Freak Riding Accident? Hardly.

WM helmet sunset

The horse world has lost some good riders in the last few weeks. Sadly, it happens all too often. Horses can be unpredictable and people get hurt. Some of it is unavoidable and some of it is totally preventable.

Two of the most recent stories were especially hard: One was a 27-year-old professional barrel racer with wedding plans and the other was a professional trainer who was respected as the most experienced rider in her mounted posse. These two women had much in common: they were both professionals, both very experienced riders, and both died from extensive head injuries as the result of a fall on pavement. And now they are both profoundly mourned by their friends and families, and yes, their horses, too, I suspect.

I always feel it’s in poor taste to mention helmets at a time like this. It feels mean-spirited, no matter how well stated. And it’s too damn late for these committed horse women. The problem is that someone has always just died, so to be polite, helmets would never be mentioned.

These riders had another thing in common. News reports used the term freak accident in the headline. Do these reporters live in a shoe-box? There’s nothing freak about a riding accident. Emergency rooms treat about 15,000 equine-related head injuries a year. And that doesn’t count other broken bones. Sometimes when I get particularly irked by a phrase, I’ll look it up to see if I’m just being a stickler. The Urban Dictionary defines freak accident as one that’s extremely unlikely and unusual. Their most popular example is:

    “Fabio was involved in a freak accident. He got hit in the face by a duck while riding a roller coaster.”

Great example; I couldn’t find statistics for duck-related head injuries at all. Why am I so cranky about word choice? Because it’s literally a matter of life and death–not to mention the numbers of brain injury survivors who suffer personality changes, intellectual and memory impairment, or epilepsy.

I have a yearly tradition of writing about the importance of wearing helmets every ride. Sometimes I feel like I’m preaching to the choir; my readers tell me they are committed to helmets. At the same time, I wonder why I never see a western trainer in a helmet. The one western trainer that I did know has now stopped wearing her helmet. Do you know one? Am I just living in a backward locale for western helmet wearers?

I have a western dressage client who gets routinely “teased” for wearing a helmet. Do these same people tease football players? Statistics say riders are in a greater danger than football players; our teammates literally weigh a ton and the biggest difference; we have farther to fall. Statistics say the altitude makes a huge difference in severity of injury. But if statistical proof mattered to riders, they’d wear helmets and there would be no debate. The increased danger of riding horses without a helmet is as undeniable as gravity. But in many western riding disciplines, a helmet is seen as a sign of weakness. Have we fallen victim to freak lunacy?

The most common excuse I hear has to do with a rider saying that wearing a helmet is a message to their horse that the rider lacks confidence.  When has a horse had to check anything so superficial as wardrobe to feel a rider’s fear? Don’t insult horses; they aren’t fooled by your hat. As if wardrobe hides fear, rendering a rider unbreakable.

There’s no denying that the hat pays homage to our western tradition. As if history could make a rider unbreakable.

But then even history loses its charm and changes with fashion or a fad. As if wearing a hat like Buck Brannaman makes a rider unbreakable.

I was recently referred to a video where a western trainer explains that he’s uncomfortable in a helmet, although he encourages others. As if being comfortable makes him unbreakable.

He adds quickly that wearing a helmet was necessary for some [English] riders because they don’t do groundwork or have their horses attention. As if demeaning other riding disciplines makes a rider unbreakable.

Or that it’s all about the saddle; that somehow English saddles aren’t as safe because they don’t have a solid “handle” in front (that frequently injures everything but your head.) As if a saddle horn makes a rider unbreakable.

Perhaps the saddest for me, when trainers ride bareback, with no bridle and no helmet, advertising a mystic connection that is particularly dreamy to horse crazy girls. As if hero-worship makes a rider unbreakable.

When this loss and destruction from Traumatic Brain Injury finally turns a corner in our equine world, I think it will be with the help of professionals. Helmets are crashing rodeo tradition these days. Imagine the difference that it would make–the lives it would impact and even save–if just one well-known western trainer would break rank and wear a helmet every time. As if actions speak louder than words.

Imagine that the legacy Courtney King-Dye gave dressage riders gets repeated in all riding disciplines. That in memory of a professional rider who didn’t get to her wedding, that white helmets become the habit for other barrel racers. That for a posse mourning its star rider, helmets become a constant part of their proud uniform, in parades and everyday, and that we all respect that uniform even a bit more than before.

We talk a lot about positive leadership in horse training, but it should go past our horses. Whether we like it or not, trainers are role models. It would be a blessing to see the influence of positive safety leadership start with professionals. In some places, it would even qualify as freak common sense.

As for the power of tradition, pick one that goes beyond fashion, stands the test of time, and transcends actual legend status. Pick the romantic tradition of riding off into the sunset–protected and whole. And living to see your children do the same.

 ….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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Stats and sources:

  • Equestrians are 20x more likely to sustain an injury than a motorcycle rider, per hour. Source
  • 60 number of deaths/year due to head injury (compared with 8 for Football)Source
  • 1 in 5 equestrian injuries are head injuries. Source
  • 60% of riding fatalities occur from head injuries. Source
  • 15,000 number of ER admissions for equine-related head injuries in 2009. Source
  • 2 feet number of feet at which head injury can occur Source

 

234 thoughts on “Freak Riding Accident? Hardly.

      1. JanuszB

        Hi Anna,

        There is more than this simple way to look at the “helmet wearing” issue. There is no doubts that helmet is essential in protecting an injury to the head but there is another aspect.

        The “helmet” does increase does greatly increase the risk to the neck injury.

        It is because the human “body” and the “head” do have the PIVOT point around the C1 to C4 top vertebrae’s of the spine. The stronger is the force on the head, the pivot moves closer to the C1 vertebrae and causes most damage.
        C1 is usually an instant death, C2 can cause complete or partial paralysis and so for.

        The force of contact in any particular case has only one value and if is directed at the {not helmet wearing) head, the point of contact is only so far away from the pivot point.
        If the same force is directed at any point on the “helmet” the pivot point is much further away from the point of contact and the “Moment = Force * distance” is far greater.
        It is the “Moment of the Force” that breaks the neck.

        As an illustration, please place one end of a 30cm ruler in the vice and try pushing it with your finger at the far end of the ruler – it will move very easily. Now, try to push the ruler only at the 1cm distance from the vice – it will hardly move if you pushed it with the same force as before. The vice is the “pivot” point.

        The question now is; would you rather have scares on your head and “tell the story” without wearing the helmet or an undamaged head but being dead or paralysed?

        Whilst I never rode a horse, I had an accident on a push-bike falling down about 2+ meters head first and not wearing (by chance) my helmet. It fractured my C2 and C3 and I fully recovered in 2+ months.

        With the “helmet” ON – I’d be dead and not able to share these observations.

        The “freak” does refer to “circumstances” and “forces” and “moments” involved.

        Wearing or not wearing the helmet is only a part of the full equation.

