The Great Helmet Debate

*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.

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31 thoughts on “The Great Helmet Debate

  1. Great post. Luckily, I started with horses in a hunter/equitation type barn where helmets were absolutely required if you were under 18, so I never got to know what it was like to ride without one. My trainer (a dressage trainer!) requires helmets on all her students and USUALLY rides with one, but I have seen her hop on a horse for a tuneup without one. Last spring, I had a freak accident & landed on my head/neck. My helmet had a big dent & crack in it, but the scan on my head was fine. I am really thankful that my helmet took the brunt of that one! That being said, I really appreciate you taking a balanced approach on this issue. I personally think they’re crucial safety equipment for our dangerous sport (freak things happen even with super safe horses!), but I am frustrated to hear all the negative comments about victims deserving what they got because of not wearing a helmet.

  2. I will say that I do not really have a problem with FEI riders not wearing a helmet. because if they are at that level they should no exactly what there horse is capable of doing- in the way of spooking…, and they should be sitting on their hindend with the riders wait in the hindend so even if the horse takes a bad step the rider steadys the horse. however, I do have a problem that the acceptance of those who wish to wear a helmet is so low.
    there was an article in dressage today about a new top hat helmet. granted its ugly, but at least there are enough people who are voicing their opinion to get a company to begin to create a new type of helmet.
    and i agree with jen- no one EVER deserves to get badly hurt or die because of a bad decision. we have all made a poor choices at one time or another and i think that should be remembered before we comment.

  3. Riding can be dangerous and accidents happen. I feel it’s only common sense to try and protect your ‘grey matter’ as much as you can so I always wear a helmet. People who don’t are asking for trouble and eventually they MAY wind up getting hurt. Personally, I do it to protect my own head and also because I feel it would be selfish of me not to do everything I can to insure that if I did have an accident my family would not have to spend the rest of their lives with the inconvenience of taking care of a vegetable because of my vanity.

  4. Thought provoking post. I appreciate you trying to understand and not blame people for their independent choices.

    That being said, I just have a couple thoughts to offer. Props to 98% of the H/J barns I have ever been to or ridden at. Helmets always happen. Despite age or level, you are expected to wear a helmet and it is completely accepted. Hair nets are common place and your helmet is as essential to your ride as is your saddle. I don’t think real change will happen in the dressage world until it is mandated. Being of a libertarian mind set, I am not in favor of government mandates especially for things such as seatbelts (which should be a matter of personal choice). But, USDF USEF are not the government. They are organizations run by members and entrusted to make decisions about the direction of the sport. They will effectively eliminate any prestige or ‘fitting in’ problem by requiring it. So members of these organizations need to have their message heard! Finally, I will admit that while in high school, I showed the AQHA circuit. I wore a hunt cap (non- approved) for english and a baseball cap while schooling western. I still can’t imagine popping on my approved helmet to school a western pleasure horse (let alone show him). I know there are as many risks in that as anywhere else, but I just can’t imagine doing it. I was under 18 at the time and absolutely none of us ever ever ever wore an approved helmet to ride western pleasure… perhaps thats an issue that should be taken up with AQHA, but I can see USDF passing a helmet regulation much more quickly than AQHA ever could.

  5. I was in Pennsylvania 4-H when their mandatory helmets for every event rule started. There was complaints but I only know one person who quit over it. Now it is normal there for english and western riders. I’ve slammed my head into the ground before and luckily never had anything but a head ache because I’m a helmet wearer at all times. I don’t give the “dressage riders shouldn’t fall” arguement much credence since I’ve seen FEI horses spook hard in the ring.

  6. I, too, will provide the link where I broached the subject of helmets on my blog & why I choose to wear one:

    http://horsetrailriders.blogspot.com/2009/03/hard-headed-woman.html

    Admittedly, it is not 100% of the time, but a good 96.8%. 🙂 With that said, it comes down to being a choice. I choose to wear a helmet & ask that my minor children wear helmets. I don’t preach or scold those who don’t, although I do cringe when I see young children without them or adults who are overhorsed and a helmet may be the only thing that could save them from themselves! 🙂 I get annoyed by those who choose not to wear a helmet and preach about their “ability to land correctly” or that they “never fall off”. An accident is unexpected & unforeseen. That’s like saying because you have driven a car for 40 years you will never have an accident.

