Over the years I’ve had thousands of lessons from many trainers. Lots of phrases stick in my mind from having heard them so many times. “Shorten your reins” comes to mind as an example.
Over these same years, there have been some true “light bulb moments,” lessons learned that have stayed with me.
The first such lesson that made this type of impression on me came when I was about 16. I was a working student that summer and was riding a sales horse that was a junior jumper. He was a ton of fun to ride and would jump anything you rode at. I was having a lesson on him, jumping fences that started around 3’6″ and ended up around 4′. Back then, lots of people didn’t wear helmets. In fact there was no such thing as an “approved” helmet. Being young and foolish, I was riding without mine. About half way through my lesson, my regular trainer came down. When she saw I had no helmet on she insisted that I stop jumping immediately and get one.
I did. A few minutes later, the horse tripped on landing a fence and fell. I was very, very glad that I had that helmet on. Since that day, I have never ridden without a helmet. And now I make sure it’s an approved one, too.
I still don’t understand why some adults choose not to wear helmets. Someone on the Chronicle of the Horse had a signature line that summed it up neatly: If you think your hair style is more important than your brain then it probably is.