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I have noticed that a lot of equestrians don’t wear helmets.  When I first started riding as a kid I always wore my helmet, even in the show ring.  As I got older I started wearing one less and less. Even after a very serious injury I didn’t start wearing a helmet, in fact for years I didn’t even own one.  It wasn’t until after becoming a mother and some wonderful caring friends reminding me that I am an example to my daughter that after over ten years I purchased a helmet for myself.

At the YLP Equestrian Center our helmet rules state that anyone under the age of 16 or anyone of any age jumping are required to wear a helmet.  Some states have specific rules regarding helmets but California does not, each boarding stables has their own requirements.  At higher levels of competition there are more specific rules on wearing helmets.  Each breed and division has their own set of rules.

As far as every day riding goes wearing a helmet is never a bad idea.  Let’s look at some statistics from Brainline.org:

  • In the year 1999, 15,000 horse injuries to children ages 15 and under required emergency room visits.
  • The most frequent cause of death and serious injury for mounted and dismounted horse activities is head injury.
  • Head injuries are associated with approximately 60% of all equestrian deaths and 18% of equestrian injuries.
  • Aside from death, brain injury survivors may suffer personality changes, intellectual and memory impairment, or epilepsy.
  • Only 20% of equestrians wear protective headgear every time they ride.
  • Falling or being thrown from a horse accounts for the majority of mounted injuries, while being kicked or trodden on accounts for most dismounted injuries.
  • Dismounted injuries require hospitalization approximately 42% of the time, while mounted injuries require hospitalization in only 30% of incidents.
  • Fractures, soft tissue damage, and head injuries are the most common types of injuries inflicted by horses.
  • The arm, leg and head/face are the most common body parts to be injured.

The article also goes on to say that English style riding results in more injuries and that people with five or more years experience riding are more likely to be injured (https://www.brainline.org/article/equestrian-safety).  That just goes to show us that even a more experienced rider can be injured.  Horses are reactive animals and even the most quiet and calm horse can become scared.

Some tips from Brainline.org to help prevent injury include:

  • Always wear an equestrian helmet that meets ASTM standards and is SEI certified.
  • Supervise riding at all times.
  • Ride with children under 6.
  • Ensure that both the horse and riding activity are appropriate for the child’s skill level.
  • Never tie a child to the horse or saddle.
  • Always wear boots or shoes with a heel and covered ankle when using stirrups.
  • Ensure that all equipment is free of damage and secured.
  • Prior to mounting a horse, fasten the harness. Do not unfasten it until after dismounting.
  • Be aware of anything that may spook your horse.

Deciding whether or not to wear a helmet is an individual choice but I do hope that this makes you think twice about not wearing one.  I still forget to wear mine on occasion, I’m still trying to make it a habit but being a good example to my daughter is the greatest motivation of all.

Watch this video of Dr. Lola Chambliss of Vanderbilt University talk about “Concussions: Signs, Symptoms, and Helmet Safety”

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