with horses to prove something? It’s like a reality show where contestants compete to take the most foolish dare. There’s an epidemic of whisker-grabbing, bareback contortions, and laying down next to horses on the ground. Has social media drained us of horse sense? Ignoring your safety is a choice, but can you tell me how this benefits a horse? People might call it a trust exercise, but the horse’s half-closed eye says more than you think.

But mostly, when did we start thinking complacency about horsemanship on the ground was so cool? When did we lose respect for horses?

Putting on my loud-mouth party pooper (equine professional) hat, it’s time to talk about safety. I feel silly knowing this is pointed at adults who aren’t in 4-H or pony club anymore. Instead, we are adults who have others depending on us. Yes, safety is a personal choice, but it has an undeniable ripple effect on those who love us.

Lots of us got inspired (or re-inspired) about safety back in March 2010, by U.S. Olympic dressage rider Courtney King Dye.  She fractured her skull and suffered a traumatic brain injury while not wearing a helmet. She sparked a ripple effect helmet awareness movement that has changed the horse world from international FEI competitors to local amateurs.

Courtney King Dye was young, strong, and at the top of her game. What did she do so “wrong” with her horse? Nothing at all, her horse stumbled and fell. Unpredictable with no one to blame.

I can relate. My worst injury came from a horse somewhat-less-athletic-than-Courtney’s who tripped and went down. We were relaxed, trotting on open flat ground. No spook, no rein grab. We both slammed into the ground, one of us partly under the other. I was a bit broken but very lucky. Gravity and weight are forces we can’t deny, regardless of confidence, training, or experience.

Writing about helmets and safety every year, I’ve approached the topic in a range of ways. It feels silly to state common sense facts to adults who, if they answer thoughtfully, sheepishly shrug and say it boils down to ego or inconvenience. Theirs, of course, not their families or caretakers. Other riders who don’t use helmets can be pretty averse about it. Defensiveness never brings out the best in any of us.

I used to think that the old-timers who said they couldn’t change, (as they check for texts on their cell phones,) would eventually age-out and the younger generation would be smarter. Alas, these old-timers are also role models. What we do is always louder than what we say, so kids who started with helmets sometimes see adults without helmets as a sign of maturity.

Meanwhile, the general public is getting more information than they’d like about the danger of repeated concussions. Parents think twice about safety in the sports their kids play. Research bears it out, even as most of us know trainers and friends who are showing sad changes as the years catch up. We are more fragile than we know. Riders4helmets, the organization that formed after Courtney’s accident, is still going strong. This year there’s talk about including all sports helmets, I’m hopeful the movement is growing beyond the equestrian world. Good, because only 20% of equestrians wear protective headgear every time they ride.

Maybe the problem is social media. We see too much, compete to mimic or one-up the last pose, and swap good horsemanship for a photo opp. It’s the tiny kid on perched high up with no hands. My heart catches in my throat every time. Or it’s a famous professional sitting on a horse like it’s a couch. Statistics say riders with 5 or more years of experience are more likely to be injured. Being complacent in the face of inherent danger doesn’t make us look like a horse whisperer, it puts both you and your horse at risk. I believe connection with a horse is most undeniably shown at a distance.

Harping on about helmets is about the least cool thing of all, ranking me up there with hall monitors and crossing guards. And I’m beyond arguing the indefensible, so just a reminder. Please stay safe in the saddle, consider wearing a helmet for those you love, human and equine. Keep a solid awareness on the ground, too. Please don’t get complacent. Horses depend on us to be around as much as we depend on them, but we are smaller. We need armor, at least on our heads.

Horses are considered domesticated, but they remain flight animals forever.  No matter how much we love them, just beneath the surface, they will never belong to us entirely. We can’t dominate their instinct, horses will remain horses, glorious and wild, whose natural instinct is a primal force for his survival. That instinct is bigger than his heart, just like physics is bigger than Facebook.

I’ll finish this post with the usual list of important information, in hopes that it might make a difference to the people who want to make a difference…

Stats

  • Equestrians are 20x more likely to sustain an injury than a motorcycle rider, per hour.
  • The number of rider deaths/year due to head injury is 60 (compared with 8 for Football)
  • 60% of riding fatalities occur from head injuries.
  • The distance at which head injury can occur is 24 inches.

