Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Got Helmets?

Yes I know, poor grammar!

This is a subject that's been on my mind a lot lately though. (and not just because I almost ate dirt the other day! lol)

Once it was thought that only English riders wore helmets.
Why? Are their brains more important? Are their heads softer?
IMO its because 1) the culture that comes with Western riding and 2) because people assume Western saddles keep a rider more secure. But those are just my personal theories.

Helmets have come a long way, both in "technical" aspects as well as comfort and looks.
People still seem to either love'em or hate'em. Some with reason and some without.
I've heard arguments for both sides. Some good, some not so good.
I agree that its important to protect ourselves as well as possible. I have a helmet. I even wear it sometimes. ;)
We all know that riding and handling horses is potentially dangerous, no matter how well trained the horse is. How many people do you know that are adamant about wearing their helmets when they ride, but never when they are 'just on the ground' handling their horse?
Trust me, lots of people get injured in ways they wouldn't if they had been wearing their helmets then too.
For those Western riders who think helmets are just for English riding, there are several fairly nice "Western-ish" helmets out there:

Troxel's Sierra

Troxel's Cheyenne

?? but I think by Troxel as well

I've heard tons of reasons FOR wearing helmets. But I've been hearing more and more, some seemingly reasonable ones, for NOT wearing a helmet.

Things such as:

*Human skulls were designed to crack to release pressure, a helmet keeps that from happening and therefore sometimes injuries are worse. (from a biker)

*There is some evidence that helmet use makes neck injuries worse. (from a fellow barrel racer that works in the medical field)

*That it gives the rider a false sense of safety and therefore people ride past their skill level/take risks they otherwise wouldn't.

What are your opinions? Do you wear a helmet? Why or why not? Are you considering wearing a helmet?

** this post is not meant to influence for/against helmet use**

*photos found online*


  1. Helmets, helmets, helmets!!!
    I grew up riding and did not wear a helmet, unless I was showing English, for over 28 years and I guess that I got lucky, because I never suffered from a head injury, and I had a bucking bronc for a horse!

    This being said, now that I am a "mom," I wear a helmet and my kids wear one too, although it is not strange to them, because kids have to wear helmets for everything now days.

    My hubby is an EMT/volunteer FF, and he has seen a lot of head trauma-trauma related to motorcycles, ATVs, and horses- and he made it very clear that if I was going to start riding again, I was going to have to wear a helmet.

    Sounds kind of controlling, but I understand his fear, so I just wear one. I guess that I like the thought that there is something between the ground and my head now too!

    Do I think that it is absolutely essential that riders wear helmets...ummmm...probably not. I think that it is a personal decision that people make for various reasons.
    Good post!

  2. Helmet. Definitely. I am a mom and like to think I am a responsible one. Otherwise I would rather wear a cowboy hat. Not to say that when my son gets older that I won’t got back to a hat, but right now, helmet. Defintiely.

  3. people might ride above their skill level with a helmet? gimme some of that! i want the hat of courage! bah, it doesn't work for me, my helmet is just like my seatbelt. without them i just feel less safe.

    i was recently on the east coast (usa) and noticed some states did not have motorcycle helmet laws. i was totally shocked, and worried about them, and then i realized, they know exactly what they are doing, and it is their choice to take that risk. and those harley dudes must really love the feel of the wind in their long hair.

    i'm kind of jealous of the helmet free people, for example, people who ride in cute baseball hats and never get the sun in their eyes. i have this additional duck bill attached to my troxel so i won't get burned or blinded.

    thankfully there are comfortable helmets nowadays, and for cheap. but they all ruin a good hair day.

    ~lytha in germany

  4. As a middle-aged beginning rider, you bet I wear a helmet. Does it give me the courage to "ride beyond my level"? I don't know if it's that, but it does give me a tad more confidence to move forward.

    I think it was on the VLC blog yesterday, where she was talking about that point where you have the choice to play it safe or take a risky but necessary action, but the horse could go either way -- hell, who are we kidding? Stuff can go down in a heartbeat on any horse. at any time, and we've all seen it. Most times, we're graced (lucky).

    That said, do I like wearing my cute little raspberry colored helmet? Hate it. It makes my head hot and my hair look like a dweeb. I used to go without it on rare occasions, but the more confidence I get to push myself and my horse, the more it has become an automatic part of the tacking up routine.