    This weekend I am riding in an exhibition show. First time for me but I am riding on a show horse seasoned for these classes: western pleasure & trail. I really hate cowboy hats as much as some people hate helmets So I am on the fence if I am going with tradition and putting on the dang cowboy hat or wearing my helmet. I know what I want to do and should do…

  7. great idea to bring up the helmet debate while courntey’s accident is fresh in the equestrian community’s mind! it sadly drives home the point that freak accidents can and do happen, even to seasoned professionals. how quickly we all forgot about franchesca mazzella and her very bad accident. yes helmets may look unsightly, but so does a traumatic brain injury where you are tethered to a vent drooling, with a urinary catheter either temporarily or permanently, oh and helmet head? how about the nasty bed head when you are living in a bed or wheelchair 24/7 and you can’t comb you own hair? it’s bad enough when we ride we risk literally breaking our necks, but why take any chances with something that can save your life? i love the arguement that “it’s my life and i can make my own decsions” but the sad reality is when someone is permanently disabled it doesn’t just affect them, their family and friends are affected having to step in to help, if they have little or no insurance, the taxpayers are affected footing the bill for often hundreds of thousands of dollars. i ride and work in an e.r. where we have plenty of horse related injuries, but a large number of staff who also ride, and therefore are very sympathetic to these injuries, we have all have weird things happen, even with our “steady eddy’s” we have a broad range of disiplines in our area as well from quarter horses, dressage, hunter/jumper and countless back yard trail riders, and every has and is entitled to their own opinion. i hope that at least one person who doesn’t wear a helmet changes because of hearing about courtney. we are wishing her a full and speedy recovery! thank you for your blog!!

  8. An excellent post! I remember way back when the helemt rule was being hottly debated for the equitation kids. If I remember correctly, only ONE hunter rider/trainer took the heat & was the “bad guy” for insisting that the rule be changed & enforced for all junior riders to wear an approved helmet. I wish I could remember his name,I want to say he was from Ox Ridge, but I’m not sure so don’t quote me! And now, when ever I crack open a Practical Horseman magazine there is usually a letter to the editor blasting the magazine for running a picture of not wearing a helmet. It took years of hard work to get the message into everyone’s head that juniors need to wear approved helemts & thank God they do!
    Also, I was an event groom in DE when the rule was enforced for riders to wear the “medical card” on there sleeve during competition- boy was that ever hard fought- I remember everyone hating that too!
    It seems that to get a safety issue to the forfront someone or someone’s horse has to be be either hurt beyond repair or killed before a safty change is made (remember how a few event horses died on course? Sure did’nt boost eventing’s image)
    Hopefully this will open up a healthy debate whereas people can hear & be heard. Even better would be a resolution where competitors will have to wear a helmet when mounted at a show- its start at least:)

  9. Of the six reasons you mention for not wearing a helmet, the one I (used to) use is complaisance. Yes, I wear my helmet when I ride a new horse, or when I’m riding a green horse, or when jumping, or when away at unfamiliar surroundings. But I confess I have gotten into a complaisance with my own mare that I know and trust, and have been in the habit of wearing only a ball cap (for sun protection of all things). Since Courtney’s accident, though, I’m changed. Now I will put my helmet on as part of my uniform; just as I wouldn’t dream of riding without boots, breeches, and gloves, my helmet will now always be de rigueur. (See my blog post at http://animalaccolades.blogspot.com/2010/03/wear-your-helmet.html)

  10. I have a question for the helmet wearing people, do you were helmets only when you ride?

    I do not wear a helmet when I ride and I have had only one serious riding injury. It was to my face, so a helmet would not have helped. That being said, I have had several injuries (but not as severe) to my head while I was on the ground. A helmet would have helped in several of those instances. I even had one horse that chased me down an aisle way and struck at me (I was told at least 6 times before he finally got me). I had to have stitches in my head. A helmet could have helped me and I was lucky not to have been hurt worse.

    I am just curious as what a helmet wearing person’s opinion is on this.

  11. I don’t understand why it’s such a big debate. You either care about your brains enough to protect them, or you don’t. A favorite quote of mine is: “If you think your hairstyle is more important than your brain, you’re probably right.” True they don’t prevent all head injuries… I have a friend who wore a helmet through a bad fall and STILL came an inch from death, as the horse stepped on her face and she was lucky to come out of it with only a concussion and a broken jaw. The helmet wouldn’t have saved her if the hoof had landed a smidge in either direction. But you better believe she still wears one any time she’s on a horse.

    Are there times when I’ve been on a horse without a helmet? Yes, and even more stupidly, it’s usually when I’m riding mine in bareback from the field with just a halter and lead rope. But every second I’m up there I know just how stupid it is, and my judgment usually gets the better of me.

