Jessica Jahiel's HORSE-SENSE
True Helmet Stories from HORSE-SENSE Readers

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One rider's helmet story by Vanessa

I promised myself that when I was released from the hospital, I would write you a thank-you letter. I hope other young adult and young-at-heart adult riders will listen when you tell them that helmets are not just for children or beginners - they are for everyone.

I am the kind of person who would never put a child or a beginner on a horse without a well-fitting helmet. Ever. Period. But I'm older, more experienced - and I don't plan on falling off of the horse I ride. :) So, the other day, I debated whether or not I needed to wear my helmet during an 'ordinary' dressage lesson. More out of habit than sense, I buckled it on.

Less than an hour later, I was in the emergency room.

If I hadn't been wearing that helmet, I would have been in the morgue.

Please understand, I am a good rider. I've been on horses for almost 20 years; I'm a Training level eventer who up until recently was riding three or four young, green horses every day. This time, I was riding a dead-quiet, sweetheart schoolmaster in a lesson.

Unfortunately, that schoolmaster was stung by the King of All Bees about ten minutes into the lesson. He bucked so hard, as I came off, I saw the top of a timer-box that is EIGHT feet above the arena floor.

I don't remember hitting the ground. I don't remember riding in the ambulance or having my clothes cut off me. I don't know what my attending physician told my parents and my boyfriend when no one could say with any certainty if I was going to be all right.

Thank heavens, I ended up with "only" a nasty concussion and (hopefully only temporarily) impaired vision. When I returned to the barn, in my tack closet I found my helmet, with a neat crack running up one side.

Without that helmet, that crack would have been in my head.

I've taken a lot of ribbing for wearing a helmet, but as my finger caught on one sharp, broken edge, the chilling reality of my situation dawned on me. It occurred to me, I'm not a kid anymore. I don't heal as fast or as well, and I have certain responsibilities as an adult. I thought, "How could I have ever explained to my loved ones that I was lying there horribly injured (or worse) because I cared more about what a bunch of strangers said and thought than about how much I meant to them?" I am not immortal -- but I *am* inestimably precious to those who love me. To them, I cannot - I dare not - make excuses.

Please, people need to understand: accidents can happen any time, on any horse. It doesn't matter whether or not you're a good rider. AND, the better the horse, the more sensitive and powerful he is, and will be when the King of All Bees visits YOUR ride.

Riding is a fun, wonderful sport, and while no one needs to be afraid of riding, everyone does need to be sensible. It's one thing to *have* an accident - it's another thing to *invite* one.

I know you believe strongly in rider (and horse and just plain human) safety - I think some people think helmets are for children and beginners. I hope you will continue to educate them otherwise, and if you feel that my experience would be a useful teaching tool, please feel free to use it.

Thank you again for your tireless effort and dedication to the *true* art of riding. And, if it is at all heartening, the more I learn (and live), especially from you, the more I am trying to take it up myself, learn from, and educate others.


Thankfully A. Live :)

PS: I was an elemetary school teacher, so I'm used to tacking things up on refrigerators - my dad was a mortician, and I ended up with kind of a morbid sense of humor, especially about my own mortality. :) Feel free to change or edit the subject and/or text to suit your audience. But it did happen, and I AM Thankfully A. Live. :)

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