The helmet debate continues for riders, especially of my generation. It flares up when well-known competitors or local friends get injured. After the incident passes the debate continues at a quiet level.
I will be honest: I am late to the helmet wearing side of this debate. Before, I would wear them for some events or on some horses, but not consistently as I do now. Lots of us do it that way- judge some situations as helmet-worthy. Obvious times are on young horses or while jumping. We think youth should wear them, but we hesitate to set the example. Maybe we think helmets make us look afraid or geeky.
Ironically, buying trainers insurance decided the debate for me. I read in black and white in the policy that I was responsible for the safety of others. It got personal- I thought about how I would feel if one of my horses hurt someone, and it grew from there. All situations became helmet worthy from that vantage point. It followed that I should set the example with concern for my own hard head. And eventually, I got to be proud of my choice to make no exceptions to the helmet rule at my barn. I got here a bit backward, but now I never ride a step without a helmet.
Don’t misunderstand, I am a giant fan of personal choice. I don’t like having laws to tell me how to dress. I just wish wearing a helmet was everyone’s personal choice.
Sometimes I wonder if making the helmet decision on a case by case basis isn’t more dangerous than not wearing one at all. When I see my peers wearing hats for photo opportunities I wonder if that is the part-time helmet message they mean to send others. Special occasions should be the time we wear helmets especially.
My youngest student is proud to be wearing a helmet with her half chaps and boots. It is part of the badge of honor to be a rider. Everything about adults is more complicated. I do know this for sure; horses are addictive, complex creatures and risk is part of the package.
Ride forward, do your best, and please take very good care of what makes you who you are. Don’t hesitate to let your Geek flag fly!