Ever since I started taking riding lessons four years ago, I have been told never to get on a horse without wearing a helmet. I never questioned the need for one as I considered it like wearing a seatbelt in a car or a helmet while riding a bike; sometimes annoying but always necessary. Whenever someone questions the need to wear a helmet or asks how a helmet can save their life I tell them my story.
About a year after starting lessons I attended a two day camp for the lesson students and horse owners at my stable. On the last day of camp we were allowed to hop on some of the lesson horses bareback. After getting used to the feel of them bareback, the lesson students divided into teams and started relay races. Each horse was to trot back and forth across the arena, carrying riders back and forth until all the riders of the same team were on the same side. Pretty soon the majority of the riders were feeling confident so we decided to make it a little hard and canter back and forth instead of trotting.
Within minutes the horses had caught on to the game we were playing. Each horse started anticipating taking off the minute riders sat down on their back with the hopes of pleasing their young riders and being first to the far wall. Each team was supposed to help get the current rider on. I was by far the tallest rider in my group, beating my team mates by at least a couple inches so mounting was difficult and took longer for me. As my fellow riders gave me a leg up, the horse, Abra, felt me get one leg over and took off cantering, determined to beat the other horses back across.
Not quite on all the way on when Abra took off, I slid head first off the far side of Abra. When I landed, my helmet cracked on the outside and the inner adjustable band broke off the inside of the helmet. I, on the other hand, was perfectly fine and ran to catch up to my run away horse. Had I not worn a helmet, the helmet may not have been the only thing cracked. Landing on my head, I could have gotten a concussion, been paralyzed, or even dead. It is hard to believe doing something as simple as a helmet could have possibly saved my life.
I know other riders who did not think helmets are important who got concussions that were avoidable if they had worn a helmet. I have heard many excuses including I do not jump, I am only trail riding, my horse is well trained, my horse would never throw me, I am not going to go fast, and it messes up my hair. I preach to these people the importance of helmets and that when working with horses any situation could become dangerous. Abra is the most kid safe, well broke, calm horse I know yet I took what was probably my most dangerous fall off of him. My advice to every equestrian I meet is to wear a helmet any time you’re on a horse because you never know when you are going to need one.
- Lauren Engeman