    1. Susan Dudasik -- Misfit Farm

      Excellently worded! Until the highly public “trainers” start wearing and promoting helmet use in the western disciplines folks will still reject them, making it harder for the smaller barns & trainers to advocate helmet use. All instructors and trainers are role models weather they want to be or not. Also when the major horse shows and events start making helmets acceptable, things will also change. Folks spend thousands of dollars on “bling” outfits and tack, why not helmets? Thank you for a well written article that should hit home to anyone that teaches, trains ,coaches or instructs others in horse activities.

    2. Karen McCann

      Absolutely! It saved my life. I would never, ever ride without a helmet and I always encourage people to do the same!

    1. As an MD, I’m not sure that you see many injuries in your particular practice, but I can’t imagine your personal sadness if you did. Thanks Emily.

  1. Mary Jean Riley

    Julie Goodnight professional trainer wears a helmet! Because of her I bought one and wear it every ride! It is very comfortable & I forget it is even on!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

      1. Susan Dudasik -- Misfit Farm

        Julie Goodnight is perhaps the only big name clinician that does wear and endorses a wearing helmet. But then I’ve heard the comment, “Well, she’s a girl!!!”

      2. Misogynist cowboy talk? That certainly wouldn’t be the first time. Thanks for sharing Julie’s name. Troxel sponsors her big time. Thanks, Susan.

    1. Chris

      I love Julie for wearing a helmet. It makes me stronger in wearing mine. I agree that vanity and cowboy tough are the biggest reasons
      people don’t wear helmets.

  2. Patricia Roy

    Well said, if only more would heed your word. I am an advocate for wearing helmets. Had I not had one on 4 yrs. ago I would not be here to write this. Thankfully that helmet saved my brain, I still had a concussion but I am here!

    1. And glad you’re here, your voice should be heard. I got a comment from a woman who said reading my book changed her mind. One at a time, right? Thanks for writing; thanks for being able to write. Hooray for helmets.

  3. Diana Neading

    I never ride without a helmet and frequently wear my helmet when my feet are planted on the barn floor and in the pasture. I have invested in a second helmet to keep with my tack that is available to anyone who wants to borrow it.

  4. Maggie Frazier

    Of course (!) had never even seen a helmet when I was a kid- riding. However, when I started again (50s) had a friend who wore one every time she rode – after watching her horse fall with her (horse backing up – caught hind feet on concrete block & was pulled over – she came out of it with a concussion & cracked ribs (saddle horn-WESTERN saddle) but she came out of it. Her helmet had a crack in it which says what could have happened to her head! I started wearing one after that. Youre right, though – it seems to be a mental block with a lot of western riders. I also know of a young man whose horse went over on him while he was team penning. No helmet and had brain damage. Sadly, he still came back to team penning WITHOUT A HELMET!
    And I agree with Jan – this should be published in every horse magazine – especially the ones that are western oriented!

  5. Kari Palutis

    Bravo! I grew up riding saddle seat where helmets were never used. Now, they are reserved for kids or beginners only. A saddle seat adult wearing a helmet is surely a bad rider. Courtney King-Dye’s story changed me. The horse doesn’t have to be jumping/running/spooking to crash. I had reverse whiplash from a horse who stumbled AT THE WALK. No spook, no shy. Just simply took a bad step and tripped and almost went down to his knees. How foolish we are to think riding skills alone will save us in situations like these. Helmets always!

  6. RiderWriter

    I could not agree more with you, Anna…. in fact, it makes me want to say, “How DARE they call that a freak accident??” As if horses being ridden on pavement don’t slip ALL THE TIME. Absolutely infuriating! I don’t even like watching parades with unhelmeted riders for that exact reason!

    Also, I personally know Julie Goodnight as I’m the liaison for one of her sponsors (Millcreek Spreaders). I have always been proud to be affiliated with her, but her encouragement in helmet-wearing is one of my favorite things. I am forwarding this post to her straight away. She will be gratified to read what others have said here but not surprised. She knows very well that she has literally saved lives by her example. 🙂 Only one way in which Julie is an outstanding role model for equestrians – and she happens to be a lovely person, too!

  7. Kate

    Hear! Hear! Great advice/admonishments!!
    After a friend suffered a concussion from a fall during a horse jumping lesson, she asked all her riding buddies to pledge that they’d ALWAYS ride with a helmet from then on. I think about that pledge every time I put on my helmet and especially those times I am tempted to leave it behind… But then put it on anyway.

  8. Boy is this potent for me now! It took me a lifetime to develop the habit of wearing my helmet EVERY RIDE; it’s only been the last few years that I have been consistent. Thank God. Three weeks ago this Sunday while riding on a nearby gravel lane, my energy-conserving First Level mustang spooked, spun and bolted. No big deal; it’s happened before. The dash is very short; I spin him around, he gets a good look at whatever was alarming, and we march up to it. Not this time. My “one-rein stop” didn’t work, it only diverted him into the peach orchard on our left – at a dead run. I dropped to his neck but still sustained some tremendous blows from low limbs to my torso. When we came out of the orchard, I saw one more chance to turn him in a front yard – and got clobbered by another tree in the corner of the yard. At that point I hurt so bad I decided bailing off was the better part of virtue (stupid in hindsight for a 54-year-old on a speeding 16-hand horse). I think that’s when I hit my head. My helmet sustained a half-inch crack (pictured here: http://boulderneighdressage.blogspot.com/2016/04/sobering.html); my head got away with a palm-sized bruise. As soon as I was physically capable of mounting again, me and my new pink Troxel Liberty got back on my horse, every future ride brought to us by my protected head.

    1. Glad you are okay, and OUCH!! But I agree, the bottom line is that I want to ride as long as I can. A helmet is a small price to pay to continue to sit in that sacred place. Thank you for sharing your story, Michelle.

    2. Theresa Meyer

      I got a new pink Troxel Liberty too after my horse punched through the trail on a dike into an old muskrat tunnel. I was thrown forward and off, as we were just beginning to trot. And my mare tumbled. Not on me thank goodness. My Tipperary helmet saved my noggin from any injury, as my head bounced twice. Both of us are fine.

  9. Elizabeth Landrum

    Fantastic post, thank you for sharing! The horse world needs to hear this more often, sadly. Thank you for your voice of reason!! On Apr 29, 2016 9:06 AM, “AnnaBlakeBlog: Relaxed & Forward” wrote:

    > Anna Blake posted: ” The horse world has lost some good riders in the last > few weeks. Sadly, it happens all too often. Horses can be unpredictable and > people get hurt. Some of it is unavoidable and some of it is totally > preventable. Two of the most recent stories wer” >

  10. Diane Alexander

    Powerful.

    On Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 7:04 AM, AnnaBlakeBlog: Relaxed & Forward wrote:

    > Anna Blake posted: ” The horse world has lost some good riders in the last > few weeks. Sadly, it happens all too often. Horses can be unpredictable and > people get hurt. Some of it is unavoidable and some of it is totally > preventable. Two of the most recent stories wer” >

  11. rdean1@elmore.rr.com

    Anna,great article. There are now helmets made with western hat attachments ,Hopefully those will catch on,especially to the younger rider,have you seen them?? Rose Ann

      1. Maggie Frazier

        Pretty pricey! I still think the various “English” ones are better looking (and maybe safer)! But then I wasn’t ever a cowboy hat person.

