Helmets vs. Hats: A Showdown?

The tides are turning in favor of safety for equestrian disciplines across the board — even western. Lindsay Rausch contemplates the shift.

From Lindsay:

My mom had been a Horsemanship Instructor (amongst other equine ventures) so teaching me to ride on a friend’s small quarter horses or ponies was no big deal for her. The thought of putting a helmet on my head while sitting in a little western saddle was never an item of concern. On the other hand she would not let me step over my bike without a helmet on that was properly fit and double checked. (Am I the only one that sees the irony here?) With that foundation the only time that I ever had a riding helmet on my head was when I would attend horse camps — although I would not get on my bike without one. Riding on mountain trails, corrals, or across fields on a horse, I didn’t see the point; cowgirls wear hats, not helmets.


Lindsay and her husband riding a friend’s horses a few years ago.

In recent years, however, this mentality of “helmets are only for English riders” has been challenged. I regularly listen to Horses in the Morning, in which host Glen the Geek has  worked with Riders 4 Helmets amongst others to encourage equestrians of of all disciplines to consider wearing helmets. The clincher for me was listening to Tammy Stronce, champion mounted shooter and former host of the Western Radio Show. Her story can best be understood from this excerpt from Troxel Helmets:

Sronce was the first ever cowgirl competitor in CMSA to reach the Level 6 status, the highest level of competition in the CMSA. She was the first cowgirl to win an Overall National High Point Championship and the only person to sweep overall titles in all four major CMSA championships in one season. Sronce is also the only cowgirl in history to win an Overall CMSA National Rifle Championship against the cowboy competitors.

Tammy competing in the CMSA National Championships two years before her accident:

In January 2012 Tammy sustained a brain injury from a collision with a drunk driver. She was unable to compete in 2012 and returned to the competition arena in July, 2013 after a surgery to correct a nerve condition and extensive rehabilitation. Since her return to the arena, Sronce has already won two major championships in 2013.

Tammy Sronce in the Troxel Intrepid:

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If a cowgirl that tough could strap on a helmet on the national stage, who am I to think that I am too good to wear a helmet? In the next six months to a year the hope is that my husband and I will be able to bring our first horses home, and when I put my foot in that stirrup, I intend to swallow my pride and have a helmet on my head.

Has anyone else dealt with this question of whether or not to wear a helmet? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

Lindsay Rausch learned to ride at a young age from her mom who had been a trainer and horsemanship instructor in a previous life. Lindsay has always been a western trail rider, and even though she has not owned a horse of her own she has always looked for any chance to get a leg in the saddle. She is currently setting up a 10-acre farm for cattle and horses. Lindsay would love to hear questions that readers have about the western world that she could research for the Horse Nation.


Lindsay with a 6-month-old orphaned foal


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