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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Food for Thought

On Stable Scoop (Horse Radio Network), they interviewed the author of Austrailian-based blog,

He made a comment about riders wearing helmets, put in a way I had never heard before. I have no data to back this up, but in my opinion, it rings true.

  • Beginners should wear helmets because they tend to come off more than experienced riders.
  • Experienced riders should wear helmets because although they come off less often then beginners, their falls tend to be "harder" and more critical when they do occur.

I had never thought about that before. Yes, I have less falls now, and yes, I think if I DO come off, it's going to be because something really weird or bad happens and it will *probably* result in a worse fall.

Does this ring true to you? If you are an expereinced rider that hasn't come off in a while, do you think that your next fall will have a probability of a poor outcome, compared to your beginner days?

I think there is a multitude of factors of why I think experienced rider falls are worse.

  • I probably would be able to stay on longer during a dicey situation and wouldn't bail as soon.
  • As I get better at riding, the stakes are raised. For example, now I'm jumping solid cross country jumps, riding trails that are more narrow, have drop offs etc.
  • I ride more. Time in the saddle is important for getting better and therefore reducing the amount of falls, BUT the more time you spend on the horse, the more time you expose yourself to the possibility of a fall.

I think this argument for the type of falls and frequency of falls between beginners and experienced riders certaintly bears thinking about if you decide to not wear a helmet because you've "outgrown that phase" - you haven't come off in a while, and your riding has improved to the point where you don't *think* you'll come off at all.

It's also a warning to us experienced riders to not to get complacent - just because I haven't come off in a while doesn't mean it can't happen and when it does....there's no guarentee that I will walk away from it like I have for the past 50 or so falls.


  1. Am I totally aberrant? I've come off a horse 5 times in 3 years, and two of those were tree branch clotheslinings at a walk. If I had to guess, I'd say it's because I ride horses that bolt or leap sideways instead of bucking.

    Anyway, I wear a helmet because I need to have my wits about me to walk home. Getting concussed alone immune desert sounds disastrous.

  2. I think that is a good observation. Just getting hit in the head with big branches is reason enough for me (on those small, technical trails you mentioned). Also, on long rides, especially alone, I'd like to be able to walk back! Very appropriate, as I came off my horse yesterday, first time in a year, when my sponge became an alligator...sigh...

  3. Ahhhh yes...the long toothed horse eating sponge, mine is blue, what color is your's? *LOL*

    I was feeling pretty good last month that it had been a long time since I'd come off. So off I went! Nearly had a repeat yesterday over a horse eating square bale of hay. How can a horse be desensitized to HAY??? She sees the bales every day!

    My helmet has already saved me from drooling or death once. A hole bashed in it, and I saw stars. Without the helmet I doubt I'd be here checking out my favorite blogs. ~E.G.

  4. It's been almost 2 years since I've come off (thanks to no longer owning Minx!). I keep waiting for it. I was more casual about wearing a helmet when I was younger and still might hop on every now and then without one, but I'm WAY better about wearing one now that I've paid lots and lots (and lots) of money for my education and I CANNOT do my job with impaired brain function and would be FORCED to go back and live with my parents as a vegetable.....and no one (least of all me and my parents) wants that!

  5. It's a long way to the ground.
    I'm often travelling rather quickly.
    My juniors (and former juniors) are watching me.
    I like my brain the way it is.

  6. I started riding when I was 2 years old, 40-something years ago. I wear a helmet ANY time I get on a horse, because I have seen the results of head meets ground. Even from horses that were just standing still while someone sat in a saddle to see how it felt.

  7. Amen brother (and sister)!

  8. Hmm, I think I hit the ground just as hard now as I did when I had my first ever riding lesson at 12 years old - and fell off.

    I never get on the horse without a helmet, regardless as to its docility - it just takes one trip and you end up a vegetable - no fun for family or friends.

    As for coming off - yes, I'm falling off less, mostly due to Roo being on rest-n-rehab :))

  9. I think as you get to be a better rider you get more confident, and sometimes that makes us foolish. :)

    Case in point, I was riding a new horse for the first time and loving how responsive he was. Anxious to do more, I opened the gate to the round yard to come out into the arena, and he LEAPED out, I got caught up in the gate and saddle, hit the ground VERY HARD, and was in and out of consciousness for awhile until I was able to summon help. I was a babbling idiot for about 25 minutes once regaining consciousness, and kept in hospital for several hours. Thank goodness I had my helmet on. And thank goodness it is just a simple habit to put a helmet on - I will not go without one!

    Had I been a less experienced rider I might have either:
    a) done the same thing out of ignorance and still needed my helmet, or, more likely
    b) been unnerved by his high energy/responsiveness and stayed in the safety of the round yard or gotten off.

    Lesson learned: If you're on a strange horse, take every precaution, no matter how good you think you are!

  10. I grew up in pony club therefore it was always ingrained in me to wear my helmet. I think I slept in that thing for years! Then I went to college in the west and no one wore a helmet. I got out of the habit for a long time, even took a couple falls without a helmet and managed to walk away. About 5 years ago, a good friend who is an Occupational therapist sat me down one day and told me a couple of gruelling stories of riders who are were her patients. They can't feed themselves, they can't talk, they can't walk, never will again, because of a fall off a horse and hitting their head. In both cases, it was very likely that their current state could have been avoided had they been wearing a helmet.. That story woke me up and I went back to wearing a helmet. Riding horses is risky business, but we can all do as much as we can to protect ourselves. I am thinking about going back to wearing a protective body vest like I used to when I was eventing.I know alot of people going starting to do the same thing. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it as I say...

  11. When you are at Tevis be sure to check out the self-inflating safety vests. Stephanie Palmer DuRoss demo'd one for us at Strawberry and everybody was very impressed. Seriously cool product! I bet there will be a few riders using them at Tevis.

  12. All my falls (and near falls) as a riding adult (after a long break from riding - a 20 year break after 20 years of riding) have been in freak situations. The worst fall I ever had was as a teenager jumping cross-country, when my horse fell just before a fence, for no reason that I know of - just tripped. That was in the days before approved helmets and my helmet just came off before I hit. I just don't tend to come off any more except in freak or extreme circumstances, and yes I think that means the risk of injury might be higher. I'm an experienced rider, but all that means is that I'm experienced enough to know that nothing is certain when it comes to horses and that anyone can come off at any time. A helmet may not save you but at least it gives you a better chance of not ending up brain-damaged or dead.


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