Thursday, Jun. 13, 2024

Brain Buckets

A few days ago, one of my students came off her horse. She was breaking in new boots and wasn't super steady, he's young and stupid; she went one way, he went the other. It happens. Horses are unpredictable, even those with the best of characters.
 

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A few days ago, one of my students came off her horse. She was breaking in new boots and wasn’t super steady, he’s young and stupid; she went one way, he went the other. It happens. Horses are unpredictable, even those with the best of characters.
 
My student was wearing her helmet, as is required on my farm. In the colloquial, she bumped her head real good, and while we quickly identified that she was ok—wiggle all fingers and toes, stand up, walk, see—she couldn’t remember falling off, or how she got out of the arena. So we got a precautionary CAT scan and X-ray, which found nothing but a minor concussion. A few days of Tylenol and taking it easy, and she’ll be right as rain.
 
But all that from a good rider on a good horse who just had one bad moment. It happens, alarmingly, all the time.
 
No one likes a preacher, so this is not a treatise about why everyone should wear helmets. It’s a personal decision, and I’m guilty of not wearing one all the time—I show in my top hat, even at the lower levels, most of the time.
 
I’ve never understood what makes helmets so taboo in the dressage world. Yeah, they can be a little ugly, but they’re much slicker now than in the past. You can get them in different colors, with stripes down the center that make them look less like a mixing bowl with a chin strap. My mom’s got a helmet that has a changeable center stripe, so you can mix and match colors. Pretty neat.
 
And I’ve heard the “they’re hot in the summer argument,” but the helmet I wear for schooling every day (which cost $35, by the by) has vents that make it quite comfortable. And believe me, I’m a sweaty beast in the summer. Like, ick.
 
You hardly ever see helmets in Europe in the dressage ring, which might explain why they’re so uncouth here. I’ve even heard that some European sale barns refuse to let their riders wear helmets, lest potential buyers think a horse is dangerous. I hope that’s not true. On my farm, helmets are required. And I don’t school horses without one.
 
Lest anyone cry hypocrite, I do show in my top hat, even at the national levels much of the time. I wear my helmet at shows when it’s raining (because I melted my first top hat, which I really liked, and I’m all traumatized about it now), and on young and untrustworthy horses, but I look pretty snappy in my top hat, and I’m an adult, and that’s the choice I make.
 
But I wear my helmet in schooling—at local shows, at CDIs, at the National Championships. I met a woman at Gladstone a few years ago, a lifelong horseman and a professional rider. Shortly after that show, she was out hacking an older schoolmaster when she came off, and the horse went galloping back to the barn. By the time she was found, she was unconscious; as far as I know, she’s still in a medically-induced coma with a shunt in her brain to drain the fluid.
 
A helmet can’t save you from everything, but it’s not a risk I’m willing to take. I wear my helmet with pride, cool or otherwise. The good news? I know I’m not the only professional out there making the same decision. I hope it’s a reflection of a growing trend—that more of us would rather be overly safe, geeky looking and sweaty than sorry.

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Sprieser Sporthorse

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