Absurd Helmet Excuses.

This week there was a photo of Queen Elizabeth riding at age 85. Bless her heart; she has always been a lover of horses. She was wearing her usual outdoor head wear- a scarf. There was some internet banter about the missing helmet.

I notice her family members wearing helmets for polo; perhaps she falls into that category of riders who think that some equine events require helmets, but not others. It’s the ‘Sometimes Dangerous’ argument. I used to use it myself.

But that’s an absurd helmet excuse. And now I am making excuses for the Queen! It’s silly because there are no excuses. The research is in and the potential danger is undeniable. Everyone agrees: the NFL, UCI, NHL, Nascar, Motocross- the professionals wear helmets. And last year, the USEF rule, although some of us lag behind. Helmet wear has to be considered common sense at this point, right?

“Common sense is very uncommon.” Horace Greeley

The Queen gets a wry smile from me, riding at 85. Old habits die hard; at this point, she isn’t likely to give up riding or take up helmet wearing.  And just like the Queen, lots of us don’t respond well to being told what to do.  I am a bit protective of her and I cringe whenever I see a rider with a naked head. If the Queen wore a helmet, I guess I would be more comfortable.

Brilliant Uber-Glam solution to pesky helmet hair- Horses love it, too.

I think the gold medal absurd helmet excuse is fear of helmet hair. Really? Bad hair? Have you checked your jacket for horse dander and spit? And what’s that green stuff on your boot?

Do you really think an attractive single man is going to (#1) wander into the barn and (#2) decide to not marry you because of helmet hair? Really?

Stop making women look simple and foolish! Horsemanship is not about lounging in the barn in expensive breeches, sipping chardonnay, and having a good hair day.

If I am brought down by tough judging, then I will take my lumps and work harder. If I am brought down by helmet hair, I should get a new hobby. Like shopping.

At the risk of being called sexist for picking on women, I’ll also challenge men who think their manhood is defined by a cowboy hat.

Just for one minute- can we  get past our own surface vanity and take some pride in what we are doing- rather than how we look doing it? Better to strap one on, ride well, and grow some character. Accomplish something you can be proud of.

People who are long term relationship material love a helmet, so if you actually do ride horses to attract a date (?), at the very least- you will attract someone worthy of you.  And at the most…you will raise common sense above debates about beauty and fashion. I applaud that!

And because I am an equal opportunity blame-pointer, let’s talk about me. I don’t think I further the pro-helmet cause if I am sitting on my High Horse and judging others. It’s a barn version of racial profiling. I admit it. My heart jumps into my throat when I see a kid riding without a helmet. I am not proud to admit that when I see a professional without a helmet, it changes how I think them as well. Again, my bad.

Every year the excuses for not wearing a helmet sound a bit more lame. The groundless debate continues; we are a stubborn crowd. I do wish we respected horses more, and our work with them. Mostly, I wish common sense was more common.

Thanks, Pam. Thanks, Leslie. And Grace, too.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

Other Helmet posts: Hard Hats and Hard HeadsHelmets and Freedom.

This blog is free, and it always will be. Free to read, but also free of ads because I turn away sponsorships and pay to keep ads off my site. I like to read a clean page and think you do too. If you appreciate the work I do, or if your horse does, consider making a donation.

Anna Blake

11 thoughts on “Absurd Helmet Excuses.”

  1. I gave up the ‘sometimes dangerous’ argument when I went for a hack in the pasture one day helmet-less, and came to lying in the grass wondering why my horse was running around in his tack and how did I even get to the barn? I was lucky, it was a mild concussion. Thanks for a great post!

  2. I’m a born again helmet wearer. Every horse, every ride, every time. Grew up without knowing they existed.
    There’s a family new to horses at my barn, working with a professional trainer, and purchasing a suitable horse through her. It’s a good match. One horse, four riders! 🙂 But learning how to make that work with the trainer. Poor trainer turned her back for one second, and a non-related friend of family lifted their baby, 3 months old, onto the bareback of the new horse.

    I was closer to trainer so waved her down and tilted my head. She was there in .5 seconds, and grabbed the baby just as the horse got nervous and began shifting. I’m sure these are people who very carefully strap the baby into the car seat…

    They didn’t put it together: for them the helmet was part of the saddle and bridle stuff, not the horse. Thankfully, trainer was able to straighten out without causing panic!

