Sunday, January 30, 2011

PNH Blogging #11 - Pat and Linda don't where a helmet….do you? Why or Why Not?

Okay. Here we go. *sounds of Renee cracking her knuckles and neck*

[Helmet Fanatic]Yes I wear a helmet! Because I care! about my brain! and family! and friends! and insurance premiums! and the CHILDREN!111!!11!eleventyone! WHY DOES NO ONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!!?!?![/Helmet Fanatic]

Helmet Fanatics make me embarrassed to wear a helmet. I wear my helmet because I feel it is a safety measure that I like. Not need. Like. I've gone back and forth with wearing helmets. When I first went to horse camp when I was seven, helmets were mandatory for all the campers (but not the counselors as I recall). When I started riding lessons at ten, helmets were, again, mandatory. It wasn't until I started "working" at Last Chance Farm (the farm where I got Royal. Not its real name.) that I started riding without a helmet. On the camp/trained horses, not Royal. I wore a helmet when I rode Royal and all the other green horses. Helmets became less of an everyday piece of equipment, and more of a precaution when riding green horses. I can honestly say my Troxel saved my life the three times Royal threw me.

Since I didn't ride very much for two years after starting Parelli, besides the odd hop-on-and-sit session and I usually wore my helmet for those. Then, I stopped wearing it, mostly because it didn't fit my head. I had a risky fall off of Royal when he got stung by a bee and lost my confidence all over again. It took me a year to get it back, and for the first few months, I wore a new helmet. But then, I consciously made the decision to stop. Why, you ask? Because I realized I was using my helmet as a crutch. If I felt I needed a helmet to ride, that was a HUGE sign that I wasn't feeling confident to ride. Either because of my own issues or because Royal was acting up. So, instead of donning the helmet, I would play on the ground from as long as it took for Royal to be ridable, which sometimes took two hours.

So I went for three years without wearing a helmet, except for jumping. I always wear a helmet when jumping. Again, so I wouldn't use it as a crutch. It may seem weird to think like that, and it probably is, but for someone who had her confidence shattered twice, it was very important for me to not put myself in those situations again. And even though I now wear my helmet 95% of the time I'm on a horse, it's not the first safety measure I think about. My safety list is more like

1) Is my horse ridable (calm, relaxed, listening to me on the ground)?
2) Am I in a good mental state to ride?
3) Is this a good environment to ride in (footing, distractions, hazards like cars and other horses)?
4) If my horse got upset, could I handle it?
5) If everything went to hell in a handbasket, could I do an emergency dismount and get my horse back into a ridable state on the ground?
6) Do I have my helmet?

I'm always amazed at the kind of people who seem to think helmets are the ONLY thing that keeps people safe. I don't think they really think that, but one could be forgiven for getting that impression. So much energy and emotion over helmets, but not as much given to ground preparation, not getting on a explosive horse, and getting off when horse becomes unridable. Think how many falls/accidents could be prevented by people simply getting off their bolting/bucking/rearing maniac, instead of trying to "ride 'em through it" and getting thrown when the horse explodes. Yes, there are the freak accidents where a horse slips or trips, but head injuries are not the only possible injuries. Is breaking your neck a walk in the park? Does rotator cuff surgery come cheaply? And I suppose it only takes an hour to recover from broken arms and legs? Helmets are not magical force fields of protection.

I suppose the reason I get so mad at the Helmet Fanatics is because I feel like I was robbed of three years of progress with Royal because of that mentality. I shouldn't be just starting Beginner Novice this year; I should be doing Novice or Training. But because helmets were the only safety measure taken when I started out with Royal, I had to regain my confidence over two years. That's two years Royal and I will never get back, and I don't think I would have lost it from the Bee Sting Incident if it hadn't been so tenuous.

So, yes, I wear my Charles Owens AYR8 with pride, but because it's a choice I made. And because I don't need it. I only want it.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree that helmets are not the only thing that keeps you safe but they are certainly a nice extra to have. Once in a while I will hop on without one if I'm just hacking around at home or want a good picture, but 98% of the time I wear one also. I like the way you listed your check list. At the end of the day even the calmest of horses can trip so why not stack the odds in our favor the best we can even if it is no guarantee.