Let’s talk about your head. Maybe it’s big, maybe it’s small. It might be full of hair, or missing the days it was. It has lots of good (and not-so-good) stuff in it. Whatever it contains and whatever it looks like, I promise you, we all have a couple things in common. First, it’s super important. Second, it’s not invincible.
In fact, it is pretty fragile. Add this fragility to the equation of being on the back of an unpredictable horse and you have a pretty daunting problem. However, I am here to tell you that there is a simple solution! A helmet! They come in all shapes, sizes and colors to fit all shapes, sizes, and colors.
The inspiration of this post came from two sources. This week on the Facebook group Minnesota Horses, a member asked why people wear helmets. Similarly, Norway recently passed a law that all riders in all disciplines are now required to wear a helmet during competition. These two things had my wild-but-safe self geeking out.
The responses on the open discussion post included close-calls, realizations that life is too good to risk not wearing a helmet, lists of people they want to live for, and scary tales of falls that would have been catastrophic if they had not been wearing a helmet. There were countless people that had been taken to the emergency room, and had the cracked or shattered helmet to show.
At first, I was hesitant to write this post. Who wants to hear my opinion? I had the realization that by having a blog, I am always, by extension, sharing my opinion. And this is an opinion I will hold on tight to and fight for. And who am I to tell someone what to do? This post might offend someone; I respect your choice. By the same token, if this post causes someone to think twice about wearing a helmet and then actually wearing it at least once, I will be so happy. It’s not like you have to go out and buy a Samshield Helmet, a Troxel will do, or anything else ASTM/SEI. (I mean, the prior costs about the same as a down payment on a house. I am convinced they must be made with fairy dust or something.)
Many are familiar with the story of Courtney King Dye, the olympian who was schooling a young horse when he tripped and fell and she hit her head. She was in a coma for nearly a month. She was not wearing a helmet. Spanning to another discipline, Fallon Taylor is a competitive barrel racer who suffered a broken neck. She now promotes helmets so much so that she has her own line of Troxel Helmets. The list goes on an on; how many stories will it take to convince those who don’t to wear a helmet to put one on?
For me, it was something that was never questioned. I am not sure why, though. I never remember my parents making me when I was younger. (They know how I feel about wearing a helmet now and are relieved.) I grew up as a barn rat at a stable where it was required. Was my habit started then? But at the same time, I was running wild and free without supervision in fields on the backs of barely-started welsh ponies; I was still never without my helmet then. I don’t remember being grateful I had a helmet on when Kelso took off on me two weeks after I got him; I broke the majority of the fall with my head and suffered a mild concussion. While I don’t have vivid memories of being thankful for my safety gear, I am sure I was and I sure am now.
I have watched countless falls and near misses to know the precariousness of this passion. I have been in the presence of a woman who broke her pelvis after a freak fall; thankfully, she was wearing a helmet. That ambulance call was one I would like to never relive, and I like to think I lessen the chances by popping a hat on my head.
We get in cars and wear seat belts without talking about how uncomfortable/hot/ugly/etc. they can be; these are objects that are manufactured, tested, and supposedly ones we have complete control over. When compared to this, it truly baffles me that people will get on innately wild animals with no safety measures. No matter how good the rider or the horse, it is something that shouldn’t be questioned. Every horse. Every ride. Every time.
Stepping off my soap box and off to go wear my helmet,
Erin and the Wonder Pony
Week One Trivia Answer: Guérinière is credited for the invention of the shoulder-in; he insists it be on four tracks. Guérinière was a french man, and is one of the fathers of classical dressage; his teachings were the basis of the system for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. He was also the ecuyer (a title used to express a rider/teacher) to The Sun King.
Week Two Trivia: What is the alternate name for the passage at the Spanish Riding School?