*Quick Courtney Update…It sounds like she is slowly but surely stableizing. They took the “brain drain” as like to call it out yesterday so clearly they are no longer worried about swelling. Lendon Grey even posted that there is talk of her coming off the ventalator! That is such good news.*
Now onto the rest of my post…as you all know all opinions are welcome on this blog, but I am asking everyone to read THE WHOLE post before they comment.
I have been writing this blog for about two and a half years now. That is almost 850 posts. In all that time I have stayed away from the great helmet debate. Why? Because I have found that people feel very strongly one way or the other, and those strong feelings seem to block their ability to listen. Courtney King-Dye’s accident has made me finally break my silence because even in my posts wishing Courtney well people jumped right in with how she should have been wearing a helmet. Clearly people want to talk about helmets, and I think that the time is right to open my blog up to the great helmet debate.
Let me start out by saying that I am a helmet wearer. I would say that every time I get on a horse I wear a helmet, but that is not true. This Christmas I has the opportunity to go out on a once in a life time trail ride with my aunt down in Arizona. I asked for helmet, but she did not have one. There was not even one in the tack room for me to borrow. I had to make the choice to not ride or to ride without a helmet. I choose to ride. I also made the choice to not take any pictures of myself riding that day because I was ashamed of I had done. That trail ride has taken me off my high horse. I used to be able say that I not get on a horse without a helmet, now I cannot say that. I can say that I almost always ride with my helmet and that I am a pro-helmet rider.
Riding in the sport of dressage most people I know do not wear a helmet, even children. Why? Well, I have a lot of ideas and so I am going to write them all down. My main hope in writing this post is that maybe if helmet companies understand why people do not wear helmets they might be able to come up with some solutions.
1) It is without a doubt a prestige thing in the dressage world. Upper level riders do not show with helmets, they ride with top hats instead. I have never seen anyone ride a Grand Prix test in a helmet. The thinking by many, or so I have been told, is that you should never part with your horse once you are at that level. This being so attached to your horse is what got Courtney in trouble. I can see what they are saying to a point. Dressage is all about becoming one with your horse and being balanced and supple. I mean, most dressage riders can stick to just about anything. Even my lowly self has impressed others with my ability to stay on. I also know that judges see helmets in the FEI classes and automatically think that horse must be hot if the rider is wearing a helmet. One of the reasons I am an of the young Nicole DelGiorno’s mother is that she makes her daughter wear a helmet. I always use her as an example to young riders because she is an excellent rider who is still under 18 and is okay with going into the FEI ring with a helmet on. I give her mother (and her) major kudos for keeping her brain safe! I kind of understand the prestige thing, but that doesn’t mean I agree with it. Accidents happen. They can even happen to one of the best riders in the world.
2) I have noticed that a lot of dressage riders do not wear helmets because they want to fit in. As I mention before, most upper level riders do not wear helmets most of the time. Thus, people who want to seem cool like the upper level riders do not wear their helmets. I know that someone very close to me has fallen into this trap. When they first went from steady eddy horse to fancy imported warmblood they used a helmet. Boarding at the fancy barn though they noticed that no one else wore a helmet. Trying to fit in they started to ride without it for lessons, and then everyday. It has been years and this former Pony Clubber has never gone back to wearing a helmet, even after they moved out from the fancy barn. It saddens me to write that this person is not alone. A lot of people fear standing out (look at my apprehension showing an Appy) and so they stop wearing a helmet to try and fit in. I am hoping that people will start to take a stand and wear helmets in the show ring. It sounds like they did for a day for Courtney, but after that people started going back to old habits.
3) The argument over comfort is the one that I have the most agreement to. I have two helmets and I can say without a doubt that wearing a helmet is not a comfortable thing. They can be itchy, they can be a little two snug, and they can just be a pain in the ass. I am totally guilty of letting my chin strap get longer and longer because I HATE the pressure under my chin. That being said, I still tighten it up like I should. I also think about helmet comfort a little differently than most people. You see, I have to wear a suit to work a lot. Even with it is hot. It is not very comfortable, but it is what I have to do so I do it. I think of my helmet the same way by not allowing myself to think that I can go without it. When you take away the choice because you know you have to do something it is really easy to just do it.