  12. I was going to say Julie Goodnight, but she’s been mentioned. I know she started in the English world and I’ve heard her say that when picking up western, wearing a helmet was just a “no-brainer.” No pun intended. I don’t know why I started wearing a helmet. (Confirmed western roots, barrel racing background) I guess I reached a “certain age” at about the same time I started a young, green horse and it just seemed like common sense to me. In March I had an accident that resulted in a broken leg and once again, I was SO thankful that I always wear a helmet. You know you’re a confirmed convert when you refuse to let friends ride your horses unless they wear a helmet and you’re uncomfortable riding in a group with anyone who refuses to wear one. IMO, they may as well be riding naked. I think I’d be a lot less bothered. That said, my hubby will not wear a helmet. It really irks me because his riding partner had a serious wreck in Jan (horse went down in bad footing) that resulted in several broken bones and a serious concussion. They BOTH still ride in western hats. Proof, I guess, that you can’t fix stubborn.

    1. Thank you for this comment, bittersweet as it is. In a nutshell, this is how it gets complicated, I suppose. Well described, Cheryl.

      On Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 9:46 AM, AnnaBlakeBlog: Relaxed & Forward wrote:

      >

  13. Kathleen Iosue

    Thank you for drawing more attention to this chronic, universal issue. A rider can be severely injured or killed even while wearing a helmet, but the incidence of an isolated brain injury is greatly lessened.
    My husband suffered a mild subarachnoid hemorrhage after falling off our horse in 2012 and was unconscious & hospitalized. The bleeding resolved on its own, and he made a full recovery in a few days.
    Does he wear a helmet? Sometimes. I call this massive denial and stupidity.

  14. Susn Blount

    I lived in Colo. for 30 years and I believe it is the macho cowboy image that makes them so foolish. Maybe some one could market a helmet that fit under a cowboy hat?

    1. I agree, but I wonder why. I don’t feel the cowboy magic… and yes, there are a few western helmets. It’s changing but too slowly for these two horse women.

  15. What about using a helmet that looks like a cowboy hat? I found a construction hard hat that looks like a cowboy hat, it seems like someone must make them for riding. It might help more sensitive riders in the Western discipline be comfortable wearing a helmet, as they could be safe without worrying as much about being teased or mocked.

    1. There are a few brands of western helmets, and I hope they will be more common. I think the thing inside the head has to change before the thing on the outside does. Pros could be a real force for good in that way.

  16. Curious … why can’t someone design a western (cowboy) hat with the helmet protection included? or … a helmet that looks western? I would think it could be done. BTW – I’m not a rider … rode a little as a child back in the 50s.

    1. Well, those helmets exist. I’ve never tried one, but they look good. I think the thing inside the head has to change before the thing on the outside does. Thanks.

      1. sue meadows

        Chris Cox got the Resistol ridesafe western hat for his family. He is pleased that Resistol is promoting safety. It started to be shown at the horse expos. They look very traditional.

      2. There are some great western helmets, and more all the time. Does Mr. Cox wear one?? I hope so; it would inspire people. Thanks, Sue.

  17. OK, I have to respond again. So shoot me. My question is this: why aren’t the organizations that put on events and … well, I’m not a competitor anymore so the lingo eludes me …. but for crying out loud why aren’t these big organizations insisting on helmets as a regular part of their policy? And I mean EVERY event and EVERY equine organization, not just certain ones! If you couldn’t compete unless you wore a helmet than that might help with some of the competition-related follies. (Barrel racing, etc.) And let’s not discount the fact that if you KNOW you can’t compete without a helmet then at the very least you’re going to have to go out and BUY one if you want to compete. So sometimes … just sometimes when you’ve got a helmet and you know you have to wear it eventually anyway …. sometimes you just decide to use it during practice. Why? I dunno. Because it’s there? And if EVERYONE gets more used to seeing all their friends, peers and mentors in one, then it’s not such a fashion faux-pas to wear one yourself. We do that regarding children, so why not adults? (How many parents had to go out and buy and wear a bike helmet when bike helmet laws got passed for children?) I grew up skiing at a private ski club and I was really surprised to learn they now have a helmet policy for EVERY skier. No helmet, no lift ticket. Wow! Now that’s being proactive!!! Would I want to have to wear a helmet to downhill ski? No, but if that’s the policy then it’s comply with the rule or don’t ski. End of argument. Sometimes you have to go over the heads of individuals and make rules for the greater good of everyone because you can’t count on people having and using common sense. OK, I’ll shut up now. Maybe! 😉

    1. Don’t shut up! The USEF did pass that rule, so competitions under their umbrella all require helmets. It’s changing. I strongly agree that it will come faster if it trickles down from the top. I’m on your side! You, go, Girl!

    2. when the insurance companies get involved, helmets will be required. When venues have insurance companies with deep pockets come after them for extensive medical bills (head injuries are of long term medical nightmares) they will do what they have to in order to reduce their liability.I bet the first order of business will be a helmet requirement. They are inexpensive, and as been shown here, greatly reduce TBIs. Remember it was not that long ago, seat belts were not installed in cars and car seats were not required. Did I mention insurance companies?

  18. Jane Worrall

    A comment I heard years ago: If you think your hairdo is more important than your brain–it probably is:)

  19. SP Stewart

    There are a FEW of the top NFR barrel racers who now wear helmets. Unfortunately the most prominent (a recent world champion) also tends to dress like a Las Vegas showgirl — I find that embarrassing, and for those who prefer more traditional attire,it probably “taints” the good example of the helmet. Who’s really leading the way in the western world? BULL RIDERS. 🙂

  20. AS a PATH instructor and Centered Riding Teacher, it would never occur to me that there are riders who don’t wear helmets. It is the law when teaching English riding that all riders must wear proper footwear and helmets. I am 79, and I started riding at 5, and have always worn a helmet. I do have a friend who rides western and only wears a helmet on trail rides….it seems that a helmet would ruin her costume in the show ring. What a shame that western riders don’t understand that the head is the heaviest part of the body, and very likely to hit the ground first, or at least bounce once or twice upon impact. Perhaps all of them should see the movie “Concussion” with Will Brown…it is unconscionable that people risk their lives for the sake of false vanity!

    1. Thank you, and yes, for many of us it’s normal. I understand that some people think that movie was kind of squashed by the “powers that be.” Hmmm. I wonder why?? Thanks Anne. And I like your outfit better.

  21. Lyn Chambers

    I constantly nag my non helmet riding friends, and suffer no guilt because of it. I bought my 16 year old friend a helmet. I told her she is too smart and too pretty to end up drooling in a wheelchair.