45% of TBI (traumatic brain injuries) are horse related. Riding is considered more dangerous than motorcycling or downhill skiing. Approximately 20% of accidents which result in head injury happen while the person is on the ground. They are just as common in professionals as amateurs.

If you have a hard impact blow while wearing your helmet, immediately replace it. There may be damage to the hat that is not visible to the naked eye. We generally recommend replacing your hat every four to five years.

There is no statistical correlation between skill level and injury likelihood. Head injuries are cumulative. An original head injury can be made much worse by additional concussions. Your injury risk depends on the height of the fall, as well as the speed at which you’re traveling. Even a fall from a standing horse can be catastrophic.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm

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Working with riders of any discipline and horses of any breed, Anna believes dressage training principals build a relaxed & forward foundation that crosses over all riding disciplines in the same way that the understanding Calming Signals benefits all equine communication.

Anna Blake

63 thoughts on “Be-Here-Now: Focus on Safety (Helmets and Response Time)”

  1. I came off onto rock hard ground in the middle of a summer heatwave. I sprained my shoulder, damaged my knees and had numerous nasty contusions. But the thing that got me was that my hat had hit the ground with such force that it had come off. I dread to think what would have happened if I hadn’t been wearing it.

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  2. Thank you. I was hospitalized with a concussion at the age of 16. No one wore helmets in The-Middle-of-Nowhere, Wyoming. I’d suffered an earlier broken collar bone that summer. Both times the horse stumbled and fell. I rode and kept horses through my first year of college, but left Wyoming and horses at 21. Partly my career kept me away. Another part of it was fear of injury. I still have residual fear and confidence issues. The horses have been part of my life again for the past five years, after 30+ years mostly away from them. I daresay my life might have been different had I been wearing a helmet way back when. I’m waiting for a cooling riding safety vest. I felt compelled to share this morning because I agree with what you’re preaching. No one says it better.

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  3. Preach Sistah! I’ve stopped being coy with my fellow riders. I tell them, “Know that when you see me seeing you riding without a helmet, that I am judging you harshly for you lapse of intelligence. Period.” I have my stats ready to back me up, and my snappy comebacks to the vain not wanting to mess up their hair before later errand running (“How do you think your hair will look styled around a halo?”), and my personal anecdotes of the times on the ground and in the saddle when my helmet saved me from a range of mild inconvenience to debilitating concussion. I will add what is your compelling point about the implications of injury rippling beyond individual decision authority. Might. Might just make a difference for people. I’ll continue to try. 20% is appallingly low compliance. My motto: first thing out of the car, helmet on, and last thing off before I depart.

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  4. Thank you, Anna…and Dodie!
    You’re preaching to the choir here. I feel absolutely NAKED without my helmet!

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  5. Excellent article. You just never know what’s going to happen on horseback (or off for that matter!) My riding buddy suffered a TBI – even though she was wearing a helmet! – when her horse died underneath her. Who could have predicted that? No one. She is 6 years out from her injury and doing well, but will always have balance issues. I will never understand those who do not wear helmets. Again thanks for the article.

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  6. Oh, Anna! Every horse, every ride! And my mares are safe, dependable, long ride trail horses. I entrust them with my life, but you never know. I have had a concussion, horse related, long ago, don’t intend to invite another.

    EVERY HORSE, EVERY RIDE

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  7. Oh, Anna! My mares are safe, dependable, long ride trail horses. I entrust them with my life, but you never know. I have had a concussion, horse related, long ago, don’t intend to invite another.

    EVERY HORSE, EVERY RIDE

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  8. YES!!! I am a retired physician and retired rider (first time I have admitted that by the way) in Horse Country Ky. The statistics are undeniable. (Even more so than Global Weirding data) I have had one concussion and two vertebral collapse injuries, all with helmets. I am not riding because I cannot risk further injury. Not only could it screw up my life, but I have 5 horses that depend on me for their care and sustenance. Of course, trying to prevent ground injuries can be challenging. I do not wear a helmet handling them. Sigh. Nice job on the stats. Good luck with your campaign. You could save a life or someone’s brain. Too bad skulls that are too thick to accept reality are not actually too thick to be injured.

