The helmet debate for riding horses is a debate that has been around for years. “Do Helmets and Horses Go Together” is a question many an equestrian has asked. Many say to ride without a helmet is like driving down the highway without a seatbelt on, dangerous and stupid. Others beg to differ, saying they know their horse and they know their abilities, it’s their decision and if they don’t want to wear a helmet, then they shouldn’t have to. I don’t think helmets are a bad idea to wear, especially when riding a horse that you know is a bit more spirited than most. I generally prefer to go without a helmet, it’s more comfortable riding without one than it is with one. I have thick hair and a helmet makes my head hot which can be rather distracting. At the end of the day however, safety trumps comfortability.
According to “11 reasons people don’t wear helmets while horseback riding” on www.thespruce.com/why-people-dont-wear-helmets-1886303 , the number one excuse people use to not use a helmet when riding is “It’s my head, and I’m willing to take the risk.” While it is your head, have you ever thought about what happens if your head meets an arena wall or round-pen panel and leaves you with permanent, debilitating injury? Have you stopped to think about who’s going to have to take care of you because you can’t care for yourself due to your injury? It IS your head and you need to show that you care about your head by taking the necessary pre-cautions to keep it safe. The second reason people say they won’t wear helmets, according to the same article, is because “I can’t wear a helmet in the show ring without being penalized.” This is true, in most Western shows wearing a helmet is not allowed, you either wear a hat or nothing at all. It would be nice if helmets were allowed when competing at all levels of competitions in all disciplines, I don’t know that I’d necessarily make it a rule to wear one, but I’d definitely leave it as an option so that those who want to wear one, can without being penalized.
“Helmets are hot and uncomfortable” is another reason given in the article, “11 Reasons People Don’t Wear Helmets While Horseback Riding” on www.thespruce.com/why-people-dont-wear-helmets-1886303 . I’ll admit I’ve used this excuse on hot summer days before, I have lots of hair and it’s pretty thick which makes wearing a helmet uncomfortable and therefore distracting from the horse I’m on. There are different styles of helmets out there such as Troxel and Ovation and Tipperary and IRH, but there aren’t many that I know of that allow for your head to breathe in the hot, summer heat. Still, “my head is too hot”, isn’t a valid excuse to not wear a helmet. According to an article written by Jane E. Theodore, Sigrid G. Theodore, Kellie A. Stockton and Roy M. Kimble, “Paediatric horse-related trauma”, “Included in the analysis were 187 incidents involving 171 patients. Most patients were aged 12-14years (36.9%) and female (84.5%). The most common MOI were falls while riding horses (97.1%). Mild TBI (24.6%) and upper limb fractures (20.9%) were common injuries sustained. Patients who wore helmets had significantly reduced hospital LOS and severity of TBI when compared with those who did not wear helmets (P<0.001 and P=0.028, respectively). Morbidity was reported in 7.5% of patients.” Knowing that it would stand to reason that riding with a helmet is a lot safer for the rider in the long run.
On the flip-side of the “Great Helmet Debate”, there are those who say helmets are unnecessary and do nothing to keep you safe. On a blog written by Laura Crum, equestrianink.blogspot.com/2013/05/helmets-do-not-keep-you-safe.html, she says “ I’ve heard it once too often. Something along the lines of “Stay safe—wear a helmet.” I just can’t let it pass any longer. People, helmets do not keep you safe. They protect your head in certain specific ways. The rest of you is just as vulnerable as ever. The last three horseback riding fatalities that I personally knew about would not have been changed by wearing a helmet. In fact, in one case the person WAS wearing a helmet. And that child was just as dead as if she hadn’t been wearing one.” She has a point, helmets protect your head in certain ways, but they don’t protect your neck, back, arms, legs, ribs, etc. According to kidshealth.org/en/teens/helmets-concussion.html, “No helmet can prevent concussions. There’s no way to keep the brain from moving inside the skull. If you hit your head hard enough, your brain can bang into the hard bone and cause a concussion.”
A helmet can prevent things such as fractures to the skull and some cuts and abrasions, but it can’t prevent a concussion or a broken neck or arm from a fall. In March of this year, a 10 year old girl in Texas, was killed during a barrel racing accident. Her horse spooked and flipped itself backwards onto her, she had severe internal injuries and her heart stopped before they could get her to the hospital. It was tragic experience and the horse world paused and was silent as they mourned the loss of a young equestrian. She did not have a helmet on, and it wouldn’t have mattered if she had been wearing one, it wasn’t her head that got hurt, it was her organs. In May of last year another little girl, 12 year old Kalee Chandler, was running barrels when her horse flipped himself on top of her. She was crushed and killed almost immediately, a helmet wouldn’t have done her any justice either. Both these girls died of tragic riding accidents and shall be missed dearly by their loved ones and by those they rode with.
Laura Crum says on her blog, equestrianink.blogspot.com/2013/05/helmets-do-not-keep-you-safe.html, “However, I do NOT believe my helmet keeps me safe. And those who think that helmets keep them “safe” are putting themselves in greater jeopardy than if they weren’t wearing the helmet at all. Because doing foolish things and imagining you are safe because you are wearing a helmet is the path to a serious horse wreck.” It has been said that helmets give a false sense of security, kind of like a seatbelt in a car. Just because you are wearing a seatbelt doesn’t mean you’re invincible and can start doing crazy driving, the same can be said about riding with a helmet. Just because you have a helmet on doesn’t mean you and your horse should start doing things that you normally wouldn’t do without a helmet on. The same safety pre-cautions you take when riding without a helmet, should be taken when riding with one.
In conclusion, at the end of the day it comes down to responsibility. You are responsible for yourself, nobody is responsible for you and your well-being. If you feel most comfortable without a helmet and are willing to face the consequences of what may occur should you get injured while riding without one, then please, don’t wear a helmet. If you feel most comfortable with a helmet and want to protect your head, then wear one. If I ever think for a minute I might be at risk of falling off or getting hurt, then usually I’ll wear a helmet, I’ve spent more time in a helmet than I have without one, it depends on how I feel that day. You know what’s best for you and as long as you live with it, then you do you.
Blocksdorf, Katherine. “11 Bad Excuses Not to Wear a Helmet When You Ride a Horse.” The Spruce, 0 Mar. 17ADAD, http://www.thespruce.com/why-people-dont-wear-helmets-1886303. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
Crum, Laura. “Equestrian Ink.” Helmets Do NOT Keep You Safe, 1 Jan. 1970, equestrianink.blogspot.com/2013/05/helmets-do-not-keep-you-safe.html. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.
Theodore, Jane E, et al. “Paediatric horse-related trauma.” Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, vol. 53, no. 6, 2017, p. 543+. Academic OneFile, lcc.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=lom_lansingcc&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA493906689&it=r&asid=fe2ca0b3b1ca1b64eafaecc0cac1c3ff. Accessed 4 Oct. 2017.