Karlie Mitchell reflects on a few occasions when her helmet saved the day.
There are times now and then I wish I could gallop with my hair flowing behind me, or I want to keep my hair nice for going out somewhere later, it’s blazing-hot out and I’d rather not trap extra heat on my head, or I want to wear that cool new hat. I’m sure helmets are a commonly touched on topic, but I’m going there again with my list of 10 times I was really grateful I had my helmet on.
When all the other girls I use to ride with got older they ditched their helmets because they felt they did not need them, but I never ditched mine as I am reminded now and then to keep it on. The same old-timer horse trainer who told me when I started riding as a kid “It is not if you fall off it’s when and how hard” also told me “The day you do not wear it could be the day you need it.”
10 Times I Needed my Helmet and Was Glad I Wore It:
1. When I was a kid and got this gorgeous jet black gelding who, according to the owner, was “a great kid’s horse.” Being green to horses I never really knew what to look for in a kid’s horse and we took this lady’s word. The horse rearing straight up and sending me off the back onto a freshly graveled road made for a pretty painful and rocky landing. I am glad I had rock chips in my helmet and not my head.
2. Let’s group all the times I galloped around bareback on my fiery little Arab cross as a kid in one pointer as that scenario alone would take up several numbers. A fiery Arabian mare bred to a Quarter Horse cutting stallion creates one fast little horse that can turn on a dime and send you flying off bareback. I can speak from experience several times on this.
3. Trail riding, not paying attention and getting a branch in the head. Dear horse: Just because your head clears does not mean mine does.
4. The time my horse bolted and unsuspecting me flew over his shoulder and in front of his running hooves. Luckily he was a dear and slammed on the brakes before running me over. However, my head still hit the sand.
5. Trying to learn to rope. I really thought I had that dummy cow and pulled back way too hard to dally. The rope ended up flying back at my face and hitting my helmet. It left a good mark on the helmet so I’m sure it could have left a nice mark on my forehead.
6. Riding a green two year old bareback. He was actually cool with this whole idea. It was when he stepped on the stool when I climbed on that scared the young guy. I hung on for the jump, the leap, and the bolt. The swerve however got the best of me. Oh, and let’s add the importance of proper riding clothes here too. A tank top is not suitable riding attire. I went to my high school graduation with my head OK but some serious road rash on my shoulder and back.
7. That time I was just about to ride and stopped to chat with a fellow rider. Someone flipped a heavy shank rope over their horse’s neck and the shank hit my helmet. That was a hard thunk that would have left a bump on my head.
My issues and close calls did not stop when I became an adult… they continued. Although as I got into my 20s I stopped riding bareback for a while, which seemed to reduce these incidents. However, I have started riding bareback a lot again so this list could expand a lot in the near future beyond the next three points. Starting colts and jumping could also be reasons behind the continued expansion of this list.
8. Training that horse with some issues because he was trained really roughly and needed to learn to trust again and be a nice horse. Well, he did become a great little horse, but on the road to success I ended up playing saddle bronc rider once and failed at that game. I hit the wall of the indoor arena and my helmet took a lot of the impact.
9. Starting colts. Although I have not (knock on wood) come off yet doing this I always feel a lot better climbing up there for the first time with my helmet on.
10. That head-on collision with a spooking horse. I was not even on the horse and was getting ready to get on. Of course there was something really scary somewhere that only this young guy’s special horse sense could detect. He spooked and his head smacked right into the side of mine.Thankfully since I was almost about to get on I had my helmet on. It still hurt, just saying.
Now logic says if I stopped riding around bareback and followed proper safety rules this list would be a lot shorter. I also sometimes am exposed to higher risk situations helping work with horses that need some training for other people and starting young horses. However I’ve seen accidents happen on well-trained horses being ridden by experienced riders with proper tack. I am proud to say I never grew out of the helmet stage and wear one proudly in my 20s–you just never know what could happen!
Bonus video: How would you use a sweet helmet cam if you do not wear a helmet?
About Karlie: I am from Alberta, Canada and live on a farm with my equine crew (a Paint, QHx Arab, and two OTTBs). I mainly do English and jumping, but also enjoy western and trail riding. I love riding, training, learning about Equine Science related topics, and having a great time with my horses.
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