Thursday, July 1, 2010

Helmets - I wear one!


I’ve noticed an increase in helmet conversations online this week. Fugly ran a blog Fugly Horse of the Day about irresponsible parents who let their kids ride without them, Courtney Dye-King gave her first interview to Dressage Today since fracturing her skull from a fall with no helmet, and Nichole Aichele a 17 year old girl who recently broke the world record time for a standard barrel pattern is getting a lot of attention because she wears a helmet in competition. WSU Article

I grew up riding English and my helmet was just part of my tack. I never got on my horses without it, good thing because I rode some pretty rank horses and spent a lot of time in the dirt! One of my worst falls was at Pony Club camp right before my 13th birthday. I was riding with Olympian Todd Trewin who allowed me to jump the training course on my horse Tana. My horse took it all in stride, but when it came time to jump the “Giant’s Bench” a 3 foot high 4 foot wide table, I got nervous and was too far forward over the fence. My little horse over jumped the solid fence and I went over her shoulder and pile drove my head into a rock. I felt fine at the time and continued to jump the rest of the lesson. The next morning, I could not lift my head off my pillow without the entire tent spinning. Later at the hospital I was told I had a concussion and that my helmet saved my life. It took the rest of the summer for me to fully recover from that fall. My helmet was cracked right down the middle. That would have been my head if I had not been wearing my helmet. I continued to have other falls in my youth, including one off Bailey, the Warmblood gelding I had before Grace, where I hit the back of my head so hard I had memory loss. At the hospital when looking at the eye chart, I could see the letters, but forgot the names of some of them. That one got my attention!

When I started riding Western Pleasure, nobody wore helmets. Falls were few and far between. The horses were quiet, moved slow and kept all 4 hooves on the ground. It wasn’t long before my helmet was buried at the bottom of my tack trunk. I began to love the feeling of the sun in my hair on a trail ride, or the breeze blowing through it on a beach ride. In 10 years I only came off Grace twice, the first time I was jumping so I was wearing a helmet.

I put my helmet back on one year ago. Several things came into play. First I had a Facebook friend who would comment on every one of my helmetless pictures. We had done Pony Club together as kids and she was not happy that I no longer wore mine and she had no problem telling everyone in my Internet world. Then the dressage trainer down the street told me a story about a friend of hers that had just come out of a coma. She had fallen off a nice quiet mare “just like mine”, it was a freak fall that no one expected. Then a regular on a Barrel Racing forum died from head injuries sustained in a fall while schooling a horse at home.

And as most things in my life come full circle, Pony Club Camp was back at the saddle club by my house. The Saddle Club has a helmet rule, even for adults. I had been breaking it on a daily basis by not wearing one. For one week out of the year the Pony Club moves in. I live next door and they allowed me to use the arena in the evenings. I had a barrel pattern set one night, and I couldn’t help but notice an increase in my confidence when wearing the helmet. Somewhere in the back of my mind had been a fear about running full speed to a 55 gallon drum with no protection for my head. After 5 days of wearing my helmet, I was comfortable with it. I continued to wear it. I wore it to barrel races, on trail rides with friends and to flag team practice. Last weekend I wore it at a horse show, while riding in Western tack.

I understand the argument that riders want their freedom and they do not want to be told what to wear. For me personally it is no longer “fashionable” or “cool” to not wear my helmet. I am rather attached to my brain. I use it on a daily basis and I do not desire to have to learn to walk, talk and feed myself all over again if I can prevent it. I do get very concerned when I see the little kids at the rodeos and barrel races sitting on mom or dad’s horse without a helmet. For the few kids that do wear them, I appreciate that I can set the example that it’s ok to continue to wear one even after you turn 18. I know my head did not become magically invincible on my 18th birthday.

Pony Club is back this week for their annual camp. I don’t have to give a second thought about putting my helmet on, as I feel naked without it. I don’t miss the sun in my hair; but I do like not getting hit in the head by the low hanging branches on the trail. I don’t miss the breeze from the beach, I rather appreciated how it keeps my head dry in the rain.

Riders4helmets.com has organized Helmet Awareness day for July 10th 2010. If you are in the market for a new helmet, that would be a good day to buy one as many retailers are offering discounts that day.


3 comments:

  1. I have a stat counter on my blog that shows how visitors come to my blog. It's amazing to see the numbers that are Google'ing about a helmet I reviewed. I like to think I might have helped at least a few people find a helmet they like.

    I am in that boat where I ride western at a western barn in the west. Translation...nobody wears helmets. I get teased occasionally. And I admit that it disappears at shows. But I sure feel naked without it these days. You only have one head.

    I sure had to grin a few weeks ago when a young boy at the barn was getting ready to ride and came up to me and asked if he could wear my helmet. We lead by example! :)

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  3. I went through a phase where I didn't wear a helmet. It was after a once in a lifetime freak experience where not wearing a helmet saved my life.

    I starting taking lessons again a year ago and a helmet was required so I got used to wearing it again. I'm glad for it now, too many people have gotten hurt doing really mundane things on dead broke horses. You just never know what could happen.

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