In June 2006, at the age of 34, I began pursuing a life-long dream of learning to ride horses. My lessons began with a package deal that included 4 sessions in a class of 6 beginner riders on mild-mannered school horses. On our 4th lesson, the horses spooked. The one I was riding bucked, and I was launched into the air. Fortunately, I was not injured beyond a bruise to my hip, but it was enough to convince me to buy my first equestrian helmet. I happened to choose an inexpensive Troxel helmet.
Fast forward to December 1, 2007. Was I in the habit of wearing my helmet for my lessons? No. In fact I had gotten so that I rarely wore my helmet, but luckily, on this day I did. The weather was cold, and my favorite school horse is one who gets herd bound in the winter. On this day, she spooked and bolted down the center of the arena. I managed to grab a leading rein to stop her, but had lost my balance, so when she came to a screeching halt, I was thrown off her sideways and slammed into the ground on my side. I must have curled up in the fetal position, because as I hit the ground, I remember that my side hit first, and then my head. When my head hit, I remember thinking, "My God, I hit so hard that I couldn't hold my head up to keep it from hitting the ground!"
I could hardly move, but I sat up and removed my helmet. It was full of dirt and little flat on one side. I wasn't in pain, and I thought I had just knocked the wind out of myself, but I was not regaining my mobility, so it was off to the emergency room for me! By this time, the adrenaline was wearing off, and it was apparent that I had injured my ribs. X-rays at the ER revealed 4 broken ribs and a punctured lung, but thanks to my helmet, that was the extent of my injuries.
Four weeks later, I was back out at the ranch for more lessons - broken ribs and all. So, yes, I am a "tough guy" and even I, who used to rarely wear a helmet, almost never go without one. Even a dead-broke horse is still a horse, and any horse can be unpredictable, so I choose to make my safety a choice, not a chance.