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  9. THANK YOU!!! Nobody can remind us about helmets and safety too much. I’d like a sign on every barn, HELMETS REQUIRED. I’ve always ridden in a helmet, but don’t use one around the barn. Maybe it’s time to start.

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  10. Thank you for writing this Anna. It never ceases to amaze me how pride can override reason when it comes to helmets.
    I’ve had some severe falls which thankfully after the first, I bought a helmet.
    I won’t let anyone on my farm get on a horse without one!
    Wish some of the professional trainers would start advocating for them! It would go a long way to influence the horse enthusiasts.
    Love your writing:)

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  11. Anna, THANK YOU. You have summed up every single thing I think about helmets and added some information that I didn’t know. 20% is HORRIFYING. Just…. unacceptable. If there is one thing that just makes me crazy in this world, it’s equestrians without helmets.

    And yes, I really do think it’s the role models that perpetuate this unconscionably stupid behavior. My own trainer, who I really love on a personal and professional basis, does not wear a helmet unless she’s at a show that requires them. She requires that anyone under 18 wear one while riding, but I feared that the sight of her constant bare-headedness was having an impact anyway. And I was right: just last weekend I witnessed a young adult who’s been at the barn since she was little riding with no helmet. This girl works in the medical field, too (radiology). Yet there she was… jogging and loping along in the arena while I had my dressage lesson. I’m friends with her, too. I’m going to send her a link to this article in the hopes that it might make a difference!

    Here’s another example: just yesterday I saw a new video featuring Amberley Snyder, the paraplegic barrel racer. While I admire her grit and accomplishments, I am practically left gasping at the sight of her on a horse because what is missing? That’s right and it’s not a cowboy hat. I guess she just wouldn’t feel like herself without yards of blonde hair streaming in the wind. But guess what, sister, that beautiful hair will all be hacked off if a horse slips going around a barrel… or spooks… or can’t stop running… or anything else happens. To make matters even worse, to ride she is strapped to the saddle. So if the horse goes down she has zero, absolutely no, chance to escape whatsoever. It’s gonna be brain meets ground, period. And this girl is a HUGE role model to many, many people. I can’t stand it.

    Speaking of ground injuries, we have a terribly sad situation in the St. Louis equestrian community right now. The daughter of a friend of mine, who is very well-known and liked in the English world (mother AND daughter), was walking a horse at a show down in FL, not wearing a helmet. She was a paid groom/assistant trainer and worked for a big-name barn so this was a nice H/J Warmblood moseying along. Something spooked the horse and it wheeled around, let fly, and the girl was kicked extremely hard in the side of her head. She suffered a severe TBI. She was in a coma for two weeks until able to open her eyes for the first time, and is currently at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta where she will remain for a very long time in an attempt to rehabilitate her as much as possible. Her mother is optimistic but we all know the likely outcome is grim indeed.

    I do not ever, and I mean ever, get on a horse without a helmet. I have nagged my children since they could walk about their importance if they’re on a horse, bike, scooter, snowboard, skis, etc. My friends know me as a regular Helmet Nazi. I know enough about it now that it’s difficult to even look at people on horses not wearing helmets without my mind shouting, “THEY ARE STUPID” the entire time.

    Nonetheless, I can only do so much. Right now I’m on a campaign to get my boyfriend to wear his helmet when he’s riding his bike. I think I’m making progress. It simply had never occurred to him that if he got hurt, who would be responsible? Does he really want to saddle his children with a brain-damaged father? I have stressed that it has nothing to do with his riding expertise. Where we ride there are lots of little kids on bikes who have poor control. All it would take is one of them to accidentally dart in front of us and, boom.

    Thank you, Sandra, for this great quote: “Too bad skulls that are too thick to accept reality are not actually too thick to be injured.” I will add that to my arsenal of facts, figures and pleas, along with all of Anna’s great info. Anna, thanks again… I hope and pray that your words have made and will continue to make a difference.