  22. Kati Bishop

    THANK YOU. My helmet has saved my life. Twice. Why more people don’t wear them is completely beyond me and this needs saying and bears repeating no matter if it is un”pc” or not.

  23. Anna Thompson

    Thank you! The last time I came off I could feel my helmet take most of the impact. That particular fall and potential head injury probably wouldn’t have been too bad, but I was still glad that my poor helmet dealt with a concussion and was put out of commission, but that I didn’t have to deal with a concussion myself. It’s been really difficult to keep a helmet on my teenage daughter’s head all the time though thankfully she jumps so it is required. On a positive change note: I know a fearless barrel racer young woman who after a scary spill and the recent news has decided to wear a helmet for barrel racing from now on. Baby steps.

  24. Lucy

    A helmet has saved me more times than I can count. Helmets are required at our facility, period, and we have hunter/jumpers, game horses, and saddleseat horses. A big-name trainer came to try a horse for a youth client and I refused to let him mount without a helmet. Incredibly, he purchased the horse without trying it rather than put on a helmet (which we had available). WTF? I am pleased to say my grandson received a helmet on his 1st birthday. I am just sorry it is too lae for so many. And the “freak accident” thing? All associated with the reporting of that story should be ashamed!

    1. Well, that is exactly what I mean about leadership…from a “big name.” Thank you. I require helmets here, but had never considered it as a way to sell a horse! Well done! And what a crazy world. Great comment, Lucy.

      1. Lucy

        I am particularly irked by his behavior because he is a judge in several associations, including 4H.

  25. I was never prouder or more in awe of a rider in my discipline, than when I watched Charlotte Dujardin winning the 2012 Olympics Freestyle and Grand Prix. World record scores, gorgeous rides, with a helmet on.

    Setting fatal head injuries aside, it might possibly be worse to to survive a helmetless fall, only to spend the rest of your life in a vegetative state, and/or hooked up to machines, and/or having to be fed and have your diaper changed.

  26. jinx

    The ER doctor told me that my air vest and helmet saved my life this week. Fall was from a gentle trail horse that was apparently stung, she went straight up in the air three times, the last of which she kicked up her back legs and launched me, flipping, onto a road. No horse is bomb proof, ever!

      1. Maggie Frazier

        If it takes such a “little” thing as a bee sting to cause a nice gentle trail horse to blow up – think about how many other “little” things could do the same! I was lucky bee-sting wise – my boy just wanted to move on out of their area! But we all need to be aware that these are living breathing animals that have their very OWN way of dealing with scary things. They are NOT machines – which is how too many supposed horse people want to treat them. I (probably not the only one) was to blame for putting my horse & me in situations where we both could have been hurt or worse. But thank heavens he got me out of most of them by himself! Know what I mean?

  27. Terry Sanford

    Anna- wonderful article as always. I do wear my helmet at all times since I made a pledge to my husband who has slow growing brain cancer. He has to wear a helmet when riding, so I do also.
    Before I stepped back from FaceBook for a while I had just joined Karen’s HellHat Posse. She had a TBI and so her husband made her helmet look like a cowboy hat. It had really caught on and folks were very creative.

  28. Matthew Walker

    I was brought up with horses, and the #1 rule was that if we were on a horse, we had to be wearing a helmet. Period. No questions asked. I never needed it, thank God, but we knew people who are only alive because they were wearing theirs.

    Thanks for the rule, mom.

  29. Tex

    It is not about your riding skill, or how well trained your horse is, or your tack style, or even when or where you ride…life is unpredictable, life happens, don’t loose your head over it.
    (Could one assume that the “unbreakable” western rider also doesn’t use a seatbelt?)

  30. Kerrieann

    So wonderful to see passion expressed about the safety of helmets. In Australia here you rarely see riders without helmets. Actually all around and everywhere I go, helmets are firmly in place upon heads – thank goodness. But we still have fatalities here too and it isn’t the least bit “funny” but the group in Australia that don’t wear helmets as often or as much are the idiot western and natural traditions. sigh…… My beautiful daughters favourite comment is that “common sense” is not common at all. Well actually her words are often (with a raised eyebrow and shake of the head) is “common sense is a flower that doesn’t grow in everyones garden”. I worked on a cattle station years ago and not a helmet on the entire place……. Apathy or ego????? Both are a sure sign of the lack of reasoning – especially with any work to do with horses!!!!! I know of a few places in Queensland Australia where you have to wear a helmet to be around the horses – even if you are not in the saddle!!!!! Extreme to some BUT to be sure if a horse kicks you, you will be grateful that the rule was there!!! Quiet frankly I have seen people that need to wear a helmet just to walk from the house to the car!!!!!!!!!! To all the horse people out there – be safe at all times xxxxx

    1. Of course, I love your daughter and her eyebrow. The US is behind in the helmet question; not much debate in other countries… maybe there is something about that “Snowy River” reality. Great comment, thanks, Kerruabb,

    2. Maggie Frazier

      Love your daughters words! That saying applies to so many (even people who aren’t horse people)! Very sharp kid.

  31. My husband, our daughters and I have worn helmets with NO exceptions since 1977. No one gets on a horse that I own without a helmet. My husband had to take tons of flak from passers by when we rode on the road. He argued the natural selection side. Thank you for preaching to the choir. Maybe if will change a few people. I believe that Linda Tellington Jones and Robyn Hood wear helmets all the time now as well as anyone in their lineage. The planet has enough issues with mental health without adding TBIs to the mix.

  32. J Schlosberg

    Thank you so much for this post. So sorry to hear of these deaths.

    I ride English and a helmet is standard. My horse is 16.2 and it’s a long way down. But, I’m the only English rider at my barn and all the other women who ride Western wouldn’t be caught dead (no pun intended) in a helmet. They are “cowgirls ” and they don’t wear helmets. It’s pointless to even talk to them about it. Our barn finally requires helmets for anyone under 18, but it’s optional for adults.

    If you wouldn’t get on a motorcycle (which doesn’t have a mind of its own) without a helmet, why would you get on a horse without one???

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    1. Great comment, thank you. As someone who grew up in western tack, I am really disappointed in ‘cowgirls.’ Not always an open-minded group and that’s sad for their horses too.

  33. Gina Obrien

    So True! Well stated, thank you for addressing the issue. I always ride with a helmet. For decades. Amazes me that others don’t, and their “professional trainers” don’t. Ignorance? Arrogance? Pride? All before a fall…

  34. Sandra Haak

    I am a retired critical nurse and over my 46 years of practice have taken care of numerous seriously head injured people. My husband was an EMT and transported many people that didn’t live long enough to make it to the ICU. Our children were not given a choice about helmets when they started riding horses. Over the 25 years I’ve been watching all horse disciplines, I too have come to expect Western riders to wear distinctly western hats. I keep hoping someone will design a helmet inside one of those hats because… to be honest… they don’t “look right” in a helmet. IMHO if it was easy to keep the look, be safer, and avoid more of the teasing…. I think helmets would be a much easier sell.

