Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why I Almost Rode Without My Helmet

This summer I've had such fun participating in large riding events. I've got to be around some outstanding horsemen and horsewomen - trail riders who have worked hard to develop amazing partnerships with their horses. At all events, trail safety has been emphasized. Throughout the Trail Trials, attention to safe riding was a key factor to receiving a good score on each trial. With such an emphasis on safety I found it very puzzling that I was the ONLY adult wearing a helmet at one event and one of five out of about 150 riders at another.

It may have been my newbie nerves, but it seemed that my wearing a helmet marked me in a less than positive way. When it was time to mount up on the second day of the recent Field Trials, I looked at my big ole bulky helmet and actually hesitated. What could possibly happen? These folks have put in many, many more miles on the trail than myself yet they were bare headed or wearing cool western hats - why bother with sticking my stupid bucket on my head? Tired of my uncool headgear, I actually started to put my foot in the stirrup when my inner voice screamed, "DON'T YOU DARE GET ON THAT HORSE THINKING MORE ABOUT HOW OTHERS MIGHT SEE YOU THAN YOUR OWN WELFARE!"

Stopping to honor my vow to do every thing possible to ensure I am able to ride for years and years and years, I grabbed my helmet, strapped it on, and rode off to enjoy the day. Yet in that moment of hesitation, I almost let imagined peer pressure influence my use of what I believe to be an important element of safe riding. I realize that lots of folks might not agree with me on this one and I would never, never say that another equestrian was wrong to ride their chosen path. For me, returning from a quarter century away from what I love the most, helmets will continue to be part of my riding attire.

Some Thoughts On Helmets

Top Ten Reasons Not to Wear a Helmet

Equestrian Injury Prevention Efforts

5 Year Review of Equestrian Injuries in Alberta, Canada

The Horse: Equestrian Injury Study

American Association for Horsemanship Safety

What is Your Head Worth

Safety Up

Grey Horse Matters: For Safety's Sake

Science vs. Tradition: Two Cents Tuesday - Helmets


Grey Horse Matters said...

And good for you for not allowing peer pressure to side line your good judgment. I never ride without a helmet and neither do my daughters.
I can't remember when exactly but I did a post on wearing a helmet and there was quite a discussion on it and some folks really disagreed with me. I don't care I just hope no one gets seriously injured because of their perceived safeness without one. I don't care how good a rider you are accidents happen.

Grey Horse Matters said...

p.s if you care to look through my helmet discussions they're in the archives in April. Some people called me ignorant because I advocated wearing helmets all the time.

One Red Horse said...

Grey Horse, I just searched your blog and added the entry on "For Safety's Sake". I realize there are some very divergent opinions on helmets in the horse world. As a social worker I've worked with several children impacted by the severe, long-term impact of traumatic brain injuries. When I returned to riding several years ago, I made my personal commitment to ride with head protection. Already have O.L.D. Syndrome gutting my mind, can't afford to risk what little intact memory I've got.

mountain.mama said...

Better safe than sorry! I insisted my daughter wear a helmet when snowboarding for the same reasons. It doesn't pay to be stupid.

Sydney said...

You forgot one helmets =D

I wear helmets 95% of the time. I may be 20 and seem invincible but hey, one day I am actually gonna spill my brains on the ground if I fall into fashion.

One Red Horse said...

Sydney, I don't know how I missed your great piece. Hey, the last time I hit the ground it was not the horse's fault. I was trying to mount bareback - from a stool. Took a big ole hop and went right on up and OVER the horse. Splat. Cherie on the ground on her back. (Such a klutz, cannot believe myself sometimes.) Sure was glad I had a helmet on.

White Horse Pilgrim said...

So this hoary old chestnut resurfaces. Grey Horse Matters will no doubt recall posting a self-righteous ad homimen attack on me following my post and my pointing out flaws in her views. The point that some people cannot accept - a basic premise of safety in construction, transportation and other industries run by professionals - is that safety equipment mitigates the residual risk remaining AFTER other hazard mitigation strategies have been implemented. I have seen too many riders on overfed or unsuitable horses, people riding too fast or across hazardous terrain, etc, believing that they are "safe" because they are wearing a helmet. They are not safe!

Far more riders have been killed through their own carelessness than have been saved by helmets.

I have seen too many people wearing all the latest safety gear still get carted away by ambulance (and by mortuary van in a couple of cases) because of a basic failure to ride safely.

It is an interesting statistic that widespread introduction of bicycle helmets did NOT reduce the fatality rate amongst leisure cyclists.

So ride safely first and then rely on safety equipment to take care of the hopefully minimal risk remaining.

One Red Horse said...

WHP, thanks for stopping by. And thanks for placing the choice to wear helmets in a larger context - safe riding in general. As for helmets, whether 27 or 2700 times, I will appreciate the discussion each time it resurfaces.

jc said...

We risk assess in life all the time. Surely wearing a helmet when riding has to be a major safety factor along with all the other points made by WHP? To lessen risk we must be aware of all factors - particularly helmets.

allhorsestuff said...

AMEN jc!!!