"Well okay, you should probably wear a helmet" by Judy O\'Day
My now 9 year old daughter has been riding small ponies and taking lesson for 4 years now. For the past couple of years she has been trail riding as well. She had never had a serious accident with her ponies or on any lesson horse. (One time I was giving her a leg up on her little Shetland and tossed her right over the ponies back into the arena dirt...but that was my fault not hers or the ponies!).
Until last spring. One beautiful spring day she wanted to just "mess around in the pasture" with her Welsh pony. While helping her get the pony ready, she ask me "Should I wear my helmet?" Understand, we ALWAYS wear helmets while trail riding and during any type of lesson or practice. I have ridden some CTR's and have rode lots of trail miles and have seen up close the tragic accidents that can happen while riding. So even though the cowboy in me wants to say "who needs a helmet", I have insisted on helmets. I guess she ask because we were at home in familiar territory and she was just going to be walking her pony.
This time, for some wierd unknown reason (probably the same reasons why my daughter even ask about a helmet) I thought, it is just in the pasture and she will not be doing much, so I guess she could skip it. I said "Well, I don't know. Do you want to wear one?" (Stupid Mom!!) Thank the Lord that my daughter had the good sense to say "I should probably wear one even though it is here at home." I said, "Well okay, you SHOULD probably wear one". But, I wouldn't have pushed it if she had mounted without the helmet. Thankfully, she went and put her helmet on.
Jessica, there is no doubt in my mind that the helmet that my daughter put on that day possible saved her life but without a doubt saved her from a serious or debilitating head or spinal cord injury. Not 15 minutes after being in the saddle, I saw her and the pony galloping and then the pony stopped dead. I saw my daughter flying head first over her ponies head and land face first on the crown of her head. My daughter ate alot of dirt, had mutlipy scratches and bruises and a shoulder injury. BUT, all that was minor.
My daughter suffered a type 2 concussion from the fall! We did not even realize it at first and only understood the extent of her injuries when she started to vomit. To this day (almost 8 months later) she has a complete memory loss of almost 4 hours from that afternoon. She does not remember from 15 minutes before her accident to 3 1/2 hours AFTER she fell. That afternoon, I shamefully almost said "forget the helmet"! Now I would NEVER even think of saying "forget the helmet"; I don't care how safe the situation appears to be. Probably equally important is that my daughter understands what could have happen to her that day. She never even considers riding without a helmet. I don't have to say a word.
We were blessed that she did not sustain serious long term injury. And the only reason she didn't is because SHE WAS WEARING HER HELMET.
I am writing this story so people will realize that they don't have to be trail riding or jumping or running the barrels to have an accident. My daughter's accident was a mere 100 yards from our back door and happened on a seasoned pony. There are no guarantees with horses, no matter the rider, the horse or the surroundings.
Parents of underaged riders and adult riders should not be so foolish as to believe that "it won't happen to them". It can happen to anyone, anytime!!
Thank goodness our story did not end in tragedy. I hope that our story helps someone to decide not to forego THE most important piece of horse riding equipment.
Always in a helmet,
Judy and Madison O'Day Columbus, IN
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