8 Myths About Horseback Riding Helmets

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I wear a riding helmet when I ride. And I think it’s important that other people do too. In recognition of International Helmet Awareness Day, I want to address some of the common myths I hear about horseback riding helmets:

  1. Only horses with behavioral problems are dangerous. Guess what: ALL horses are potentially dangerous. Bucking, bolting, kicking, rearing, tripping, spooking… these are natural horse behaviors that even the best-trained horse may do unexpectedly in the wrong situation. Simply falling from a horse that is standing still can be potentially harmful to your head–a fall from only two feet can cause permanent brain damage. The most devastating blow to a helmet I’ve ever seen occurred when my experienced friend fell on her 20-year-old schoolmaster, one of the safest horses I know.
  2. Adults don’t need to wear helmets. Certainly, adults have the freedom to make their own decisions, including decisions that are risky. But that doesn’t mean that adults are free from the threat of injury when they ride. Even if the only reason an adult rider chooses to wear a helmet is to be a role model to his or her kids, I think that is reason enough!
  3. Only bad riders need to wear helmets. No, no, no… Every rider has the potential to fall off. Head injuries happen to professional riders and beginner riders alike–in fact, International Helmet Awareness Day started after the professional dressage rider, Courtney King Dye, sustained a serious head injury when a horse she was riding tripped in a flat riding arena. Additionally, any person who has ever had a concussion before (from riding horses or otherwise), is more at risk for serious head injury.
  4. You only need a helmet if you fall off. As someone who grew up riding a very naughty pony, I learned there are other ways to hurt your head besides falling off. A helmet has protected me when my pony ran me under tree branches, when horses have tripped and fallen, and when I was handling horses on the ground.
  5. Wearing a helmet means I don’t trust my horse. Even the best horse or rider makes mistakes. Choosing to wear a helmet won’t offend your horse, nor will it reflect poorly on your relationship together. Making your own safety a priority when you ride has nothing to do with whether or not your trust your horse; it has everything to do with your respect for yourself and the people who care about you.
  6. I will score lower in competition if I wear a helmet. This isn’t true. And if it is true in your discipline, then choose a new discipline or pride yourself on being a helmet-wearing trendsetter. Remember when Charlotte Dujardin won an Olympic gold medal wearing a helmet in dressage–a sport that has coveted the traditional top hat for decades?
  7. Helmets are too expensive. I’ll admit: designer helmets can be pretty expensive. But you don’t have to have a designer helmet. If your helmet is ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials), SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) approved and fits properly, then it’s good enough. Paying $40-$60 for a helmet is much cheaper than paying the costs of treating a debilitating head injury.
  8. This one helmet will last forever. Replace your helmet according to the manufacturer’s guidelines or if your helmet hits the ground (from a fall or from being dropped).

To see what other riders think about wearing helmets, check out the hashtags #mindyourmelon or #helmetawarenessday

Helmets don’t slow you down; they don’t hold you back. In 2012 my Haflinger Pip and I competed in and won the Extreme Cowboy Race, and I was the only rider who chose to wear a helmet in the Western-themed competition.

7 Responses to “8 Myths About Horseback Riding Helmets”

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  1. Rachel huff says:

    Thank you, Chesna, for sharing this.

  2. Marion says:

    really great riders value what they have and wear helmets. Motorcyclist have found that out, and slowly but surely I think the horse community will too. Thanks for a great article!!

  3. Kristy says:

    Mine hasn’t had an impact but as it turns out mine is expired time to go shopping! Thanks for keeping my melon safe!

    Cheers

  4. Sarah says:

    Good article! I wish more people in western events would wear them. I recently went on a trail ride while on vacation and the trail leaders looked at me like I had an alien on my head. I fell off my very reasonable mare a couple of years ago and if I did not have my helmet on there would have been a 911 phone call. Recently, I had to have brain surgery for a tumor and now I will never climb on a horse without my helmet.

  5. Linda DuPertuis says:

    I sure hope you don’t have to replace a helmet every time you fall off. Who can afford it?! Sadly, I fell of the close-to-perfect easy to ride horse the other day (he sneezed). I try to remember I’m riding a 1,200 pound flight animal with a brain the size of a walnut.

    An the horse needs to remember his rider has an attention span somewhere near absolute zero and a seat to match. He had to learn kicking and fumbling around his girth does not mean go, it means his rider is still trying to locate the stirrup. Rider hunched up into a ball means go.

    He must remember rider leaning forward means rider has no balance. Ditto for rider leaning backward. He is currently learning equine landscaping. He stands still while his rider trims branches and stuff falls all over him. And all this he does for a cookie. So yes, I always wear a helmet.

  6. P linder says:

    I had been riding for over 50 years. I’d fallen off a million times, but never been thrown. Riding a horse I considered quiet and well behaved, I wasn’t paying attention. The other horses on our trail rides got a ways ahead of us. My horse decided he didn’t like that and decided to whirl around and buck. I was already off balance and he threw me quite a ways. I hit hard on my back and head. My pelvis was broken, but my head was protected by my hard hat. I will never forget to wear it again.

  7. Jade B. says:

    I appreciate this information of horse riding helmets. It is good to know that helmets are beneficial for everyone, even adults. It is a good idea to be a role model for the children. Something to consider would be to invest in a helmet that is sold at a reasonable price.

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