  35. Thérèse Cartier

    The lady is a little ticked off? I am 100% on with you on this subject and you should feel good wrighting about it over and over,again, old habits die hard the saying goes… In the classical world of riding, there was also some resistance from the top dressage riders and a big change came the day Charlotte Dujardins ( dressage gold medalist in dressage at the London Olympics) decided to wear one instead of a top hat, what peer pressure can do! For myself, I have changed my helmet twice because of bad falls. I even put it on for brushing my horse; during fly season, when you come to pick at your horses front shoe, they will sometime lift the back leg just to chase a fly on the same side and hit you in the face, the helmet will save your nose each time. Dont give up Anna, as I can see, you have supporters.
    Thanks for your perseverance, you probably have already saved a lif or two…..

      1. Maggie Frazier

        WOW – read several pages from the Riders4Helmet link. I have to say if I was still riding – it would certainly force (!) me to go out & buy a new helmet (mine is currently in a trunk & far too old to be safe). This should be required reading for anyone who thinks wearing a helmet is a “personal” choice or might muss up their hair! VERY scary reading.

  36. Pingback: Freak Riding Accident? Hardly. — AnnaBlakeBlog: Relaxed & Forward – EQUINE Ink

  37. Rebecca Pickett

    They even make western hat helmets now…no excuses. Mary Miller Jordan mustang trainer has worn one for years!

  38. Ange

    Don’t forget to replace your helmet every 5years as the protective shell starts to break down with age and replace if you land on it during a fall as it will be damaged, also keep it in a cool place when not in use again to prevent damage.

  39. Lou

    Ever since a good friend and dressage club member died after her horse bolted and dumped her on the asphalt in the Cody, Wyoming fourth of July parade down Main Street—I swore I would never ride again without a helmet. At the next calf branding I rode with a helmet. The Cowboys made fun of it. But I could care less. Other bones can heal. But your brain– not so much.

  40. Debby

    I have always worn a helmet. I do hunter/jumpers and at my first lesson, the trainer had me put one on. 15 years later, i am so glad. I fell off, just a stupid little mistake. TBI that was minor and took 9 months to recover from. Those 9 months were awful and it was a MINOR injury. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet? Yikes! Wear a helmet.

  41. Ange

    Don’t forget to replace your helmet every 5 years with a new one, as it will have degraded and not be safe and replace it if you land on it during a fall as it will be damaged and lastly store it in a safe cool place.

    1. Or if you’re a trainer like me and come off more often than the average rider. I tend to replace mine every 6 months or less. Reminds me… I really need a new helmet.

  42. Dana Johnston

    I Have cracked two helmets! The first time I had a concussion – and it was only the sixth time I was on a horse. At the barns where I have riden there is a rule…”No helmet, no ride”. You so eloquently state the case and as you say, one convert at a time. Every new rider (or the parent) should be given this article as a must read!

  43. Tony Troyer

    I would never belittle anyone for wanting to wear a helmet! Yet at the same time, I often have wonder about some of the stat’s….of those head injuries- what was there age, level of riding, discipline and etc. I have seen certain demographics of rider & horse accidents which have involved more of women in an age bracket of 45 to 65. Some have rode forever, but mostly I have seen those that have gotten back into the Equestrian sports of there choice because they have more time & resources. As my friend has said “I just don’t have the same bounce I used to…” I’m not talking about bouncing off the ground… I guess I wonder if the changes in our bodies at certain ages start making a bigger difference? This would go for some men also. Look at President Reagan… He knew that it was time to stop riding, there was to much risk.
    I have seen in my sport of Endurance and Driving, more and more helmets. But I also have been whiteness of severe head injuries and even death’s while wearing a helmet weather in competition or pleasure….making me think “Listen to your gut!” So many riders don’t think to stop and listen…I have put my helmet on many times from listening to my inner self.

    1. In all of the stats I’ve looked at, I haven’t found the post-midlife ages to be worse. Lots of kids get TBIs… Like you, I’ve seen too much injury but at the same time, I rarely see someone riding past an age/confidence level past a certain age. At my barn, it’s simple. Every Ride, every horse. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  44. Cindy

    Thanks for your passionate article. My life was saved by a helmet 10 years ago. The accident was not the result of inexperience (I’ve been riding for 40 years) or an untrained horse (my horse was 14 and had been in dressage training for 8 years). The accident was the result of a horse’s instinctive flight response when startled – which can happen any time. I’m still riding because I had a helmet on. Don’t bet your life on the statistics – wear a helmet to ensure that you can ride tomorrow.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. So many of the comments have been from riders like you survivors whose horses did nothing wrong and like you, did everything right… So glad you are still riding with us.

  45. Terry T

    Wearing a helmet has saved me twice from serious injuries, one fall cracked my helmet! That could of be my skull!

    1. Glad to have you with us, and it’s rewarding to hear about all the tales of helmets doing their job…and I am still perplexed at the resistance of others to wear them. Thanks for commenting, nothing like a big crack in a helmet to point out the truth!

    1. Maggie Frazier

      Well, Anna – maybe that’s a selling point? Relieve your sinus headaches – wear a helmet! Sounds good to me.

  46. Eleanor Eagly D.V.M.

    I am another person whose brain was saved from trauma because I was wearing a certified helmet. (it cost only $36.00) The accident was a cart tip over while driving pony (not pony’s fault) catapulting me >10 feet thru the air. Head hit side of tree. Heard the Styrofoam squish, brain protected. Where I board all, regardless of age or experience riding/driving equine, are required to wear a helmet . Helmet wearing is enforced.

    1. It’s a barn rule that I enforce here and I do love barns who make this choice. It’s simple. Glad you are still with us, still being a vet. The cost is a good reminder; so affordable. Thanks for commenting!

  47. I am a professional horse trainer and ride western and yes, I do wear a helmet when I sit on a horse. If I happen to leave it in my truck, then I don’t fully commit to being on a horse. It’s my own rule and stick to it. I’ll lay on a horse, rubbing him all over, but if the horse starts to dance around, I just slide off and bring the head toward me. I’ve had a bad accident several years ago, coming off and hitting head on round pen panel. Fortunately my helmet was on. Before that, i’d wear it probably 80% of the time. After the accident, 100% of the time.

    1. When we know better, we do better. And I am a train-able trainer, so I like to meet like minds. Thanks for commenting, glad to have you still working for horses.

  48. Thank you for writing this. I know without a helmet I would not be here. Being worried about looks versus health is a bigger issue than with horses and this article is super important. Thank you

  49. Annie

    I was in a horseback riding accident with a friend. I always wear a helmet and that day, I was being prodded to move faster and inadvertently set my helmet down in search of something I had been asked for and didn’t pick it up. My friend, never wore a helmet and thought I was ridiculous for lamenting the fact that I had forgotten mine. When the wreck occured, I got lucky and ONLY shattered my radius. She got a head injury that forever changed her life. Neither of us fully recovered and alas neither of us rides anymore.

    When I look back on that day, if I had simply refused to ride without my helmet, oh how it would have changed the outcome!!!!

