This article is kindly provided by Jean White. A modified form of this article first appeared in the Florida Sport Horse magazine. http://www.floridasporthorsemagazine.com/
“Think about falling off your horse. You might as well because it is going to happen.
The better you ride the harder you fall. Think of the movement it takes to get a beginner rider unseated. A five year old rider’s pony gives a big cough and oops, down the neck and onto the ground. Or, an adult beginner’s horse does a little spook and pop, slip, flop with the rider sliding down the horse’s shoulder and onto the ground. It doesn’t take much movement to unseat the beginner. There is usually not much in the way of speed or power to their falls when they are appropriately mounted. Now take the strong professional or amateur with a great seat. They tend to ride high powered, quick, and sensitive horses. They do not come off with a simple stumble, buck, leap, rear, or bolt. It has to be an exceptionally high powered or prolonged incident to get them off. Beginners fall off. Good riders get launched.
How to lessen your risk of injury? Since you are going to fall off at some point, you might as well try to lessen your risk of injury. Wear a helmet. They are not that hot or uncomfortable so don’t try to go there with me. They are not that attractive I grant you, but neither are football helmets, boxing helmets, bicycle helmets, race car helmets, baseball helmets, or any other kind of sports helmet. But, professionals and amateurs in these sports are all wearing them and some are getting paid in the millions while looking dorky in their helmet. Now you are going to tell me that if you get killed while not wearing a helmet that is your right and nobody else’s business. Well, that is your right as long as you DO die and have enough insurance to get a nice funeral so no one else has to pay. But, like as not you will not die but will just have a head injury and someone close to you will be the one having to take you to the bathroom and wipe the drool off your chin. So, you see, it is not just your risk. By not wearing a helmet you risk changing someone else’s life also. Helmets also keep the harsh Florida sun off your face. What looks more embarrassing; a helmet while riding or bandages all over your face when they cut off the skin cancer? But your horse is really quiet so you don’t have to wear a helmet? Yes, you do. I once witnessed a tragedy involving a very quiet horse. While on a ride to raise money for a charity, one of the horse’s in the ride got loose. A woman on a very good and quiet horse turned her horse sideways to block the loose horse from continuing down the paved road. The loose horse couldn’t stop on the pavement and slid into the quiet horse. Quiet horse went down and the helmetless rider died. So, it may not be your quiet horse that is the problem. Wear your helmet all the time and every time.
Body protectors are another way to lessen your risk of injury. Would a baseball catcher be without his chest protector? Would a hockey goalie be with out his?
Fit and Function? There are now so many different styles and shapes of helmets. Got a huge round head? There is a helmet that will fit you. A tiny oval head? There is a helmet that will fit you. You can purchase an approved helmet in styles that range from plain Jane $29.99 to a custom made $900.00. You can get approved helmets that are under beautiful hats made for Pleasure Driving, or one that is a derby, or one that is a cowboy hat. Helmet design continues to improve both in looks and in safety.
Helmets laws? While there is no helmet laws that require adults to wear helmets there is one for children. The law, named Nicole’s Law, was signed into effect in October 2009. Nicole Hornstein loved horses with a passion understood by horse crazy girls everywhere. When Nicole’s dad Gary Hornstein bought her “Fred” her life changed. Nicole blossomed from a depressed and over-weight child into an athletic young girl. One of Gary’s rules for riding is always wear a helmet. Nicole, like a lot of young riders, didn’t like her helmet. The cost of this last helmetless ride was her life. On the day of her funeral Gary decided to try and spare another child’s life. And so Gary started a journey that ended in creating Nicole’s Law.
Would many of the children that die or suffer brain damage every year from falls from their cherished horses be wearing their helmets if they had better adult role models? If trainers, instructors, and famous competition riders always rode and were photographed wearing helmets they just might save the life of a child. Is it worth it to you?
NOTE: Nicole’s Law only applies to the state of Florida.