Lessons Remembered: Always Wear Your Helmet

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.

Starting to wear a helmet as a kid starts a good lifelong habit.
Starting to wear a helmet as a kid starts a good lifelong habit.

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.

7 thoughts on “Lessons Remembered: Always Wear Your Helmet

  1. Good timing!
    I’m alive because I wear one each time I ride. My monstrously tall Perch/TB gelding, Buster, who admittedly was too much horse for me, decided one day on an unscheduled departure from the dressage arena in what developed into a full gallop. Over a large gully we went, and off I came.
    Mouth full of sod. Broken helmet, split right down the middle. One half cut my face and head, the other lay on the ground. It looked like it had been dissected in biology class. Even with the helmet, I got my second concussion. I think I’d have been dead without it.
    When I see someone without a helmet, I never know whether to say anything or not. I WANT to, I really want to. Especially if it’s a child, and the parent is there. Sometimes I do, and then sometimes I don’t.

    1. Sounds like quite a fall! I have yet to crack a helmet open but I’ve certainly done my best to accomplish that.

      It drives me nuts to see people who don’t wear helmets. What bugs me the most are when trainers and professional riders school without them. Their students all look up to them and you know they’ll copy the bad behavior along with the good.

  2. I’m a card carrying member of the Hit The Dirt Club. I *never* ride without a helmet. And I too, am alive today because of it. I suggest we all keep a broken helmet at our barns. I did. When one of the kids started fussing about how hot it was and how itchy the helmet made him, I showed him the broken one,and said, “I get it. It’s hot and you’re itchy, but what if this helmet had been your head?”
    I’ve trotted it out on occasion with a few parents as well. It really bothers me to see trainers and top level riders not wearing helmets. Our kids need to see helmets as normal, not something you “outgrow”.

    1. Considering how many people I know who feel that they are alive today because of a helmet, I wonder why it’s so difficult to convince people that it’s important? Or why magazines keep publishing photos of people riding without helmets in their “how to” articles. I was once at a dressage camp where one of the trainers insisted that anyone who rode with her had to wear a helmet. There were several riders who had to borrow them because they hadn’t brought them to the clinic!

  3. Absolutely! Get in the habit and you will stay safe. I myself had a hard time wearing a helmet as a guy but they even make one that looks like my resistol! Now if they only made it in Palm leaf, I would be a very happy guy.

    Great blog and added you to my roll. Can wait to poke around a little more.


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