    Beyond what happens to your head and your family, think of your horse. Who’s going to take care of him when you split your skull open? Who’s going to take him in when word gets out that he needs a new home because you fell off and died?

    I school in my Tipperary, which may be one of the ugliest helmets in existence, but even after riding half a dozen horses in the depths of summer, it stays comfortable and has never ever suffered the dreaded helmet “funk.”

    Still, as dumb as I think it is to ride without one, I know my nagging won’t ever change anyone’s views. The best I can do is insist they wear helmets while in my barn or on my horse… And maybe quietly snark at them from my dark corner of the world. 😉

  12. I ocul dhave written Jen’s post – I crumpled in mine at Nationals one year – spent the night in the ER, checking for vertibrae fractures. Fortunately, the Dover store across the street was open the next day and I got a new helmet.

    I wear mine 98% of the time. my trainer asked me to wear one because my boy has a tendancy to trip – and I’ve come off him several times already from other stupidness. I’ve also had stirrup leathers break at a gallop, I’ve had billets break at the canter. Adults are allowed to make choices. I think the best lesson here is this: Look at Courtney’s husband – do you think she would have given ANYTHING to prevent what he’s going through right now?? We all talk about our own head, but think about what a head injury means to those who have to determine our care or our funeral arrangements. Do it out of respect for the mess others will have to clean up.

    Also – something I’ve NOT seen on any of the blogs mentioning this: ONE FALL IS ALL YOU GET PER HELMET! Just because you may not see damage on the exterior, your helmet is only good for one impact only. If you’re riding with a helmet you’ve already fallen in, you’re not protected. And I don’t know about you guys, but lots of times, I don’t remember if my head hit the ground or not, I’m too busy trying to breathe.

    Most manufacturers will give you a major discount on a new one if you send your damaged one back with a story of how it happened… they use it for research.

  13. I can say with confidence that I ride with a helmet 99% of the time. The times when I don’t, it’s because I have a ball cap on — when I go through my mental check before I mount, the ball cap registers as “something on my head, therefore I have my helmet on.” *laugh* Seriously, before I mount, I have an almost unconscious checklist, and my helmet is the first thing on it. Helmet, boots, gloves, stick, stirrups, girth, bridle … go.

    I’ve always ridden with a helmet. Every barn I’ve ever ridden at has had a helmet rule, especially for under-18s. So the idea of not riding with a helmet is just strange to me: why wouldn’t someone choose to protect themselves, if the option is there and easy. I worry SO much about my teacher and his daughter, when they ride without helmets. I know they believe they can stay on, and they do wear helmets when riding unpredictable horses or, in my teacher’s case, when jumping over 3’6 … but I worry. I don’t say anything, because it’s their choice … but still. I would be absolutely devastated if it were MY horse that my teacher was riding when he took a fall that damaged his head.

    I read the article in Dressage Today about the top hat helmet — I think it could be a good compromise, especially if they were to make it with a clear harness, but the real sticker is the mindset of upper level riders. How can we convince people that their brains are the most important parts of their bodies? Not only for the individual rider and their family (who might have to care for them in a vegetative state), but — to be perfectly mercenary and, frankly, incendiary about it, the insurance community. Who can afford that kind of long-term care? It impacts us all. Beyond THAT, one of the things we all benefit from, when it comes to these upper-level riders, is their knowledge and experience. They pass all that on to the next generation, keep the tradition and the knowledge alive. They can’t do that without their brains!!

    I dunno. I would support the USEF and USDF in making helmets mandatory at all levels, but I wouldn’t go for government intervention, as so many people have said. The folks at upper levels should be an example for us all — if anything, they should be more conscientious than the average rider, not less. Sacrificing brains for fashion is just stupid, in my opinion.

    So … long story short (TOO LATE!), I would never ever ride without a helmet. I will encourage everyone to wear helmets. I won’t allow any of my peers to ride my horse without a helmet, because that’s something I *do* have control over. But I won’t force anyone not riding my horse to wear a helmet, because it’s their choice. I think it’s a stupid choice, but it’s their choice.

  14. Incidentally — I was guilty of not replacing my helmet after I took a fall that almost certainly compromised it. I shattered my collarbone, bruised my hip so badly I thought it was broken, and bounced my head against the ground so hard that the world was red and pixilated for a few minutes afterward. I am dead certain that if I’d not been wearing my helmet, I’d have been in Courtney King-Dye’s situation.