    P.s. I wear a helmet on a bicycle as well! I’m 57 and proud to be an example of safety awareness.

    1. Thank you for sharing your bittersweet experience. Hindsight hurts sometimes when it comes with the knowledge you have. So sorry, and also glad to hear about the bike and the helmet there!

  50. Deb

    Remember, you don’t wear a helmet for yourself (unless you actually care about yourself); you wear a helmet for the people who take care of you !! 🙂 🙂

  51. Gail Cord

    I have 2 broken helmets hanging in my barn, one from a horse going over backwards (totally unexpected, she was bought as an anyone horse) and one from getting tangled in a rope while pulling something on the ground and getting tangled. Horse fell on me and broke a rib but head was ok. Promised my spouse I would always wear one and never jump over 2′. I’m olser know and have given up the jumping all together but not the helmet. I feel totally exposed without it.
    gail

    1. Me, too, naked without a helmet. I kinda love that you have two broken helmets hanging like in the barn like barn-voodoo dolls. Great comment, and so glad you’re still with us.

  52. Becky

    I am a western dressage rider. My trainer and I both wear helmets at all times. She was in a demo at the Midwwst Horse Fair and wore a helmet.

  53. Julie Figg

    I recently wrote an article on horse safety for my Back Country Horseman chapter, 4Corners BCH, and my last paragraph was about wearing a helmet for safety. That paragraph was edited out-bummer! But gues what, I am the featured presentation person for May meeting, guess what they will get to hear about as well as endurance riding! I am going to use your stats in this article. I WILL not ride without a helmet, I feel naked without it on. Oh, guess what, I anm an RN and have seen at least 10 head injuries in the ER in the last 3 years all related to horse accidents, NONE of these riders had on a brain bucket.

    1. You really are seeing a few sides of this simple, but apparently complicated question. (If you scroll UP through the comments, there’s a link to a page with more stats that are pretty interesting.) Glad to hear that you are going to keep poking them. Much harder to “edit” a presentation. Good job and thank you for the interesting comment.

  54. Caroline

    I too was angry when I read “freak accident”. There was nothing freak about any of those accidents and those tragedies could so easily have been avoided had those riders been wearing helmets, but I’m preaching to the choir. Another thing that angered me when I read the comments posted with one of the articles was the selfish opinion of some people who claim that they have the right to choose whether they will wear a helmet or not. By choosing not to they are denying family and loved ones the right to many choices. They are inflicting pain and grief, financial hardship, possibly having to spoonfeed them.and change their diapers and on and on..

    1. It’s a strange world where we have to legislate personal safety (seat belts, motorcycle helmets, smoking…) but sometimes people are contrary for the sake of being contrary. But you used a better word: Selfish. Thank you, thoughtful comment.

  55. Lisa Badger

    There are a lot of people who should never even be on a horse because they are far less safe than the average rider. I would like to see that idea put forth as much as the notion that everyone should wear a helmet.

    1. A license to ride? Not the worst idea. I can imagine a fair amount of blowback. Thanks, Lisa. You are right. Horses are more complicated than dirt bikes….

  56. Emily Brink

    Great article. If you get one more person in a helmet then it is worth it. I rode as a child and teenager in the 80’s and early 90s without a helmet. When I returned to riding in my early 30s (after a couple of non horse riding related head injuries…one quite serious) and after attending Physical Therapy school, I put on a helmet. Mostly just to avoid further trauma whenever possible as I knew more about the devastating impact of head injuries than I ever wanted to know working with several hesd injured clients during my time in clinicals as a PT student. At any rate, these recent head versus pavement stories are hauntingly familiar. My beloved Fjord Haldor and I had a hind end slip out from under on pavement while we were trotting across a rode…no spook, no issues. Haldor valiantly trying not to go down, ended with him slipping down an me going off his back side and me hitting the back of my FORTUNATELY helmeted head HARD on the pavement. I had a bit if a shaken feeling but am alive and well today. Thanks to a helmet.

    1. I love your comment, Emily. It’s the kind of path lots of us took to be helmet wearers. I certainly didn’t have one as a kid, but when we know better, we do better. I am particularly glad that you are still with us and speaking up. Thanks, Emily.

  57. Lesley Jolly

    The comment that “wearing a helmet gives a message to your horse that you lack confidence” is mind boggling in its ignorance of horse psychology. An animal that can smell illness in people is surely going to feel and smell fear long before it thinks “Woah! Got a live one here – this sucker needs a shake-up! She’s wearing one of them hard hats!”

    We were told “You’ll kill the sport!” when we made helmet wearing compulsory in endurance riding. Funnily enough, there are more people than ever competing. In my carriage driving club, helmets are compulsory for just simply sitting in a vehicle at a club event. And without helmets, there’d be no insurance available.

    Helmets save lives.

    1. I’m not sure why humans think they can somehow trick horses, you are right, it’s as inane of holding a halter behind your back. Love to see both events you mention in helmets… I’m sure that it was hard for some drivers but the last three words say it all. Thanks, Lesley.

  58. Janet Johnston

    I feel more confident riding my horse with a helmet and wear it whether I ride Western or English. Contrary to what some apparently believe that “wearing a helmet is a message to the horse that a rider lacks confidence”, I feel that if a helmet increases my confidence then this is what my horse will feel and believe. When I learned to ride as a kid no one ever wore helmets – I don’t think they had been invented yet. Luckily my riding teacher was a stickler for safety in every other way and I survived.

    1. Sometimes I wonder what part taking lessons play in helmet wearing. That’s why I wish more pros would wear them; you credit your riding teacher for being a stickler for safety and now that helmets are available, maybe you still hear her voice. I hope so. Great comment, thank you Janet. Keep up the confidence through safety!

  59. Charlu

    Excellent read. I taught riding and trained horses for years. I insisted my students wore helmets but wore mine only when jumping. I started wearing a helmet (both bicycle and riding) when my boys started riding because I realized I needed to set the example. They both always wear helmets now and encourage companions to as well. I’m proud of this legacy.

    1. You should be proud. Your comment, like others, speak to the possibility of learning and changing. The best skill A rider or a mom can have. Thank you Charlu. Wonderful legacy.

  60. Victoria McIntire

    I ALWAYS wear a helmet. NOW. When I first started riding in the ’60s it was never mentioned but I rapidly started using one when I found out it was necessary. That said, I had a blinding flash of stupidity ONCE. At a very large and prestigious parade where we were to wear costumes. My BTDT unflappable horse became frightened, not by the crowds etc but by a train going over the area we were staged in and hitting his whistle as we were entering the parade route. Fortunately she was easily controlled as my mind flashed with the realization that the “Queen of Hearts” was about to become “Humpty Dumpty” because that flimsy crown would not protect me from becoming roadkill. Thankfully I was riding sidesaddle and they are very secure. My thighs were black and blue from the death grip but they healed. A head injury could have been fatal. I have NEVER ridden since without a helmet. One stupid lapse of sanity and one truly freak circumstance could have been tragic. And the police cruiser trunk that my 16.3 H 1500 lb horse sat on also recovered.

