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

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Helmets and Common Sense are NOT optional around horses by Susan

I came to riding as an adult, and decided after a couple of years of lessons that a helmet was necessary. My instructor actually ridiculed me, saying that this was evidence that my fears were out of control. No, I no longer use this instructor.

I was taking a riding lesson on my own horse, in my own arena. As I was saddling him up for our lesson, I just had a gut feeling that I shouldn't be riding him that day. My new instructor said it was just nerves, and we'd just do a little bit.

My horse did not want to pick up a trot, and really seemed out of sorts. Everything in my head screamed at me to get off; I said something about this to my instructor, and she said to just ride through it, my horse was being lazy.

At one point he stopped cold and refused to move. She told me to reach back and tap him on the rump to push him through it. I said I didn't feel comfortable doing that; she said I really needed to work through this and do it. So I did.

My horse first went straight upwards in a pretty spectacular crow-hop, then took off like a shot. I had no control, and was pretty certain he was going to try to jump the arena fence and kill us both. As we reached the end of the arena, he took a hard right; I didn't.

I went head first through the top rail of the fence, breaking it. I then came down on top of the next rail, breaking it as well and bruising the dickens out of my ribs in the process. When I hit that first rail with my head, the impact and slide down to the next rail ripped out two pierced earrings, and jammed a third into my ear lobe, requiring surgical removal a few months later. My head actually bruised through the helmet, but the helmet had hardly a scratch on it.

I have the broken board and retired helmet by my arena gate as a reminder, and a visual for anyone who ever again questions why they should wear a helmet. Also, I feel very strongly that if your intuition is telling you not to ride, then DON'T ride! I had my horse checked by a vet the next week, and his back was out of alignment. His stalling was his way of trying to tell me "hey, I HURT! Please get off!" We have to listen to our horses, too.

A final note to this long story: my father-in-law died last year. Twenty two years ago, he was in a motorcycle accident at a slow rate of speed. He was in a coma for nearly three months, went through numerous brain surgeries and rehab. The result? He lived out the last twenty years of his life as basically a child in cognitive abilities, blind, and needing 24 hour care. He WAS wearing a helmet.

That made an impression on me. He hit the ground at a slow speed and from a much shorter height than we can when riding a horse. His accident deprived our family of his full participation and presence for over 20 years.

Remember those who love you, and strap that helmet on before you mount up. And, if your intuition is telling you not to ride, get off. Better to cut short one day than to cut short all of your days.

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