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My Helmet and I: An Excellent Relationship

I recently had the misfortune of having a carriage driving related accident, or, a “mishap”, as I prefer to label it. Perhaps by referring to it as a “mishap”, it “softens” the reality for me. Accident or mishap, no matter how I chose to label it, it truly is my own reality. I’m not in a form of denial; it is just my way of processing the event of Sunday September 22, 2019. The bottom line is my helmet saved me- this I truly believe. That is my story, and I’m sticking to it.

As a teenager, I never wore a helmet while riding. All the falls I survived. I showed in 4-H horse shows, Open shows and Quarter Horse shows. I rode Western, English, I jumped fences and participated in gymkhana classes. The only time I ever wore a helmet, was my English hunt cap, as it was required, as proper English dress in my English hunt classes. 

Fast forward to my more “adult” years…..after being away from horse show competitions for many years, and no longer owning of horse of my own, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to learn how to carriage drive. I was instantly hooked! “Tuffy”, as my teacher was as “bomb-proof” as any horse or pony could be. But, I was told by Tuffy’s owner that I must wear a helmet at all times when driving him, (or any other horse for that matter). Ok, I said, not a problem. For me wearing a helmet wasn’t a problem. I certainly understood the potential of head injury with my new found equine passion. I’m not one to care about how “cool” or “uncool” I would look wearing a helmet. That just isn’t my “style”. “Helmet head”…so what. Not a concern. (Remember, I have a total lack of interest in style or whether I look uncool). So, I was going to wear a helmet.  I’m doing what I can to protect myself.

Fast forward a few more years, my driving passion has increased. After losing my beloved first teacher, “Tuffy”, I was in need of another equine to drive. Enter into my life, “Queen Mab”, a Welsh/Paint cross. There was never any question as to whether or not I would wear a helmet when driving this new love in my life. As my first instructor, (Tuffy’s owner) told me: helmet required. My new instructor also told me: helmet required.  As my English hunt cap was required as part of the proper dress for English riding competitions, my trusty helmet became just as important as any of the required equipment for carriage driving. Bridle: check. Whip: check. Gloves: check. Helmet: check.

 It isn’t my intention to scare anyone or discourage anyone from participating in this wonderful sport of carriage driving. Nor, do I want this piece to be construed as “preachy” in any way. But, the fact of the matter is: accidents happen. This is life. This is my truth. This is my story about the choice I make every time I harness and “put-to”. We are all adults and we have the freedom and the knowledge to make the choice that is best for each of us.  

Without going into great detail about my mishap of September 22, I will mention just a few “moments” from that afternoon: for those of you who may be wondering, Mab was not involved. A big take-away: it is a horse/pony…they can be and often times are unpredictable. In my case, everything was fine; I had a seemingly happy horse, walking along. Then, literally in the blink of an eye: bam! I had an explosive situation on my hands. Surprisingly I remained calm throughout, telling my instructor and the others who were there watching to close the end doors of the indoor arena. As I struggled to regain control of the horse, it quickly became apparent things weren’t going to end well….and I was correct in this thought….but, my helmet saved me! This I am absolutely certain! The helmet: better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it…..

The horse only suffered minor scrapes on the hind legs. I got to “experience” my first, (and hopefully last one ever) ambulance ride to the ER. Prognosis: amazingly no broken bones, but a very sore/stiff and bruised body. Though I have yet to examine my carriage, from what I’ve been told, it is pretty messed up. And, my trusty helmet has the battle scars to show as the protection that it gave my head. So long my friend, my protector. Thank you. May it forever rest in peace.

And, now, I begin to look for a new helmet in which to develop a new, special relationship with…..