First, let me say, I too grew up riding horses without a helmet. It wasn't done in the south back in the dark ages. But with age comes wisdom, and I do wear one now. Recently on the MD Horseperson list a member forwarded a story about a tragedy this weekend, where a helmet wasn't worn.
(posted with permission)
Dear RAA Riders, fellow club members and friends,
I am writing this letter to each of you tonight after having witnessed a horrible accident this past weekend. It happened in New York - a weekend "get away" with family reunion and wedding we were attending, but the best thing was we were meeting with friends I've made over the years back where I was raised as a kid. I couldn't wait. We all met at Mendon Ponds, a beautiful park I'm sure, to ride together. We never got to ride. A series of calamities happened that will forever change our lives and snuffed the life of one of our riders. She never got to go home to her son.
One of the horses had a bad time in one of the trailers, so a couple of the other horses were spooked. One of the riders, Patty O'Neal got on her horse to try to settle it down and ride it down a bit before we rode off. She was not wearing a helmet. Another horse, the same one who had problems in the trailer, bucked his rider off and in doing so the saddle slipped, sending the horse flying around the parked vehicles, close to a road and eventually, as the saddle was still hanging under its belly, the horse took off for parts unknown (later he was caught and has some lacerations, but otherwise survived). Patty did not. Somehow, her head was smashed against a low limb on a tree, the next thing we knew, she was lying on the ground. What we thought was her breathing was actually her blood pumping out of her body as her brain was no longer functioning to tell the rest of the body to shut down. We didn't know all that and of course did everything we could, thinking she was still alive. Part of her brain were on the front of her along with a lot of blood.
Why am I sending you this message? Because those of us who were her friends, who were there are still in mourning with this tragedy. Could it have been avoided - we don't know. But what we do know is that a helmet would at least have protected her head and multiple head injury was listed as the cause of death. So, the next time you think that wearing a helmet is not cool or for sissies - try to stop being so selfish about your beauty and think about what an accident like this does to everyone else around you. Thank God she died, as there wasn't much brain left on her left side. Does this sound gruesome? I hope so, because as I'm writing this, I'm crying so hard I can't read what I'm writing. Please, wear a helmet when you ride. The image of Patty lying on the ground with bits of her brain splattered around in a pool of blood is am image that will be with me for years. Please, put on your helmets - think of those who will find you, those you leave behind, your friends and relatives. They care - and maybe you are doing what you want to do, but there are those of us left who need to try to go on with our lives who will forever be left with a bloody, gruesome scene that will never go away.
PLEASE - WEAR A HELMET.
Before you say, 'Oh, well, that could never happen to me.' Lets list some of the other stories, near misses because they WERE wearing a helmet.
I met a family this past summer at a clinic. Just 2 days before her husband and young son were riding and were on the edge of a road on their way home from the ride. The horses were behaving, and they were having a nice ride, but it was dusk and they needed to get home. Around the bend came a car – he saw the husband’s horse, but thought he was alone and ended up not seeing and hitting the boy’s horse – the child went flying one direction the horse the other. The horse was killed on the spot as it rolled over the car. The boy doesn’t remember much about the actual accident after he hit the ground – however he does know the ONLY reason he walked away from this horrible accident was because his Dad made him put his helmet on that day – a practice that was not always followed in this family. They came to visit us at the clinic that day and shared their story at lunch – the boy, still sad about his lost horse, and they brought the shattered helmet with them. Had that boy not been wearing his helmet this 8yo child would be dead or seriously brain damaged. The horse and rider did nothing wrong other than being out a little too late on their ride home, the horse never would have done anything to hurt that child – but circumstances are NOT always under your control and NEVER be lulled into the thought that you are not going to come off of your horse, you can’t control everything.
My daughter was in an accident this June. My daughter is young--but a very good rider. She steeplechase races, foxhunts, events and plays polocrosse. She is on a horse or pony every day unless sick or weather prohibits it. She also rides MANY different horses--so she is young but has a lot of experience under her belt.
