Helmets. You may not think so, but they have become quite a topic for debating. Should you wear them? Do they really protect you? Why do you need them? Let me say first, yes, you always need to wear a helmet while riding a horse. But, for the sake of debating a topic on this weeks blog post, were going to talk about the other side that says helmets do nothing for you.

Argument against helmets:

1. It’s my head, I want to take the risk.

First of all, let’s talk about your brain. It’s the most VITAL organ in your body and basically tells your entire body how to live and do all of it functions, whether autonomously or not. Suppose you weren’t wearing a helmet, and your head meets concrete, or an arena wall. What do you think is going to happen? You’ll get much worse than a concussion and it is likely that your family will have to care for you the rest of your life. As someone who is trying to become a doctor, I can tell you my head and brain are very important to me, and just because it’s my head and I can do what I want, I’m going to wear a helmet because I want to continue to live a long and happy life.

2. I know how to do an emergency dismount

That’s nice Susie. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you won’t hit the ground on the way down. I remember one time I was exercising a ladies horse, and she said it was the calmest thing ever. I went out (she had some trails behind her house), and everything seemed awesome. Horse was responsive, very well mannered and I thought it was going to be a smooth ride. However, on the way home, the horse decided he no longer wanted a rider and became a bucking bronc. I dismounted, however my foot got caught in the stirrup. This horse dragged me for a good 100 ft. or so. I eventually undid my pants and that took my leg off and got me free. However, if I were not wearing a helmet, I would have been severely injured and I was lucky that I only suffered a few scrapes and bruises.

3. The helmet hurts my head

Then you’re probably not wearing the right size. It’s very important that your helmet fits properly. When you test out a helmet, you should test it. Try shaking your head side to side; it shouldn’t move. It should feel snug and secure, but not like it’s squeezing your brains out.

4. I’m a very experienced rider

So is Kent Farrington and our own Katie Jackson, but you don’t see them without a helmet, do you? While you could be a great rider and have the safest horse that trusts you like there’s no tomorrow, accidents happen and mistakes are made. You don’t want to be the person that had the one freak accident and your life is ruined. Whether you’re just starting out or an Olympic rider, helmets are there to protect you.

5. They’re hot and uncomfortable

Luckily, with advanced technology, many helmets today come with vents, or different types of airflow technology. Helmet companies know that most people riding year-round in hot, and muggy conditions and try to make the best gear they can to try and combat that. If the helmet you have now isn’t working you, move onto another brand and see if they fit your needs. There are a plethora of brands and different types of helmets within those brands which means you are sure to find the helmet that is right for you.

6. Helmets are expensive

Trust me, I’m not about to drop $500 on a samshield either, but they are important! Brands such as Ariat, Ovation and Troxel are much more affordable and do the same thing: protect your head. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a helmet. Buy one used, or secondhand. See if the facility you train at has some extra helmets, or ask to borrow one. There is no excuse for not being able to get one.

7. I have a helmet, but it’s for another sport

NO! Riding helmets are made specifically to protect you from a fall from a significant height, aka a 17 hand horse. Bike riding helmets are not made for the impact that you can incur from getting kicked, bucked or thrown off. Also, ask yourself this: is your head worth $11? As well, bike riding helmets do not match the criteria for horse shows. They are looking for specific helmet types and shapes.

Argument for helmets:

1. Helmets save lives

Yes! Helmets help prevent up to 80% of injuries and death. When people think of falling off a horse they think they’re going to fall and break their arm, or their leg. Which, while this can happen, most of the time you end up on your face or back, where your head takes a lot of the impact.

2. Concussions happen

Even the smallest concussions can change your life. I can’t tell you how many concussions I’ve gotten, and if I wasn’t wearing a helmet, how much worse it would’ve been if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet. With a helmet you can get a minor concussion, but without one you could get a major one and no longer be able to participate in your sport.

3. Riding is more dangerous than skiing or riding a motorcycle

Have you seen the injuries that some motorcyclists get? Can you believe that riding your sweet little gelding is more dangerous than that? And how can that not be true? You’re putting your trust into a 1000 lb animal that is known for its flighty tendencies. Just think about that.

4. Bulk of injuries happen with pleasure riders

It’s a nice sunny, day. Your taking your horse for a nice little trail ride, and then BAM! Your horse freaks out and you’re on the ground. Did you wear a helmet? Out there, in the unknown wilderness known as trail riding, anything can happen, and you need to be prepared for it to happen. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ridden this trails several times or once, horses are unpredictable and should be treated as such.

5. Head injuries are cumulative

Once you incur one head injury, the next one will be much worse. The brain never fully recovers from the first head injury. Which means, if it’s still trying to recoup from your first one, how much more detrimental will the next one be? The brain, while a powerful organ, is also a very vulnerable organ. It’s just a fatty lump of squishy cells, that when your head hits the ground, bangs against the inside of your head causing serious or even irreversible damage.

6. Head injuries are expensive

You thought a samshield helmet was expensive, wait until you see your medical bill. Head injuries are no joke, paying for your head injuries are also no joke. Medical bills can pile up in an instance, even with the best medical insurance.

7. Only about 20% of injuries occur with jumping

That means, the other 80% happens in dressage, western, equitation etc. I have watched countless youtube videos about people falling off horses and horse fails, and most of them show horse jumping shows, which makes both you and I believe that this is the only time serious injuries happen. But it’s not! You could think that you could be in the easiest discipline of the equestrian sport, however, don’t be fooled. That other 80% has to come from somewhere.

After reading this, I would hope that you are much more aware of the cons of not wearing a helmet, because let’s be real here, there are no pros to not wearing a helmet. Please make good choices and protect your head and practice safe riding skills.