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  12. A couple, friends of mine and both very experienced trail riders who were wearing helmets, were seriously injured when a dog startled their horses (came up over the top of a hill). The dog belonged to mutual friends who were riding toward them up the hill in the opposite direction. Their horses spun and bolted, his horse went into a tree and he was taken out in an ambulance. She landed on rocks and was airlifted out with 7 broken ribs, a punctured lung, etc.. Her helmet was cracked in half. The EMT in the helicopter told her she would have died had she not had a helmet on. Why don’t people wear helmets? Lots of reasons. The one I heard that really got to me was “If you feel you need to wear a helmet then you don’t know what you’re doing and shouldn’t be riding horses”!! Thank you, Anna, for advocating the use of helmets.

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  13. Kudos to you for this article and to the clinicians who also wear helmets like Julie Goodnight, Karen Rohlf and a few others. Most other clinicians do not, especially in the Western realm of riding. They do a disservice to their students by their example.

    I’ve had repeated concussions associated with horses starting when I was kicked in the head by a shod hind foot when I was 13. It knocked me out and I spent a night in the hospital for observation. The last one occurred nine years ago when I was bucked off my horse. I was wearing a cowboy hat which was crushed, and I had to check my iPhone a few minutes later to figure out what day it was.

    I’m a retired Navy pilot and I always wore a helmet when I flew. It was part of our required survival gear. A riding helmet is a part of my required riding survival gear now.

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  14. Thank you for this blog post, Anna. I am a very fearful rider and I always wear my helmet when I ride. I appreciate your concern for our safety, even if some people seem to have no concern for their own.

    Thank you again for this very salient post.

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  15. Yes to all of the above! I have to admit I did NOT wear a helmet until I was in my 50s. You know the main reasons I started wearing one? A friend of mine had her mare go over backwards on her – she was wearing a helmet – it had a big crack in it (after the accident) she had a slight concussion & a couple cracked ribs. Could have been so much worse. The other reason is my granddaughter – she rode with me from the time she was 4 – and ALWAYS with a helmet – still does. I’ve heard the excuse that you are “just” trail riding – which is what I did. Just look at the above comments! I also saw the news article about the paraplegic barrel racer & like many here, all I could think of was – hasnt her loss of so many of her physical abilities brought home what else could happen?
    And yeah, the comment that you only wear a helmet if you “dont know what youre doing”? Compare it with riding a motorcycle – only the motorcycle has the ability to react all by itself – whether you want it to or not! Sounds scary, doesnt it?

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      • How true! Love the blogs about helmets, Anna – really brings great comments on – sent this one on to my granddaughter altho thats preaching to the choir!

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      • Recently, I purchased my very first proper helmet! I’m 71 yo. The skull caps we had for pony club as kids didn’t even have a chin strap. I have hit my head 3 times in my life, the first as a teenager when a youngster slipped in clover, skull cap stayed on. The second on foot, alone, guiding a pack pony through a gate. Above the gate hung a swingle bar with a sign on it, which brushed the pack, I was knocked to the ground by the passing pack bag, greased lightning, bad bang on the head (bush hat) and can’t even remember if it was the ground or the pack bag. The most recent was 2016, an old horse I was riding the final 7 km home after a big trail ride day with someone else. About 4 km from home, his mates ahead of him, trotting (they should have stayed with me) he looked back, saw a horse behind him, baulked and refused to head home (HUH?) I tried circling to peel off, no, tried the other way a little firmer, he went straight up, and as he came down he flew out from under me. Realising I was done for, I kissed myself goodbye and totally relaxed, while hanging to the reins, crumpled rather gently and the only witness said I rolled, but the last thing to hit the ground was my head, inertia of landing, and the ground was a sealed tar road. We had been trotting along beside the tar, until he started waltzing and arguing in the middle of it. Not quite knocked out.