I have always provided safe horses for her--and we do not take these horses for granted. We know they are a beast w/a brain of their own...but her beloved pony had a trip while she was galloping on the polox field. She is fully aware of how to stay balanced at a gallop and knows how to keep the horse/pony off their forehand. The pony hit a small dip in the ground...could NOT regain his footing and he fell.
While I think he and her fell together and he rolled over her due to the momentum of the fall--actually the video shows her being pitched (emergency dismount at its finest) forward. The pony then proceeded to fall and the forward momentum carried him to land on my 77 lb daughter. You could see the panic in his eyes as he knew that he landed on her...and he proceeded to lay there still and get off her gently. He actually had to flip back over off her and he was going about it very calm and slow. It was not until helpful people came over and starting tugging at him that he ended up having to thrash around in which he kept hitting my daughter in the head with his hoof. I yelled at them to leave him alone and once they did he got up off her w/o hitting her again.
While I personally know that I witnessed a miracle that day--and it was only by the grace of God that my daughter walked away from that accident 36 hours later--I know that we gave that miracle a bit of help. That helmet saved her life and her quality of life. It was to date the most expensive helmet I had ever bought (It was a Australian helmet that was designed for polocrosse) but it exceeds our safety standards.
It was an awful feeling watching your little one be on the ground w/o movement--but I know that the crowd around us was in a great state of panic. It would have been a terrible day for all that was there if she had not had her helmet on--and I know how I felt--and I would not wish those feelings on anyone.
I never wore a helmet, until I moved to Maryland in 88. All the farms required them, so I bought one. I was spotty on wearing it, except on trails (spiders!). One time I was riding my calm, dead broke horse with a group. We were cantering across a fallow field that was partially cut. There were lines of weeds about 2 feet high, and as we cantered my horse decided to jump the weeds. I thought this was great fun until just as she started to jump one, she stumbled. As I was already in 2 point (yes, too early!) I fell on her neck a bit. She then lurched, and stumbled again. I rolled down her neck, and fell at her feet. She couldn't stop, and ran over me, one hoof coming down on my head squarely, cracking my helmet, and taking a chunk out of my cheek. She weighted 1200 pounds, and had shoes on. Through no bad behavior, just simple accident, she would have crushed my skull if I hadn't been wearing my helmet.
I saved that helmet for a long time, as an example.
This of course doesn't even bring into horses getting stung by bees on a trail, stepping in holes, getting caught up in briers, none of which are the horses fault. So you can have a 4 legged saint, and still get hurt.
Of course you don’t have to be ON the horse to be seriously injured. About 10 years ago at a Cherokee Raiders show I was involved with helping out at a scene where the lady must have been kicked or slammed into the trailer by her horse – no one saw the accident, we all rushed over to help when the lady was found unconscious on the ground. The horse was tied to the trailer and not tacked up – so it’s clear she wasn’t riding. When she came to, she was combative and incoherent – classic signs of a brain injury. She was flown to shock-trauma and although she did survive from what I’ve heard she never made a full recovery, or if she did, it was long after I stopped hearing stories about the incident.
And people just don't think about the consequences of a brain injury. You can recover from broken bones, etc. Even if you lose a bit of mobility, it's still nothing compared to losing memories, or having your whole personality change because of a brain injury. You never completely recover because you can't regrow brain cells. gone is gone!
A good friend of mine had a gelding that her husband would often ride as well. One day he rode, and tied him to a pasture fence to untack him. Another horse came up, and her gelding reared up, breaking the board he was tied to. The board hit her husband in the head (although he rode in a helmet, he had taken it off already), then her gelding came down on top of her husband with shod front feet. (The details were fuzzy because he doesn't have good recollection now of what happened) He put the horse away, then went to the barn owners house to ask for help. He was incoherent, and had basically a hole in his skull where blood etc was gushing out. They air lifted him to shock trauma, after a lot of surgery, and time in the hospital, he recovered, but he was never the same guy again.
We joke and call it the 'brain bucket' but it makes a real difference if something bad happens.
A helmet should be as much a part of your riding equipment as your saddle and bridle. Better to have helmet hair, and be here tomorrow.
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