    I want one of the new Troxels that looks like a cowboy hat!

  5. Interesting subject - one for alot of debate...

    I'm pro-helmet now that I'm older. Didn't wear one as a kid, except in shows. Also didn't wear one on my bike, snowmobile or atv! Ah, the late 70's/early 80s!

    I'm sure there are lots of stories for both sides of the coin. I could only wish that a helmet gave me more courage while riding! I'm like the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz ;-)

    I had a bad fall with a concussion when I was 15 - would a helmet have helped? Maybe. I still hit the dirt pretty hard.

    I also fell off once and came *thisclose* to hitting my head on a fence. I'm thinking that the helmet would have helped there.

  6. I don't, and never have, worn a helmet while riding. That being said, it dosen't follow that I'm not in favour of them; I think they are a great idea for children, who do tend to be reckless. As an older rider, I am prepared to take the consequences that are associated with riding, and I do ride to my skill level.

  7. I am one of those who wears a helmet off and on...

    When I am out on the trail on our farm by myself I always wear one. And most times when I am out with a group I wear one. But when I am playing polo I don't...

    I should wear it ALL the time after some of the experiences I've had. I was thrown off a horse once, it kicked me in the head and split open the helmet I was wearing! And once my friend's horse bolted, tried to swerve around me and my horse and I watched her head literally bounce off the pavement as she slid under us. I add insult to injury, she fell underneath my horse who stepped on the back of her head trying to get out of the way. She came out with just a broken heel, a knot in the shape of my mare's rear hoof and amazingly no concussion.

    My nephews are starting to ride and I am buying them helmets. I will make sure they always wear theirs and will set the good example and wear mine.

  8. I do not wear a helmet the majority of the time, which I know some people thought I was dumb for when my mare was getting trained seein how she was a little crazy. Funny thing is that I trusted her. I know animals are very unpredictable. I do wear my helmet any time I ride out of the arena, not that there isn't just as much danger in the arena. I do make my kids wear helmets, and they like it. I know, the whole double standard thing. My kids will even wear helmets in the car on the way out to the barn if we let them. That makes ME feel like a great driver!! lol I'm comfortable with my decision that I made as an adult, and if something should happen, it will happen while I'm doing something I love. I think that helmets do give you more confidence, maybe not to take bad risks, but maybe more risk than you would feel comfortable with than if you did not have a helmet. But not really a conscious false sense of safty to purposely do stupid stuff. I love the Troxel Cheyenne helmet that has the black with the pink stitching.

  9. I have to admit that I do not wear a helmet unless I;m at a show. I jump big and trail ride and gallop and don;t wear one. I never really have unless I was in a lesson or showing. I know the consequences and am nota gainst helmets at all! I think their great and also believe that ALL children should wear them.

  10. Hmmmm...

    I am late to the party again...

    I don't wear a helmet at all unless I am showing English at a show - even then all we are required to wear is a hunt cap - which only provides minimal protection if it happens to stay on as they have no harness. It's mostly so we are adhering to traditional english riding dress - not protection. A certified helmet with harness is only required for jumping.

    Now I have been in 3 serious wrecks with horses - all 3 landed me in the hospital, not a signle one of them involved a head injury or was even close. There have also been several times that my life has been in danger while on or dealing a horse - my head would've been fine each time, but the rest of me would've been toast.

    I have never looked into the reason why not to wear a helmet, so I don't know how valid they are or aren't, it has always been a cultural thing for me - all my friends ride western, we learned western, up until recently I showed western only - and the attitude is: real cowboys just don't wear helmets. The ones that do - and are not recovering from injuries are called very unflattering names of a sexual nature in my world.

    So its a choice for me and I choose to not wear a helmet.

    I don't care if the pro-helmet group launches massive nation wide campaigns for wearing helmets - good for them. I just feel like you shouldn't make people wear them that's all it should stay a choice.

    If groups and clubs want to make rules about wearing helmets for kids - I am all for that, because it protects children from parents who might not purchase the safest horse for them. But once they are like 18 leave them the heck alone.

    Also keep in mind that a child may still die riding a horse even if they are wearing a helmet.

    I sometimes feel that some parents and even adults strap on a helmet and think their kids or themselves are invincible - so they take risks that they wouldn't normally take, or cut-corners on training or warm-up, because the helmet makes them feel "safe".

