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

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Peer Pressure is NOT an excuse to forego a helmet!! by Lisa

It has always been a dream of mine to ride along the beach, but as the towns around the coasts develop, opportunities decrease each year. I finally got the chance, however, when my husband, children, and I were vacationing in Myrtle Beach, SC, during Thanksgiving one year. We saw an info-mercial on TV about a riding stable in a nearby town, and my sweet husband, knowing about my longstanding dream, agreed to watch the kids while I went on a beach ride.

At the tidy, well-run stable, I and nine other people were required to sign the usual liability releases; we were also given the option of wearing safety helmets. Anyone who declined was required to sign an additional release stating that they knew the risks but decided against wearing a helmet. None othe other clients chose to wear a helmet, even though, by their dress, I could tell that they weren't knowlegeable about riding! I debated whether to wear one or not for a few moments; after all, riding stable horses are usually deadheads, and after all, I'd ridden for over two decades... However, I remembered that I'd always vowed to wear a helmet, and besides, I truly DIDN'T know these horses, or their caregivers. So, I was the only "dork" with a helmet on.

The stable had a paddock that everyone was to ride in before embarking on the beach ride, so that we could make sure that we and our horses were a good match (GREAT idea)... One of the women, who was wearing a windsuit and tennis shoes, was on a horse that began to trot; as the windsuit flapped and fluttered, the horse became increasingly startled. The rider instinctively hunched forward, her horse went faster, the windsuit crackled more noisily, and the race was on. The horse headed toward a fence, made a sharp turn to avoid it, and the rider went flying off and hit the fence headfirst. She was rendered unconscious, and required immediate emergency treatment. Strangely, her daughter, who witnessed the fall, dashed over on HER horse, also fell off, and hit the fence nearby; she was only dazed, fortunately.

I was the only witness from start-- when stable personnel repeatedly asked if the woman was sure she felt capable of handling that particular horse, and was assured equally often by her that she could-- to finish, when the women was lying, quite eerily blue, on the ground, moments later. As a result of a lawsuit brought by the woman's family, the stable no longer offers rides to the public; fortunately, I was able to take my beach ride later that same day, but due to the woman and her daughter not wearing their helmets, I'm sure many others will be denied their dream; it's just fortunate that those riders weren't denied their lives due to pride and peer pressure.

As an afternote, at a John Lyons symposium earlier in the year ('02), John emphasized that it is the 'deadhead' horses who are the most dangerous, in the sense that their riders are less alert to potential dangers. I URGE everyone to wear helmets, just like your seatbelts, as a matter of routine, anytime you mount ANY horse!

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