    • As another Born-Again helmet wearing, I marvel that I survived childhood… All the more reason now. The free passes were used up before I was 12. Thanks for the training hint, I will remember to put helmets on the horse list, not tack.

  3. Excellent article. As current EMSA (Equestrian Medical Safety Association) President & former head injury patient I couldn’t agree more. There is no question that proper helmets fitted properly can decrease, but not eliminate, head injuries. I think that anyone not wearing one is foolish. As a former surgeon, one’s whole life can change rapidly!

  4. I didn’t wear one until I got unbroke El Coro at age 15 – that was part of the deal. My mom followed suit when she got Notchee, and it probably saved her life in her bad accident. I feel naked without one, and during some stand-still vanity shots without this summer I felt filled with dread that I was going to be sorry (luckily not). There is an invincible pre-teen girl who goes bare-headed at the barn: galloping bareback, jumping, barrel racing, trail riding. I know she’s quite sick of me harping away at her (to much eye-rolling and to absolutely no avail) but what I really find mind-boggling is that her MOTHER isn’t doing the harping, and more importantly, the enforcing! It’s one of those things that I won’t ever keep my mouth shut on, in hopes that it will change even one person’s mind.

  5. Great rant, Anna! As a predominantly western rider, I’ve read the ongoing Them vs Us arguments for and against helmets. It reminds me a bit of the motorcycle helmet debate where most of the “Us” are 100% for freedom of choice until a loved one is laying dead on the pavement. I never wore a helmet in my life and made fun of those who did until last year. Yup, sorry. I thought y’all were wimps, even after what happened to Steve Reeve. My bad.

    Fortunately, I didn’t wait until I had a serious wreck to realize the foolishness of my ways. All it took for me was buying a young, green horse who tossed me on my first ride (after riding her a month with her trainer with absolutely no issues) to think twice. I ran my butt to the nearest tack shop and got myself a helmet ASAP. Oh and maybe being over 50 helped … I finally care a lot less what other people think about my personal choices!

    I will admit, I look pretty goofy in a helmet. 🙂 Some helmets are more ‘beanie” shaped than others and the ones they tout as being more “western style” are nearly twice the price of the rest. (Huh?) I don’t wear my helmet every time I ride. I get lazy because it’s not a habit yet. But I know I should. I sometimes play the Russian Roulette game where I ask myself if I think my horse is feeling frisky that day or rationalize that I’m not going to ride anyplace new (Read as: scary). Again, my bad. I know I’ll eventually get to the point where I feel “naked” without my helmet. That’s my goal. I feel that way when I forget to put on my ID bracelet (and braid my horses’s ID tag into her mane) or grab my pocket knife before I hit the trail. I never leave home without those, so why not the helmet?

    I don’t know squat about helmets and helmet protocol. For example, I have a very small head. (I shop for glasses frames in the kiddie department) I bought a helmet that has a system that lets you tighten down the fit once it’s on your head. That helps, but it does give me a bit of a headache on the second half of a 2 hour ride. (In all fairness, so does a bike helmet) And maybe you can help me with this: How do you wear a helmet in the winter? I live in New England and it’s COLD here, but I still ride. Should I be wearing a skull cap or a headband or something under the helmet? How does that affect fit and safety? Can you really stay warm? I’m so clueless!

    Thanks for the gentle kick in the pants that I should always wear my helmet. I’m a recent convert and I do try to encourage/influence others … but I have to admit … the western crowd is a VERY hard sell.

    • Congrats, better late than never. Young horses do encourage us! And take a look at those photos in the blog- that stylish black head cover is for under a helmet in cold weather. They are warm, and yes, oh so attractive!

  6. Don’t foget helmuts/ headgear should be ASTMI-Certified+ Riding withour headgear is foolish. We lost a good friend who took that bad-hair attitude. On a day off she was jumping her show jumper in the backyard without a helmet, fell off and died instantly.

    BTW: I think men are sexy in English riding hats-habits also. Cowboy hats are nice, but keeping heads in tact are better!

  7. Pingback: Helmet Advice from Your Horse. | Horses | Equestrian | AnnaBlakeBlog

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