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True Helmet Stories from HORSE-SENSE Readers

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helmet story by Becky

People make fun of me around here for wearing my helmet.

I am 30 years old, and a timid rider, although as far as my equitation goes, I'm a fairly good rider. Just chicken. ;)I started out riding English when I was 15, and joined one of the local western riding clubs several years ago. I am thankful that the riding instructor I started out with many years ago never allowed anyone to ride without a helmet, because wearing one is second nature to me, and I feel naked without it.

I am the only person in the entire USWRCA that wears a helmet.

Our rules state that during competition, only western style hats may be worn, or ladies are allowed to compete bare-headed. So shortly before our yearly competition the second year I rode with the club (the first year I rode without my helmet because I was told they weren't allowed, and am very thankful there were no incidents where I could have been hurt), I went to the district meeting to ask our district president if I might wear my helmet in competition, even if it was not regulation western wear. No sooner were the words out of my mouth, when some loud-mouthed dude in the back stood up and told me if I felt the need to wear a helmet when I rode, I might as well stay home and watch television. There was a big silence, then the president looked at the guy sternly and said, "I agree that helmets are not standard western attire, but we in the USWRCA are always safety-minded, and if you want to wear a helmet, I'm all for it."

I understand several cowboys took Mister Loudmouth out behind the barn later and "explained" a few things to him. ;)

At any rate, I got to wear my helmet, that year and every year after. For the most part, people support my decision. A few people have even told me that I'm smart, but they just don't want to wear one themselves. They say the just aren't used to it, hard to break old habits. Or that helmets aren't western. Or they are uncomfortable (gee, mine isn't). I'm sure you've heard all the excuses.

Last Sunday, one of the best riders in our district, if not THE best rider, was riding her neighbor's colt down the rode. The colt spooked and bolted, running right down the middle of the asphalt. He slipped and fell on the slippery surface, catapulting his rider into the ditch. I don't know all the gory details, but I do know that her funeral is Thursday morning.

This was the lady that was so good at the speed events, that no one ever wanted to compete against her. We all knew it was a lost cause; no one in our district could beat her. She was an excellent rider, and a fearless rider. I don't think she even owned a helmet. She leaves behind a husband and two teenaged boys.

No one is allowed on my horses without a helmet; I keep spares handy when friends come over. My mom, who is 67 years old and just now learning to ride so she can go with me on trail rides (which I think is great), hates her helmet. She says it is because she is vain, and wants to wear a pretty western hat like everyone else. She also hates "helmet hair." I tell her fine, she can also potentially get her head bashed in like everyone else. So she wears it. She grumbles, and she says she will never like it, but she wears it. I'm getting her a new one for Mother's Day, because her old one melted slighty last summer when we left it on the wheel-well of the trailer, and she thinks it's ugly. It is ugly, plus it may not be as safe anymore, so I'm going to try to find her the prettiest Troxel I possibly can.

Isn't it stupid to die because wearing a helmet is not a cool, macho, or fashionable thing to do?

Even now, after this tragedy, I still cannot convince my friend to wear a helmet. True, 9 time out of 10, heck, 99 times out of 100, even if you fall off, you aren't likely to be seriously hurt riding a horse. But, in my humble opinion, one time is too many.

Please, PLEASE. WEAR YOUR HELMET! If someone who is an excellent rider can be killed in a freak accident, no one is immune. It's downright stupid to think otherwise.

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