4) Now I know a lot of people who wont wear a helmet for a very superficial reason. They don’t want to mess up their hair! I really can’t think of a good excuse for that one except that many of those people also wear baseball hats or visors when riding so it is not like their hair is perfect when they get off anywhere.
5) Now this next complaint is one that I experience myself, but again, something I can work though. It gets HOT and GROSS in a helmet. When you are riding, really riding, you can work up a good sweat. Most helmets do have ventilation, but it just never seems to be enough. The reason I went from a GPA to a Troxel was because my GPA would get too hot. When someone is riding 10 horses a day they don’t want to keep putting on the same nasty helmet over and over again. My solution for that is to buy multiple helmets. I hope that some one out there has a good suggestion for a cool helmet! If not, I hope someone out there creates one because it really is an issue.
6) It is just not the ways things are done. My only argument to that is that change is not always a bad thing! There used to be no such thing as car seats, or life jackets. Think about all the lives that have been saved by those inventions. Every year the helmets that are created are better and more safe. Ugly, yes, but only having half a skull is not such a great look either.
I am sure there are more reasons, but this post is plenty long with me only putting up the ones I can think of.
So those are the most common excuses that I have heard for not wearing a helmet. I don’t want to be one of those self-righteous people who thinks that my way is the only way. I wear a helmet because I think that it is a worthwhile piece of equipment that is meant to keep me safe. I am willing to put up with the discomfort and bad hair because the trade off to me is worth it. I have never been one of those people who dreamed of wearing a top hat. I have had 3 concussions in my life and all 3 were riding accidents. Growing up I did not know how to fit a helmet properly. I have since learned and take my noggin very seriously. I enjoy being able to feed myself and I hope to keep it that way. I also think of a helmet as an insurance policy, but not in the way you might think. I think of it as insurance in the ability to complain if God forbid something bad does happen. I can bitch and moan about how I took all the precautions and yet am still hurt. My Aunt rode growing up, but gave it up after a terrible accident. She fell off and hit her head when she was 19 years old (no one wore any sort of head protection out west 30+ years ago) and has suffered with a seizure disorder ever since. I have seen first hand how hard that was on my mother (it took her many years to let me take riding lessons) and I just don’t want her to have to go through anything like that because of a poor choice on my behalf. I also want to say that Helmets are NOT a guarantee that you will not get hurt. All 3 of my concusions came because my helmet was not able to do its job. That being said, a properly fitting helmet can save your brain, and isn’t your brain important? There are many many blogs that I love where the person does not wear helemts and I am always curious as to why. Is it for one of the reasons I mentioned?
I know a lot of people who do not wear helmets because they just don’t want to. They cannot give me a better answer than that. I also know that some of these people HAVE fallen off and suffered Traumatic Brain Injuries and yet they still continue to ride with out a helmet. Someone who is often mentioned on this blog fell off with her Phoenix baseball hat on her head (no, it was not me…and no it was not on Phoenix…he doesn’t know people can come off and I plan on keeping it that way). She wore a helmet for a while after the accident, but as time went by she went back to not wearing a helmet. I do give her a hard time about it when it is appropriate to do so (so trust me, you all don’t have to…I bust her chops more than enough for all of us) and she knows that helmets are important and that she should wear them, but like so many riders she still does not choose too. And not long ago one of our very own horsey bloggers had to be airlifted to the hospital (her daughter watched the whole thing) after a freak accident literally split her head open. She got a helmet and wore it for a little while, but only a few months after the accident she was already riding without it. I have learned that we cannot change people’s beliefs by nagging or belittling them. That is why I just toll my eyes when I read some of the helmet threads. People, you are not going to make someone want to wear a helmet by calling them stupid. It is just not a productive way to go about it.
So with those thoughts on your mind, before you all go and comment, please try to BE RESPECTFUL. Courtney King-Dye is lying in a hospital right now so placing blame on the victim (the good old “It is her fault because she wasn’t wearing a helmet”) is not something that I think is appropriate right now. It is a persons choice to wear a helmet or not, please do not attack each other over it. It is important to me that you all respect each others choices, even if you don’t agree with it.