        The men ahead caught the horse and brought him back with a broken rein and my offside oxbow (can’t get hung up in oxbows, didn’t even feel it) still over the saddle. The rein, which I ALWAYS hang on to, was supposed to break the fall, as to protect head, collar bones, arms, from injury. Falling and hanging to the reins sounds a bad idea, but three good things usually happen. Only your bum gets bruised. You have not lost the horse, to gallop wild and free with the joy of having dumped you. He swings up and around to the end of the reins and if he cops a bad jerk, then he learns to take more care, that dumping you is not in his best interests either. But the rein broke! The horse was an OTT, but declared quiet. He had been pulling, the owner, on another OTT, had been wanting me to canter on with him, (me trotting but really needing to walk) I think the horse figured he wasn’t going to out-pull me so did the dumping. Had we cantered, the rein would have definitely broken. The horse god took care, again.

        Owner “Are you going to get back on?” Me, “NO!” That was a first ever. “But he’ll get a win!” Well, he’d had his share of wins, smartest, slickest move I’d ever experienced. Not even asked if I was OK. I was absolutely furious but held my tongue. A support car picked me up. Later at the barbecue I declared I’d rather ride a 3yo than some old rogue. We’d all signed a legal waiver for that ride, but had I been injured or killed there would have been an inquiry and that stupid man would not have been saved by his waiver, which I knew when I signed it wouldn’t hold water. Found out the horse had a quite a record. We have not spoken since.

        And at 9.00 am today they gather again at the trailhead to ride that mountain, barefoot in the rocks, most of the horses unfit for the gut-busting day they are in for. The flyer for today’s ride arrived complete with (unsanctioned use of) photo of myself on that black horse, taken when I’d first mounted him 20 minutes before he dumped me! I haven’t been on the boss’s mare lately (frustrated by the sharing of her but I’d made my point), she’s unfit and unshod, also 15 km from the trail head.

        Wear your helmets, mount no old rogues. Use your own gear. If you take out such insurance you most likely won’t need it. Oh god Anna, you had to put this up, today of all days. Touch my soul at dawn, for today is a mugs’ day out. I, the pride of their bloody flyer, shall sit on the verandah in the sun with my knitting, counting the trucks and trailers going by.

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  16. I never ride with anyone who does not admit to being a little afraid of horses. Because any experienced rider understands how dangerous they are.

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  17. Bravo!

    And beside IN the saddle and ON the ground, remember helmets should be worn “in the box seat”, meaning in a carriage of ANY configuration from the popular “easy entry” to the massive “coach”.

    I wore my helmet throughout the lesson with my miniature Combined Driving horse. I left it on as I led him, still in harness (a no-no, I should have stayed on the box seat, in the carriage) up an incline to unharness him in the stable. He spooked at something and took off. I lost hold of the lines as he went forward. The left wheel of the carriage ran up my back and over my helmeted head before it dropped to the ground and sped away with my horse running from the “boogeyman” up to the stable.

    All ended fine but for my helmet. It was cracked from the wheel running up and over me. But it was my helmet that cracked, not my head! I will forever be thankful for that. And YES, it was replaced the next day.

    Thanks for saying everything we need to hear day after day, year after year. All of us!

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    • Wow, thanks for this comment. I used to drive a mini donkey and everyone said he was cute… they have so much more going on that. Runaways are real, and having a cart attached behind, well, what you said. Thank you, Sandy.

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  18. Sandy, lucky call. The saddest thing about your incident is that the pony is never going to forget “getting away” and all the associated trauma he experienced. When the little ones rush, they seem quicker than the big ones!

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  19. Thank you for your annual nagging about helmets!! I hope it saves people brain damage. 40 years ago when I started riding, no one wore helmets except for those hard shell english things that did nothing to take up the force. And only kids wore those. My horse spooked, slipped, and fell sideways with me. I had a mild concussion, self-diagnosed (I couldn’t remember what you just told me) that lasted a couple of hours. I did some research about helmets and ended up wearing a bicycle helmet as they at least had styrofoam to absorb shock. Have worn a helmet ever since and was pleased when the horse world caught up and started having decent helmets. I only have 1 friend who refuses to wear a helmet, and I am working on her. She just got a new horse, so I may have just the gift for her!

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  20. I have always ridden with a helmet. I heard the stories and I had my own. I came off a horse at a good clip and the impact was against a metal pipe railing. As I was falling my helmet saved me from a real bad ending. I had a moment of clarity as I fell in slow motion… ‘oh I have my helmet on!’ Thank God I did. Smashed the back of the helmet, cracked the outside and put a big dent in the internal styrofoam padding. I am the poster child for helmet safety. And I speak the message loud and clear.