    If I am scared enough that I think I need to run and get a helmet to climb up on a horse - then I don't ride the horse - period. It has saved my head thus far. And wouldn't it be stupid if I wore a helmet while bike and horse riding all my life and then I died in a car wreck from a head injury that could've been prevented by wearing a helmet while driving????

    Where does it end? At any moment you could kiss your ass goodbye.

    Like the verse in the country song I think about alot..."We ride and never worry about the fall...I guess that's just the cowboy in us all."

  11. Growing up, I didn't wear a helmet. My mom's only rule was that we had to wear helmets if we were jumping. Well, my sister jumped. A helmet saved her life. She came off the horse and was struck in the head by the horse's hoof. It split her helmet in two and she had a major concussion, but she was alive.

    I still didn't wear a helmet after that. Not until after having a major head injury after a car accident. Now, I won't ride without one. And if I'm unsure of a horse but need to handle it's hooves, I wear one. I might look dumb, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

  12. I never have worn a helmet when riding. Don't ever plan on it. I think it is personal perfence. I don't codemn any for wearing one or not, none of my business. I would have to agree and have some of the same things about why not to wear a helmet. I agree with Shirley I know the risk every time I step up on my horse. I don't care if you rode in a plastic bubble, if it's your time to get hurt or worse, it's going to happen. Great post!

  13. Wow great discussion ladies!

    I have been thinking about this because of some rule changes in our barrel racing assoc.
    A helmet rule is being phased in to co-operate with our insuring organization (SHF).
    It is starting with children 12 and under, then over the course of the next few years the age will increase until all minors must wear a helmet.
    I personally think its a good idea for kids to wear helmets. Nothing to do with skill level but more with thought process and decision making abilities.
    What I disagree with is that there has been some talk that eventually it will be the rule that ALL members, regardless of age, must wear a helmet. I think that as an adult it is MY choice.
    I have enough experience with horses, and decision making, to make the choice to wear or not wear a helmet for myself.
    There are lots of other adult members with the same feeling. I think it will hurt our organization (by losing members) if they follow through with this decision.

  14. What a quinky-dink...I was just reading a veterinary article with an obituary in it for a well-respected veterinarian...he was killed by a stallion that he was working on. The horse reared up and pawed him in the head.

    I'm like Stephanie-I've been in a few "wrecks", luckily I have only been hospitalized once...from a kicking incident that broke some ribs, but I have never come close to having a head injury.

    The only other head injury I have every seen personally was when I was clipping my psycho black mare and I had to lightly twitch her to trim her bridle path(I could trim everything else fine-she is just freaky about her poll). A guy was holding her for me and I told him when I handed him the twitch not to stand in front of her(and clearly explained that a twitched horse is likely to strike or jump forward, etc, etc.). I climbed on my bucket and raised the clippers along her neck, about that time I noticed he was standing in front of her again and just as I was opening my mouth to tell him not to stand there, she jumped up and struck him in the forehead. Luckily for him, she didn't have shoes on and only caught him a glancing blow. He bled pretty good but thank god he didn't have a split melon.

    As for helmets-I think a person should do what they are comfortable with.

  15. First- A BIG THANK YOU!!! To Cnd! I cant tell you enough how much it means to me- the support that you and others have offered. I have thought about this, every way from Sunday and am actually doing well...I go from sad, to crying, to settled, to mad, back to sad etc, etc.. but I will be alright. Thanks again. Bless you!

    HELMETS- I have been riding for 14 years, therebout and bought my first helmet this past year (when I bought Shaunti). I wore it on the ground and in the saddle. My DB is always yelling at me to wear it, so I do most days. I hate to admit it, but I dont wear it if I am around my peers/friends. I ALWAYS wear it around the teen/kids at the barn. I hope that over time it will become more socially acceptable (you wont get teased relentlessly for wearing one) by western riders. I think it is smart to wear one as much as possible.

    Here is a thought! Why dont we wear them while driving (cars)!!!! Sounds stupid but driving is really really dangerous and people get head injuries all the time!

    Cant you see it?- People driving around in helmets:)

  16. As a middle-aged beginning rider, I choose to wear a helmet.

    Does it give me the courage to "ride beyond my level"?

    No. Not one iota.

    In fact once that helmet is perched up there on my noggin I even forget it's there.

