Two years ago, I was not wearing a Charles Owen; I was wearing an imitation. I have no way of knowing if the falls were similar. What I know is that both times I was wearing an approved helmet, both times I hit my head. One time I was injured badly, the other time not.
I'd splurged on the Owen helmet when I started riding after the fall that wiped out a day. I'd gone to my local Dover store and uttered words that have never come out of my mouth, "I don't care how much it costs, I want the best."
Almost in unison, my Dover buddies said, "Charles Owen." GPA was also an option, they said. Both companies meet not only American safety standards, but British as well. The Owen knockoff I'd been using met only American standards.
While I was willing to spend $500-plus for a GPA helmet, I was much happier spending less than $300. Because as luck would have it for my checking account, I have a Charles Owen head instead of a GPA head. The GPA didn't fit. Above brand, fit is the most important thing in head protection.
Every rider should know that helmets need to be replaced after a fall. Even the ones that cost more than I make in a month. Charles Owen and many other helmet companies offer staggered rebates on damaged helmets. Danielle Favreau Santos, director of marketing for Charles Owen, lead me through a graphic and convincing demonstration why I shouldn't cheap out and keep riding in my helmet, which looks fine to me.
She told me to remove the lining and look at the circumference of white padding inside the helmet. "I bet you will see an indentation where your head hit." Sure enough the padding dipped in on the upper right side of the helmet about 1/16th of an inch. "That's 1/16 of an inch less padding there to protect your head."
She explained that helmet padding is made from a high-density type of Styrofoam with microscopic air bubbles. On impact, she said, these bubbles pop. "Slowing down your brain from impacting against the side of your skull. Just like a car destroys itself to protect you in a crash, so does your helmet. It absorbs the impact so your brain does not."
Are you listening Mr. Anxiety? I'm bubble wrapping my brain. Go bother someone else.
Jody Jaffe is the author of "Horse of a Different Killer," "Chestnut Mare, Beware," and "In Colt Blood," which have been featured in People Magazine and translated into German, Japanese and Czech. She is also the co-author of the novels, "Thief of Words," and "Shenandoah Summer." She is a journalist who was on a team at the Charlotte Observer that won the Pulitzer Prize. Her articles have been published in many major newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Washingtonian and Practical Horseman. In addition, she teaches journalism at Hollins University. She lives on a farm in Lexington, Va., with her husband, John Muncie, and their eight horses. She attempts to ride hunters with her trainer, the ever-patient, Gordon Reistrup.