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  21. I think part of the problem with the helmet issue is our equestrian community and the organizations that put on shows. For instance, when Charlotte Dujardin started wearing a helmet in her dressage performances, people gave her a hard time about not wearing a hat since it was “tradition.” Same for saddle seat. Someone I love will ride their hunt seat horse (whether in practice or during shows) with a helmet on, but won’t wear one when practicing saddle seat only because they don’t wear one in the show ring. It’s proper to wear a hat when showing saddleseat…..If higher up officials would make it seem appropriate to wear protective headgear or better yet, make it a stipulation, more people would follow suit. That, and what seems cooler? Wearing a helmet and probably looking dorky, or being a vegetable or quadriplegic for the rest of your life because you refuse to look “uncool” in front of friends or peers?

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    • Exactly. After Courtney some upper-level riders changed, Charlotte did kinda crush the naysayers winning two gold medals in a helmet. Rules have changed in Dressage and benefitted all of us. It’s time the USEF makes that rule for jumping and dressage across the board for all horses, including saddleseat and reining. Great comment, Misty.

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  22. Went trail riding today with a friend I’ve been riding with often for 18 years. I’ve always worn a helmet and she’s never worn a helmet. Today she said she knows she should wear a helmet but that it’s just too hot. Maybe it’s time I tell her how sad I would be if she has a head injury. Or ask her who would take care of our horses. I’ve never seen her wear a Helmet and it bothers me.

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  23. Awesome post. I just found an old photo (very old) of me on a roan mare, bareback, no helmet….having just raced up a 45 degree incline to the top of a cliff. What do we call this? STUPID.

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  24. After five head injuries (only one of them horse related), I am now a card carrying member of the Wear A Helmet Club. I want to preserve what is left of my brains. And, as a good friend pointed out after I said that helmets don’t offer the sun protection a wide brimmed cowboy hat does, there is this stuff called sunscreen. Thanks for this great blog, Anna! Helmets rule!

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    • Thanks, Crissi. For being a positive in example in so many ways, on so many topics. And because I’m selfish, I want to keep reading your writing, enjoying your photography, following your adventures, and being your friend. Not sure why sunscreen is harder to remember for me, but I’m working on that, too! Thanks for commenting.

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  25. Thanks for writing and posting this! It should be required reading for all equestrians, regardless of their types of riding. My trainer, who is working on teaching me and my mini to cart, always wears a helmet whenever she is around horses, whether she is riding, walking, leading, teaching-always!

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  26. Thank you for continuing on about helmets. In the UK they are pretty much standard, and essential for children and showing. This message needs to be repeated until any ‘un-coolness’ about wearing a helmet has dissipated – there’s nothing cool about getting injured/killed because of complacency/inconvenience/embarrassment.

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  27. Anna I just love you. Thank you so much for posting this. I am 54 and I believe with all of my heart that my helmet may have saved my life when I had a very bad fall at a jump when I was 10 years old. I was knocked unconscious WITH the helmet on (granted, they weren’t made as well as they are now but it was a helmet none the less)amongst other injuries. Unfortunately, I would not return to riding for another 32 years and would never consider getting up on a horse without a helmet on. Period. Two years ago I took up riding western after years of riding English. I was teased by a rancher last weekend as I rode by with my helmet on. I was referred to as having a funny looking cowboy hat on. I did not hesitate to offer a piece of my mind, not near as graciously as you do here. LOL. Thank you so much for sharing the amazing statistics and reminder that as much as our four legged partners may love us and they them, they are indeed flight animals forever. Wearing a helmet in any horse discipline is indeed a show of respect for them, ourselves, and our loved ones. You can get all kinds of fancy designs and colors on them now so there really is no excuse! 🙂 Thank you again! Bless you.

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    • Debbie, if you search Ebay you’ll find western style hat brims which fit neatly around your helmet, and look quite legit.
      You can just tell the nay-sayers that it will never happen to them, until it does! Its like leaving halters and headstalls on a loose horse. May go a lifetime and never have a dead horse, but I know of two.

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