    Before I decided to get a helmet, I hemmed and hawed about how it would mess up my hair or possibly make me look uncool, but then I said, "How vain of me, to think that way, over safety"

    Yes, I also told myself, the chance of me having a head injury is pretty remote. But it COULD happen, and all I know is that I sleep better at night and work better on my horse just knowing that I've covered the safety bases as best as I can.


  17. AOHCM- ya know, if I had been wearing a helmet in my car accident, I might have not ended up with a blood blister the size of my fist on my noggin. Still probably would have broke the rear windshield with my head, but the helmet would have protected me. (I was a rear seat passenger). While not a bad idea, I just don't see it happening... ever. Too many people would complain about that law.

    Helmets may look uncool, but I'm impressed with how much lighter weight they've gotten and how they aren't as bulky as they were say, 15 years ago.

  18. I like the new helmets a lot better, too - the first one I had looked like a goldfish bowl with velvet over it (and I looked about that great under it, too - lol!). It's probably still sitting on the consignment shelf in the tack shop that was stupid enough to take it when I asked.

    I didn't wear a helmet in all my years growing up until I took English riding lessons out East while I was in college. I haven't worn one since, except for the occasional lesson and once getting on a horse I knew had a tendency to buck when I put an English saddle on him for the first time. But I do own one - a slightly nicer one that breathes better than the old velvet globe - now.

    I've found unless I wear a helmet frequently enough to get used to it, I feel out of balance with one on. But I'm old enough to make my own decision, I guess. Call me cynical, but I suspect that at some point the insurance companies will refuse coverage for horse-related activities where everyone involved isn't wearing a helmet. Sigh.

  19. I wear a seat belt everytime I get in my car, it only makes sense I'd wear a helmet every time I got on a horse. But I'm a safety freak so you could call me an abberation if you were taking a poll. I only rode for a short time in my life, in my early twenties, and it was eniglsh. Everybody, including the instructors, wore helmets. Unlike western, it was considered socially acceptable to wear a helmet. What is up with the totally uncool factor of wearing a helmet in western? Dang cowboys, too much testosterone.

  20. Wear. Helmet.

    Let me counter the arguments again. (I'm late I know, I fell behind on reading blogs). Take the following as further food for thought, if you aren't already sick of it...

    *Human skulls were designed to crack to release pressure, a helmet keeps that from happening and therefore sometimes injuries are worse. (from a biker)

    HA! NO! The pressure builds up AFTER the brain injury, not at the instant it happens. At THAT time, a talented neurosurgeon with an itty bitty diamond-tipped drill makes it possible to relieve pressure in a controlled fashion. The human skull was NOT designed to crack, no more than a chicken's EGG was designed to crack. What a horrific thought.

    "There is some evidence that helmet use makes neck injuries worse. (from a fellow barrel racer that works in the medical field)"

    If your brains are coming out your nose, who cares about your neck?

    "That it gives the rider a false sense of safety and therefore people ride past their skill level/take risks they otherwise wouldn't."

    Umm... honestly, would the person who said this tell me you've never seen an unhelmeted rider take a risk. As a 100% helmeted rider, I can't really say I've ever thought "aw, gee, I'll just try galloping my unbroke horse over that there fixed tire cross-country jump she's never seen before, because I've got a helmet on and I'll be OK!"

    ... and I'm speaking as a resident in trauma surgery AND rider. I learned to ride without a helmet, but these days I couldn't even imagine it. (And I'm quite fond of those new Troxels... the Cheyenne pattern in straight black is on my wishlist).

    If you're moving fast, you ought to wear a helmet. Even if you're moving slow, and you've got a well-controlled horse, you should probably think about it. I'll be wearing one even if I get to 4th level FEI dressage, where it's not "the style", because I know... kids are watching. What kind of an example would I want to set?

    If my husband's baby mare ever gets showable in WP and reining, there'll be a helmet on his head. Hats are for halter classes. He'll be sporting a helmet for sure if he ever does start team penning with his gelding. Cows, horses, and bare heads? Perish the thought.

    (I'm a little sensitive, since I've seen children with crushed heads from runins with horses and cows.)

    My take on helmets is real simple. People with broken skulls ruin my weekend if I happen to be on call. I want to have time to ride my horses, therefore I want other people to wear their helmets so I don't get called in to look after them -- and at least if I do, it's something I can actually fix like a blown out lung or a fractured arm, not just a CT scan of the brain that I just stare at sadly and call the organ donation team.


Wordless Wednesday ~ new trailer!