    Part of the reason I didn’t replace it was money, but I should have just buckled down and gotten an inexpensive replacement. Mea culpa, and I shall hold myself up as an example of How Not To Do It.

    Wearing a helmet while unmounted is also a good idea. I wear mine when I’m longing, for sure — as soon as my horse is groomed and tacked up, my helmet goes on.

  15. Fortunately I grew up with a mother who didn’t let me on the back of a horse without a helmet. I can only think of two times in my entire life when I’ve been on without one. The first time I just forgot, and in less than one trip around the ring realized it was missing and immediately got off to get it. The second time was pure laziness. I only had a few minutes, was just going to walk my horse around for 5 minutes bareback, and didn’t feel like going to get it. I felt guilty the entire time and got off after a few laps.

    I DO know where my husband stands on the helmet issue. Every single time I leave the house to go to the barn, he tells me to “be safe.” And he does specifically mean to wear my helmet. And he regularly checks up on me afterwards to make sure that I did. He doesn’t know this is completely uneccessary, and that I always do. But I really value the fact that he cares about me that much – and let’s me go ride despite understanding the inherent risks. You can be that if I ever thought of getting on without one, his voice would be in my head keeping me accountable.

    That being said, most everyone at my barn rides western and very few wear helmets. I can’t do much about it other than be an example, and let them see me never get on a horse without one. At the same time, I will force the issue when I can. No one gets on my horse without a properly fitted helmet, and no one gets a lesson or pony ride with me either unless they are wearing one. I won’t have someone injure their head unnecessarily on my watch.

  16. Many people are not aware that many helmet companies, after a fall, will replace your helmet for you at a discounted rate, as long as you send them a helmet back with a note about what happened/how you fell, etc. They use this to study how certain falls affect their helmets and you get a new helmet after a fall. It’s a win/win.

    This past August I was on my horse on a lazy summer day. My horse is a handful in winter, but you can shoot a cannon off his back in the summertime, but my boarding facility is located on state land and it is mandated that anyone mounted at anytime at any age must wear a helmet.

    That summer day my horse tripped twice in a row and we both fell. I landed hard on my side and hit my head pretty darn hard on the ground. Hard enough that my temple throbbed for days. Just the other day, after learning of Courtney’s terrible accident, I said to my husband “I wonder how bad my head injury would have been if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet that day” and he became distraught and couldn’t even talk about it.

    Linda Parelli was riding last July and her horse also tripped and fell. She wasn’t wearing a helmet and was hurt pretty badly. I believe she is fully recovered now, but you can never predict what an animal with their own mind and body is going to. Horses trip or step in a hole, get stung by bees or maybe an old tree on trail could fall down or drop a branch. Any number of things can set your horse off no matter how old, quiet, green, well trained they are.

    Helmets are like seat belts, you don’t need them until you need them. But when you do, you will be happy you had it. It could mean the difference between walking away or facing a brain injury with long term affects on you AND your family.

    No one is to blame, wearing a helmet is a choice, but I personally feel very strongly that I wear one every time I ride and will enforce this rule with my children, should I ever have any.

    As for wearing helmets on the ground, I don’t do it intentionally but will sometimes find myself with it on after I ride one horse, etc as I untack and I can say it has saved me quite a few hard head wraps on locker doors, lol.

    OH and last weekend I turned my horse out in the snow for a good roll and after I shut the gate and he turned and took off, bucking all the way, and his hoof tossed a snowball up in the air in my direction and it hit me square in the head. But luckily I still had my helmet on. I don’t think I would have been at risk for anything more than a small bump on my head, but it gave me a really good chuckle!

    Safe riding everyone!

  17. I don’t were a halmet and every concution i have had has been with a helmet so i tend not to were one but i do believe in children wereing helmets i have a little girl and if she ever gets on a horse she will were a helmet i know the benifits of a helmet, and though i do not were one doesn’t mean i don’t believe in the benifits.

  18. Great post – I’d have a hard time imagining how anyone could argue with your well-thought-out points. I have ridden without a helmet in the past, but since I became more serious about my riding I put one on every time – it no longer feels right to be riding without one.

  19. I do have to agree it is very import. to me my helmet is my security blanket when I ride. if I dont have my helmet on my confidence just is not there I spend more time worrying about what the horse is going to do than what I need to do to effectively ride the horse.

