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Why I Wear a Helmet When Horseback Riding

I am a 58 year old medical doctor who retired from medical consulting about eight years ago. Currently, I operate Steve Lutz Horsemanship and train horses as well as provide clinics to people who want to develop a better understanding of and relationship with their horse.

About three weeks ago, while training a young performance horse, I was thrown and landed on my head in gravel, sustaining a concussion. Being a medical doctor, I of course knew better than to ride without a helmet, especially since I will not allow any of my students to get on a horse without one.

For the next week, I walked around with a headache, somewhat disoriented and picking small pieces of gravel out of my forehead. I tried to think of a good reason for not wearing a helmet. One was not easily forthcoming.  

I finally determined my reasons for not wearing a helmet to be the following:

1) It’s not Western riding tradition.
2) Cowboys don’t wear helmets.
3) It’s not cool.
4) People might think I can’t ride.

After much consideration, I determined my response to the above issues to be:

1) Traditions change. Baseball players now wear helmets when at bat. Hockey players, motorcycle riders, bull riders and cyclists now wear helmets.
2) I am not a cowboy and probably neither are you.
3) A traumatic brain injury is also not cool.
4) Who cares what other people think. I am an experienced rider and if I couldn’t ride that would be all the more reason to wear a helmet.

And the biggest reason of all: It saves lives and prevents head injuries! My father always told me that there is a thin line between tough and stupid. Therefore, I have concluded not to be stupid and to wear a helmet!

-Steve Lutz, MD 


  • June 14, 2013