    1. Thank you for your story, so well described. Awk. Not to poke you, but a parade? Yikes, nothing but pavement! and like a lot of us, when we do without it is usually the worst time possible. But I’m preaching to the choir! It’s hard with costumes, but all the more reason for fun. (I have Wagnerian princess costume with a viking horn hat with yellow yarn braids that I attached to my helmet… it makes a seriously ridiculous costume even more so!) So, with a smirk, you are my hero…with bruised thighs and a trashed trunk on a police car. I am especially glad you are still with us! Thanks, Victoria.

  61. Ian

    Well written article packed with common sense. I look darn good in my cowboy hat (in my fantasy world!) but as soon as I’m ready to mount my bomb-proof, steady as a rock horse, I put on my helmet and transform into a dork. A dork that has seen accidents and is old enough to know that stuff happens on even the safest horse. Keep preaching safety please!

  62. Robin

    It only takes one fall to convince a person to wear a helmet! That is if your lucky enough to get a second chance! Please wear a helmet! So sad for all the loses. Horses are still animals and anything can happen at anytime! Be prepared! 😢❤️🐎💜

  63. Gail J.

    Have you seen the “HellHat”? They are helmets with hat brims attached. The directions to make one are at horseandman.com. I’m working on mine now.

  64. Chris kohut

    Excellent commentary and so true, even for adults who don’t have to wear a helmet but absolutely should.

  65. Elaine

    Excellent testimony in favor of helmets. Let me add one more thing to the statement that helmets aren’t fashionable: yes they are. There are several companies that now make a helmet that looks like a regular cowboy/girl hat. No more excuses! I attribute my intact brain to a helmet. I was thrown from a horse during a lesson and was propelled into a rigid board fence head first. The paint from the fence is forever marked into that helmet as well as my winter coat. If I had foolishly not worn that helmet, I’m convinced I would not be here today writing this. Thanks for making the point so eloquently.

  66. Kevin Short

    Thanks for a well thought out and well written article. You aren’t preaching to the choir and I am grateful to you and Fallon Taylor for making a stand for helmets. We went to the ERA rodeo in Salt Lake City and saw Jake Barnes, Callie Duperier, and Fallon all wearing helmets. Maybe it will become a trend as more people see that these great champions are doing it. My two girls barrelrace and pole bend in Utah High School rodeo and they have worn helmets every ride. They have gotten some rude comments, but they have also been told that they were brave to wear a helmet. My older daughter did fall off while wearing her helmet and got a concussion. The ER doctor told her how lucky she was to have a helmet on as her injury would have been a lot worse without it on. God bless and thanks for taking a stand!

  67. Anne Preston

    I’m a Western girl…I say that loosely because I didn’t start riding until I was 45. My trainer is always about safety first, and I’m glad that my only background includes always wearing a helmet. I’ve had my fair share of accidents, including smacking my head and having a horse fall on me. It can happen out of the blue in an instant. It’s just not worth the risk to not wear a helmet.

  68. Natasha

    I don’t let my kids on without a helmet! I have 3, One for western riding, one fir schooling in English and one for showing in the ring. I do admit I jump on without a helmet once in a great while!! But I 99% of the time ride with a “Brain Bucket”.

  69. Jan Potterveld

    When my Granddaughter gave me her horse (she was getting a different one) she made me promise two things; one to take some riding lessons, and two to always where a helmet. First man in the west to wear one, but now there are more. I cracked my first one in a fall. Thank you Granddaughter.

  70. Dana

    The people who want to wear helmets, will. The people who don’t want to, won’t. Why do people want to constantly control how others live their life? Equestrians know the risk. Repeatedly reporting the statistics and how dangerous it can be isn’t going to change the mind of someone who doesn’t want to wear a helmet. Accept the fact that people make their own decisions.

    1. Maggie Frazier

      Yes people should make their own decisions – but controlling how others live their life? Putting the very real statistics “out there” & giving examples of what can happen – that might save someone’s life. I’m old enough to remember when seat belts & car seats were not even an option & people used the same arguments when they became a law!

  71. Marlene

    I rode hunters and jumpers before there were helmets. 30 years after the last time I was thrown, I had the experience in 2009 at the age of 59. Don’t recommend it at that age, or any age. I am able to say that because I was wearing a helmet. I know I would be dead if I hadn’t been wearing one that time. I wear a helmet everytime I ride. It’s good to be alive, and with all my faculties, which I am grateful to still have.

  72. Pam Collings

    It is not compulsory for my students to wear helmets…….as long as they bring a spare head with them.

    On the other hand, I suspect that cowboys working in the open in 40+ degrees Celsius have to make a choice between the possibility of brain damage, and the probability of heat stroke.

    And, yes, I am one of those whose situation may have been very different but for a helmet.

  73. I grew up in Sweden, wearing a helmet was the law. Everybody did. I remember our riding instructor making jokes about “western riders that didn’t have anything to protect, and that’s why they didn’t used helmets.” A little re-phrase (I’m not rude..living in cowboy country and all..) it’s still something I use, when being teased for wearing a helmet. Great post!

  74. Amy Holms

    I have been a western rider for many years now and I have noticed some
    differences and changes
    over the last few years with regards to wearing safety grear and helmets. I find Men have been the most reluctant to wear a helmet and the woman and you get kids are making it second nature ::)
    As a up and coming proffessional in the equine industry I do support and up hold saftey with the highest regards:)

  75. Karen Keys LeValley

    I am living proof helmets save lives. I have mild brain damage due to a fall while mounting my horse. I have no memory of the accident. I just put on my helmet by chance. The doctor said it saved my life. I’ve had 2 severe concussions in 2 years from falls off my horse. 1 with a helmet 1 without. I will always ride with a helmet now and forever.

    1. Karen, my sympathy. It is actually a common thing during mounting. Most of us don’t expect anything then…but I’m sure you do now. Thanks, Karen. Glad you are still with us.

  76. Ann Sides

    Here is a western trainer who wears a helmet: Mary Miller-Jordan. Success fully competes in Exteme Mystang Makeover and barrel racing. She is the only competitor in EMM that wears a helmet except folks from English background. I’m thinking everyone would want to wear a helmet around a wild horse!!! I’d want to wear armour!!!!!!

  77. Ann Sides

    And finally big hat makers are deciding there might be a market here. But their price: $250!!!! Shame on you Resistol Hat Co

  78. Kidznhorses

    How do farms and ranches that have other people ride their horses get by without requiring them to wear helmets? They are surely taking a huge risk of a lawsuit. I have liability insurance for giving riding lessons and get a “discount” for requiring helmets. I require them for EVERYONE who rides horses on my farm, be it an 80 year old man or 10 year old girl. When I see people riding without helmets at boarding barns and training farms, I think “They must not have insurance.” Thoughts?

