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

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Miss my sister by Beth

My 25-year-old sister was delivering Christmas presents with her husband of 7 months. She was riding her horse of many years, the "bomb-proof, babysitter horse" and no one really knows what happened. She was doing what had become a Christmas tradition for her - dressing up as one of Santa's helpers and delivering, on horseback, gifts to other tenants on the farm where she rented a house. Her husband was riding a greenbroke mare they had been working with for some months, but because my sister was riding the horse she had owned for probably 10 years, who was "bombproof", never shied at anything, etc. etc. she was carrying "Santa's sack" of tins of peanut brittle. It was late and they were in a hurry. The horses were not being overly cooperative, so she sent her husband back to the barn. He left her standing on the ground tightening her saddle. The next he saw of either of them was her horse coming thru the woods. He suspected he would find my sister waiting at the barn, but when she was not there he returned to where he had left her. She was unconcious, on the ground. Within 2 days she was dead from a head injury, sustained when, according to the best anyone could determine from the investigation that followed, the back of her head hit a nearby tree. Although we had worn helmets, as required, when we took riding lessons as children we never wore them anymore. Ironically, we had begun to recognize (age does that I think) the potential danger of being thrown and she was receiving a western style hardhat for Christmas. That hat was given to me instead that Christmas and although it was an incredibly difficult thing to put that on my head and climb on my horse without her, I did, feeling it was a legacy she had left for me. I wore that helmet until the straw covering came off, when I traded it for one of the current astm style schooling helmets. Before my children ever began to ride, they received helmets and have been instructed to wear them even when working on the ground around their pony. I do not even "pop them up" for a second on their pony or one of my horses without sending them for their helmets. It's been 15 years since that accident and I miss my sister no less now than the day she died. I never ride that I don't think of her. The "bombproof mare" is still, at 30+ years old, part of my family and my children ride her. She has not spooked at anything since that day my sister was injured. There has been much speculation about what could have caused the accident: the noisy cans of peanut brittle, a loose saddle, separating the horses, the late hour of the day, a wild animal - we will never know exactly the cause and you can never know when the once in a lifetime, completely unpredictable, incident will occur.

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