When It Comes to Helmets, Don’t Horse Around

by DFS-Pet-Blog on September 28, 2009

**Guest post from Monica S.**

Genie, my exceptionally well-trained and quiet horse :)

Genie, my exceptionally well-trained and quiet horse 🙂

Why wear an ASTM/SEI certified helmet when you ride a horse? There are lots of reasons that people wear safety helmets when they ride: You have a young horse that’s new to this whole carrying a rider thing. Your horse is nervous until she settles in to a new environment. You ride in an English discipline (where a helmet is a required part of rider turnout). You’re training a youngster (a DEFINITE reason to have a helmet on if not a protective riding vest too). Or, like me, you wear a helmet when you ride because you like to keep your mind as unscrambled as possible!

Some people argue that they have an exceptionally well-trained and quiet horse, so why do they need a helmet? To them I offer these two following wild rides that I have experienced with my Quarter Horse mare Genie. Genie is one of those horses that you reach for when a child or inexperienced rider needs a mount. You know … an exceptionally well-trained and quiet horse. 🙂

Wild ride #1:
Two months after bringing Genie home, I was practicing for the upcoming Pleasure shows. It had been raining earlier in the day (not enough to make the arena a mud-pit, just enough to wet down the dust), but had cleared up enough to ride in the afternoon.

While going around the arena at a nice lope, a dog shot out from under the fence and appeared to be heading for the road. I started to rein Genie in, but then saw him turn and head back to the house, so I gave Genie back some rein. Well … I picked a spot with just a slight upwards incline to do this & she tripped, sending both of us flipping through the air and landing hard on the ground.

She jumped right back up and was no worse for wear, me, not so much! I did get back on once the tweety birds flew away, but I ended up at the hospital the following morning (and I got scolded big time from the doctor for not coming in immediately). I had a concussion, broke the left side of my lower jaw, compressed my vertebrae, sprained and strained my left wrist, elbow and shoulder, and blew out both my knee caps. The doctor said had I not been wearing a helmet, I most likely would not have made it.

Some of the damage that my helmet thankfully took ...

Some of the damage that my helmet thankfully took ...

Wild ride #2:
Fast forward 7 years (08.27.09). Genie is now 22 years old, but still has the energy of a 4 year old. We were out enjoying a nice trail ride with the barn owner and her sister and decided to canter a bit on this nice flat piece of trail. Genie is very competitive, which is a benefit in some of the disciplines I ride her in, but NOT when you want a nice, quiet trail ride. We argued that she should continue at a nice canter and not gallop on past the lead horse.

During our argument, I lost my right stirrup and with it went my balance. She zigged, I zagged and wham! I hit the ground so hard I swear my head split open. After regaining my composure and standing up, I took my helmet off & examined it for damage. Thankfully, it did its job and there was only minor scratches and a few shallow gouges where I hit a rock or two. So, back to the doctor with another concussion and a concussion to my spinal cord (never heard of this before, but that’s what the doctor called it). Again … I was told that had I NOT been wearing a helmet, the outcome may not of been so bright.

So, the next time you saddle up and head out on a ride, think about the fact that horses are unpredictable and that no matter how well trained, accidents happen. You family and friends will thank you for taking the time to protect yourself.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Terri October 1, 2009 at 4:57 pm

I am so glad you wore your helmet both days. My helmet has saved me a couple times also. And it’s true that even the most calm and well trained horses can have their days where they either get naughty or just spook (there is always something out there that your horse has never seen or heard before and so I don’t believe there is a completely bomb-proof horse). I wear mine faithfully too now. Wish I had one when I was a kid….no one wore them that long ago and boy I sure had my share of involuntary dismounts!

Monica S. October 2, 2009 at 8:36 am

I totally agree Terri! We never wore helmets when we were kids, and I came SO close with a couple of falls. I purchased my first helmet when I was 12 (my parents did that is). I think I am on my 6th one now. Its a purchase that I can’t live without.

Lisa October 3, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Wow Monica! What amazing stories of luck & survival! You were soo very lucky!

Like you, I made the mistake of not wearing a helmet on one scary ride. I was riding my Aunt’s horse bare back{no saddle} in our yard without a helmet. It was a slow pace walk. Using only a rope as a lead. The horse was being led around the yard by my mother. Suddenly, the horse lurched, spooked by something in the brush. I was thrown forward. I grabbed around the horse’s neck. Dangling from the horse neck, I held on for dear life as he was panicing and began to run. I lost my grip around his neck & fell to the ground, head first. My leg, at the knee, was caught in the rope around his neck. He ran the 1/2 acre lot with me in tow like an unpaid stunt woman! The back of my leg was being torn into by the rope. The rest of me was being dragged along the rough terrain. My leg became free, but it wasn’t over yet. The horse turned around and was running back towards me. Afraid I’d be trambled, I moved just in time. Luckily, I only sustained injury to my leg due to the rope. No head injury from the fall. If the horse hadn’t caught me, without a helmet, the fall could’ve injured me severely. Like with your stories, my best advice to anyone riding a horse, Please wear a Helmet when riding!

Monica S. October 5, 2009 at 8:36 am

Lisa, thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so glad to hear that you did not sustain a head injury. Hopefully, your story will help inspire others to purchase & wear an ASTM/SEI certified helmet.

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