  20. When I used to ride, I would put on my helmet and boots in my car and not take them off until I was back in my car. But, they don’t call me “Big Chicken” for nuthin’. 😉

  21. Putting on my helmet when I ride is just like breathing..totally normal. Riding without one to me just feels weird. Now that’s me. I insist that anyone riding my horse, wore one too. My rule. Your horse, your head, I don’t care…well, i do but that is their business if they didn’t want to wear a helmet. I wear one, always have and always will try my hardest to.
    Yes, their are accidents that occur while you are on the ground working a horse and unfort that is the sport we are in. I have been told that if I was ever working a horse that I felt unsafe with, put a helmet on just in case. What do u have to lose? Great post.

  22. It looks like I’m one of the few commenting here that does not wear a helmet regularly. I learned to ride as a kid in my own backyard in Alaska over 30 years ago. We didn’t even wear bicycle helmets back then! Fast-forward to more modern times (a mere 20 years ago) when I started riding at stables and I wore a helmet 100% of the time when jumping, on the trail, or in lessons. And that’s pretty much where I am now in 2010. I fall into the “they’re uncomfortable” category, though I must admit technology has come a long way and they’re far better than they were 20 years ago! This unfortunate accident with CKD has led me to reconsider my habits. I feel obligated to be honest though and admit that given a super hot day under the New Mexico sun, in an arena, doing flatwork on a steady-eddie type horse I’ll probably skip the helmet. I suppose first off I need to get one. 🙂

  23. Whenever we hear of a rider getting hurt badly, we, other riders, often say “They were being stupid by bla bla bla….” In that way our brains trick us into feeling safe because we would not break that safety rule, so we would not get hurt. In truth, you can get a brain injury even with a helmet on. I know this from experience. After my TBI, so many people said to me “I’ll bet you wear a helmet now!” When I told them I was wearing one then, they figured I was telling a lie.

    But really, you should have seen the helmet! It had a big ol’ head shaped dent in the inside.

  24. Not long ago I met a former dressage trainer my age who was brain damaged from a fall. It was a totally minor incident, and had she had on a helmet, it would have been a bump, no more. She could barely speak, had mental deficiencies, and certainly will never train another horse. The very sad part about it is she’s cognizant enough to know what she’s lost, and that if only she’d had on a helmet, she would have been okay.

    I was already a helmet-wearer, but meeting this woman convinced me even more how even a minor fall can have devastating consequences when a head injury is involved.

    I’ll take helmet hair over brain damage any day.

  25. Thanks for bringing the great helmet debate out of the closet.

    Personally, I’m sad to say I sometimes get lazy about putting on my helmet even though I believe we should *always* ride with a helmet because anything can happen at any time- even on the nicest of horses.

    My hope for helmets is this:

    These days I can’t ride in a car without my seat belt, because I have gotten so used to the feeling (which used to be uncomfortable)- that NOT putting it on FEELS unsafe! It somehow feels wrong.

    Let’s hope that eventually people become so used to their helmets that it actually feels wrong (unsafe) without it!

    In that moment, that slightly uneasy feeling helps you remember to run back to the barn and put it on!

    Here’s to happy, healthy heads for a good long time!

  26. hey everyone I know this is an old post but I just had to comment, I have a great tip for keeping you comfortable well wearing your halmet (witch not matter what you should do)

    if you take a lady’s pantie liner and stick it on the inside of you halmet it sokes up all the sweat and keeps your forhead much cleaner , you would want to buy pantie liner that are not to wide and very thin aka one’s made for “light” days

    hope this helps everyone stay clean dry and safe

  27. Pingback: Happy Helmet Awareness Day! « A Horse and a Half

  28. Although this is a very old post, I have to comment.

    The biggest reason I hear for people not wearing a helmet is “My horse will never do anything bad!”

    I ride Quarter Horses. Our horses are famous for having awesome temperaments. But I’ve seen just as many accidents on QHs as I’ve seen off of TBs and Warmbloods.

    My best friend will never wear a helmet again after she turns 18 (our barn requires that you wear one until you are 18). Her horse is the calmest guy ever, but look at Courtney. She knew her horse very well, and she didn’t go off because the horse did something bad. He just tripped, and most of the QHs I know trip often because they are lazy.

    People just think they’re immune to accidents because their horse isn’t a bolter, bucker, or spooky. They forget that horses trip, fall, and other horses get loose and run into your horse at times. Not one person, nor one horse, is immune to ACCIDENTS.

    Also, my helmet keeps my head very cool, and its comfortable, and cheap. Not to mention, I’ve had two of these and suffered falls where I hit my head in both helmets, and I’ve never even had a headache from either fall.

    http://www.doversaddlery.com/product.asp?pn=MA-36191

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