I had a little accident recently on my horse. I’m fine, my mare’s fine, but it proved to me, once again, how important helmets are.
My husband and I had just mounted up to go on a little hack around the farm on a nice fall day–no fast work, no road riding, just around the fields and trails. We recently put in power to the barn and dug a trench for the new power line that stretches across the road that leads into the barnyard. It had been backfilled with dirt for several months so we didn’t think much about it. However, it rained the night before our ride and what was previously firm footing was now actually mud. So, as Murphy’s Law would have it, as soon as I mounted up my mare stepped back and both her hind legs slid into that ditch. So down we both came and Tully fell on top of me. Instead of a ride on my horse I got a ride in an ambulance instead.
The point of this whole story is that I’m able to sit here and type this blog because I was wearing my helmet. I hit my head pretty hard on the ground so I have no doubt that if I hadn’t been wearing my helmet it would have been a lot worse. I always think stories like this encourage other people to wear their helmets, otherwise it’s easy to get complacent. You start to justify it: “I’m just going around the field, I’m not cantering or jumping; my horse is steady; I haven’t fallen in years so why do I need a helmet?” I’ve trained horses for nearly 20 years now and three of my worst accidents have been from the standstill. Consider these sobering facts from the Equestrian Medical Safety Association: Most injuries occur during pleasure riding. A fall from two feet can cause permanent brain damage; falling off a horse is equivalent to falling eight feet or more above the ground. A human skull can be shattered by an impact of 7-10 kph. Horses can gallop at 65 kph.
The Center for Disease Control reports that head injuries in equestrian activities is on the rise. In 2007 it reported that between 2001 and 2005, 11.7% of all sports related head injuries were from riding horses. That was the most for any single athletic activity.
A good example of the danger of helmet complacency is what happened to Olympian Courtney King-Dye. Courtney is one of our shining stars in dressage. She was in a hurry one day and rode a horse without a helmet. Her horse tripped, she fell off and sustained a very bad head injury. She was in a coma for a very long time. Courtney’s life is changed forever, her family’s life is changed forever. As a result of Courtney’s injury a movement arose for dressage riders (and other disciplines too) to wear helmets. I will let Courtney tell you in her own words:
Just as Courtney said, we are all a role model for someone. So take a moment to dig out your helmet. You never know whose life you might end up saving. I hope my story of dodging a traumatic brain injury helped influence you too. In honor of Courtney’s bravery in telling her own tale and supporting helmet safety, I’m holding a contest. Send me a picture of you riding in your helmet and I’ll put you in the running to win a signed copy of The Original Horse Bible. Send pics to firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries close December 31st.
Here are some great Web sites about helmets and helmet safety:
Equestrian Medical Safety Association www.emsaonline.net