I’m finally done with finals, and I can get back to blogging! The finals I just took were my last winter finals ever, so obviously I am super excited.
I wanted to address something that is extremely important, and I hope I’m not doing this topic to death (though the amount of fights I’ve seen about this topic on the internet indicate I am…), but I’ve seen a lot of photos of experienced riders without helmets. I am not taking away from the fact that it is an individual’s own personal choice as to whether they want to protect one of the most valuable parts of their body while on a large animal that is inherently unpredictable, but I also want to voice my own opinion on this sometimes controversial topic.
A study done by a team of scientists found that 44 percent of the 94 WEF riders surveyed experienced concussions during their riding careers. Out of those riders, all of them were likely to return to riding without receiving medical clearance of a licensed medical professional. Furthermore, 40 percent of riders had never been educated about concussions, and a mere 15 percent received concussion education from their trainers.
The risk for traumatic brain injury as a result of a horseback riding accident is something I don’t like to think about, especially now that I’m older. However, I would NEVER get on a horse without a helmet, whether I am jumping a course or sitting on a horse for a photo. In fact, when I was thinking of how to take Christmas pictures with my horses this year, I decided I would go helmet chic while my horses sported their festive Christmas hats.
I’ve seen an unfortunate amount of individuals riding without helmets – both on the internet and in person. The age ranged from those in their 20s, to those in their 50s, to young children (yes, I said young children!) To be quite honest, I am surprised that wearing appropriate headgear while riding a horse isn’t required by state statute. It may be required by a barn’s rules for insurance purposes, but I’ve seen firsthand how effective that rule is.. (no matter how many times you tell a grown woman to wear a helmet while riding, she always ends up reverting back to her non-helmet-wearing behavior after a few days).
However, I did come across the wonderful step New York took in making wearing helmets while horseback riding mandatory under state law. The new law, sponsored by New York State Senator Kenneth LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr., amends a previous New York law by requiring children ages 18 and under to wear a helmet while engaged in equestrian activities. The maximum fine for a violation of this law was also increased to $250, which I believe is the same fine for texting while driving in some states! According to an article on Riders4Helmets, New York was the first state to enact a law requiring children to wear a helmet while horseback riding. However, the law only required children ages 14 and under, unlike the recently amended and passed version that increased the age from 14 to 18, which I think is great. The maximum fine under the previous law was also $50, which really is not that much money if you think about it (at least in my opinion…)
I’ve had a few falls during my horseback riding career, but my worst one was at the backend of a jump. My pony decided he wanted to stop and pull his head down, and I somersaulted over his neck, and landed smack dab on my head. The helmet I was thankfully wearing cracked so loudly upon landing that my best friend thought I had cracked my neck. I was able to get back on my pony and do the same line without any issues, but I did go to the emergency room after I got home. While I still question the doctors’ lack of concern for my headache and their over concern about my sore shoulder which they claimed was indicative of a “ruptured spleen,” I was lucky to come out of that with just a sprained shoulder because I was wearing my helmet. I still don’t know if I had a concussion, but the headache and sleepiness that came about after I got home leads me to believe I did have one, even if the doctors weren’t that concerned.
It is your choice whether you want to ride without a helmet, at least if you’re over 18 years of age in New York, but I strongly urge everyone considering taking this dangerous and potentially deadly step to think long and hard about the potentially life-altering and life-ending consequences that can result.