    1. My insurance is like yours, but we’d probably require them anyway. I’m not sure about their insurance. I tried to ask someone in the past, but didn’t get an answer. I’d be curious, too. Thanks for the insightful comment.

  79. Deborah Fox

    My worst riding accident was a crushed vertebrae and of course my helmet couldn’t have prevented that. But i HAVE had “accidents” where I landed on my head after being thrown, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if I HADN’T been wearing a helmet I might be dead or paralyzed. I would never even consider riding without a helmet! Uncomfortable, yes, it makes my head itch like crazy, but I wouldn’t trade the discomfort for the risk!

    1. You’re right. The discomfort (and that is changing fast with new helmet design) is a small price to pay for being able to still ride. glad you’re still with us.

  80. Michael Jones

    Just look at the change in bull riding. After champion rider Lane Frost died of a savage goring, flak vests have become the standard for all riders. You are starting to see helmets there as well. The fall one takes from a horse is usually farther than from the back of a bull. Common Sense People!

    And the comment about (some) English riders needing helmets because of blah blah blah, come work with me and see.

    And the saddle horn killed a local and well respected western trainer when a horse came over backwards on him and impaled him, through the heart. He was dead before they got the horse off him.

    I rode western, no helmet, just dumb luck. Nowdays, I don’t get on the horse to even demonstrate the proper way to mount without one. It’s the only head I’ve got and I would like to keep it in good working order as long as possible.

    Rant over

    1. Michael, I love this comment…and I’m reminded of the quote about common sense not being common. Thanks for keeping your head in good working order… we need men like you! Thanks.

  81. Deanne

    I totally agree. I wish the rodeo queen world would set the example to our young girls that helmets are an essential part of the look.

    1. Oh, Amen to that! And frequently they aren’t riding their own horses, either, and lots of time, under 18. In the English world, they wouldn’t have a choice. Thanks, really smart comment.

  82. Hazel

    I live in the UK where helmets are the norm. You can’t compete without one. The British Horse Society recommends wearing a helmet at all times even when handling horses from the ground. It constantly surprises and saddens me that in other countries (not just the USA) many people don’t wear them. Helmets don’t increase fear or falls or make you look silly/weak/cowardly. It’s not a tradition to be adhered to just because ‘that’s how it’s always been done’. They don’t interfere with your balance, they don’t ‘get in the way’, the horse couldn’t care less what you have on your head. Helmets increase safety. I repeat – helmets increase safety. For me there’s no other reason in the world that would overrule that basic fact. (Anna, you’re awesome as usual. I love your blog.)

    1. Thanks for the comment, Hazel. Your country has always been ahead with helmets… and to fight about safety is just silly, but there we are. Thank you for your input. The UK has such a great riding history; you should be proud. And thanks for reading the blog; I appreciate it.

  83. Nicole

    I am a dressage/3 day eventer turned true working cow horse (feed yard) and barrel racer. I train my own and a few others throughout the year. I started wearing my helmet religiously after my dead broke, been there done that gelding spooked over a pheasant that was 20 foot on the north side of the tree row (50 foot wide tree row) and we were 40 foot on the south side. I was bareback. He reared and I flat wasn’t paying attention. And I came off. The first thing to hit was my head. And all I could think was, “I left my helmet in the pick up” I was fine and no injury, but that drove home that I needed to wear that helmet.

    1. So glad you’re still with us, and your story is the heart of this issue. You are an experienced, good rider and that is just never enough. Thanks for commenting and thanks for protecting the brains you obviously have. 🙂

  84. Ashlee

    I ride western and wear a helmet and the famous Fallen Taylor big time barrel racer also wears them. They are becoming more popular but will always be some that refuse wearing one.

    1. Good for you, Ashlee. and I do hear Fallen’s name and also Julie Goodnight… but what’s missing in this picture??? You are right, more riders wear them all the time. I hope the trend continues. Thanks for your comment.

  85. Pingback: Freak Riding Accident? Hardly |

    1. JanuszB

      Those who survived or majority without the helmet do live without a pretty face, those who died protected the face but not the neck.

  86. Sarah Garnsey

    The twisted “I don’t need to wear a helmet” logic is baffling to me, too. I also hear it from motorcyclists. “I’ve been riding for years without a helmet and I’ve never had an accident, so I must be doing something right.” SMH

    1. JanuszB

      The helmet makes your head bigger than it is and upon the impact, the pivot point is still the same (the neck). Upon hitting the ground head first, your neck will be exposed to the force acting on the radius of just your neck or/and will be increased by the size of your helmet. Helmet stays with you and determines the force needed to brake the neck. You’d have protected your face but it would not help you if your neck is broken.

  87. Lou Hoskins

    Excellent points all riders should take seriously. Im 63, just now beginning to wear a helmet for my protection, but more importantly to be a good exsmple to my grandkids.

  88. If you are a cowhand working cattle for eight to twelve hours a day in out in the full sun/no shade, you wear a hat because you’ll overheat in helmet and die of sunstroke before you die from a head injury. But that’s not you and me. I tell my students that if they can fly off the horse when it stops from a full gallop and land on their feet, they can ride without a helmet. According to my 90 year-old friend Bob, who was the jumping trainer at Stanford University in the 40’s, first thing you had to do before you were allowed to train in jumping was to show that you could dive off a horse mid jump, a 3 ft. jump, flip and land on your feet. Until you mastered that, no jumping. Can you imagine that today?

    I think people wear cowboy hats instead of helmets because they want everyone to think that they are a good enough rider to ride without a helmet. Kind of like thinking wearing spurs means you are skilled enough to use them. Wearing a helmet is less comfortable then not, especially in warm weather. Also, a helmet reduces your ability to hear and sense. On the other hand, I’ve cracked three helmets. I’m a very good rider and a decent horse trainer. I do ground work the minute I step into the paddock/pasture. But I’m not Buck Brannaman. Not by a long shot.

    It’s also about vanity. Cowboy hats look awesome. Even better than cowboy boots. But have you ever met someone whose had a bad head injury? Was a time when a toothache could kill you and you were several times more likely to die before the age of thirty because of something in the water you drank. People fell off horses, hit their heads and died, but it wasn’t as common as cholera or typhoid or simply getting caught under a wagon wheel. We don’t live in those times any more. Unlike 100 years ago, I don’t have to wear a dress unless I want to and I wear a helmet when I ride because there are fates worse than death. Serious head injury is one of them.

    1. I agree completely; the fate worse then death is the one to think about. I do take exception to thinking Branneman is immune to brain injury. It’s like saying that there is a football player too good to need a helmet. Or a hockey player who doesn’t need a helmet. But sorry, I’m preaching to the choir, aren’t I? Thank you for this reasoned, thoughtful comment.

  89. Sue DeVries

    If anyone is concerned about style, check out the Etsy page for these hand-crafted, beautiful helmet transformations: RodeAppleHats No, I am not affiliated – just thought they were too good to keep to myself. And yes, a helmet every ride.

  90. Pingback: Helmets: When Complacency and Experience are Killers. – Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

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