Ever since I started riding when I was 8, helmets have been a huge part of riding. It didn't even occur to me that I could ride a horse without one! I actually have three different stories about how helmets have saved my life (the first two, I don't think I would have died, but my life would not be the same if I had brain damage from those falls!) One summer in middle school, I was at a YMCA summer camp that had a riding program (that I of course signed up for). I was paired up with a feisty appaloosa mare named Freckles. We didn't like each other all that much. But we got through the camp without any problems until the last day. The campers were apart of a little "rodeo" and we would compete against each other just for fun. A good friend of mine and I were in the same riding class and were pretty competitive. The previous year, she had beaten me so I desperately wanted to win this year. Freckles was a pretty fast mare, but had issues braking. The first event was barrels. I ran Freckles home as fast as she would go (ignoring the shouts of the counselors telling me to slow down) straight into the closed gate. She ducked left and I flew off to the right. That fall hurt my pride more than anything. I, embarrassed, got up, dusted myself off, and got back on.
The next event was the spur. The only thing I remember from that was going through the timer and then I was on the ground with my counselors hovering over me. Thankfully, the camp required helmets! From what people told me, Freckles ran back to the same gate, but waited longer to duck left so when I came off to the right, I hit my head on the gate. I'm fairly certain that if I hadn't been wearing a helmet, my injury would have been much more severe than some memory loss and an injured ego! My second story is from a few years after that. I was looking for a new horse to run barrels on. I leased an ex-western pleasure horse that I ran barrels with, but I wanted to get competitive. I found this great little bay horse named Bandit that looked really promising. I told my best friend about going to look at Bandit and he asked if I was going to wear my helmet. He hated wearing a helmet and would take his off whenever possible (he doesn't ride in one now unless he is forced to). I considered not wearing my helmet since I wouldn't be forced to, but I decided that I might as well be safe than sorry! Good thing too! Bandit was the perfect horse for me except he was a little spooky and jumpy. He was built perfectly and had a beautiful pattern though. After I took him through the pattern a few times, I just sat on him in the arena chatting with his owner. He seemed perfectly relaxed and I thought that nothing could go wrong. Out of nowhere, Bandit whipped around and started charging towards the open gate at the back of the arena.
I was flung onto his side and was desperately trying to right myself. The gate wasn't all that wide so I decided that falling off was my best option because my face didn't want to get too closely acquainted with the metal pole. I landed on my butt and cracked my head on the ground. My dad said it was louder than a gunshot! Other than a bruised tailbone, headache, and disappointment that Bandit wasn't going to work out, I was fine! I don't like to think about what might have happened if I decided that I didn't want to wear my helmet when I went to look at Bandit. My final story is definitely my worst fall that I have ever had. In November of my sophomore year of high school, I got the horse of my dreams. Tyke was a fast, beautiful paint horse. He was a finished barrel horse and I knew that he would make me competitive. Only problem was, he was a little bit too much horse for me. I went from ex-western pleasure lesson horse to 2D-3D barrel horse. Tyke knew his job and he loved it. For Christmas that year, I got the opportunity to go to a barrel racing clinic with Tyke that I had attended twice previously with my old horse. I was ecstatic. What better way to bond and get with my new horse than a three day clinic! Everything was going great at the clinic until we got to the individual work part. Tyke was getting a little excited and decided that he didn't want to listen to me anymore. The clinicians tightened the bit in his mouth, tightened his tie-down, and sent me off to run the pattern again. They told me that I kept leaning into my turns and that I needed to lean out of them (to help balance Tyke). I was determined to run the perfect pattern, so I was very focused on leaning out of my turns. Coming out of the second barrel, I was leaning to the right. Before I could get back in the middle of my saddle, something went wrong. Either Tyke jumped over one of the cones set up or he threw a hissyfit when he came up against the tie down and crow hopped. Regardless of what happened, I came off. I slammed into the ground on my right shoulder, hit my head, did a complete somersault, and ended up on my knees. I tried to get up, but I had gotten the wind knocked out of my and could not breathe. I've had the wind knocked out of me before, but for whatever reason, it took a long time before I could breathe again. I don't know exactly when that was because I blacked out. I don't know if I passed out or what, but I went somewhere real nice for a little while. When I came to, there were a bunch of people kneeling next to me asking where I hurt and if I could move my toes and all that jazz. My breathing was super shallow and I hurt all over. My mom decided that it would be best to call an ambulance, just to be safe.
After a fun ambulance ride, waiting, X-rays, waiting, IV's, waiting, about 10 CT Scans (the machine kept breaking!), and more waiting, we finally discovered that I had broken my top right rib (closest to my shoulder) and punctured my lung. For clarity, my rib didn't puncture my lung, the force I hit the ground with did. And guess what? NO CONCUSSION! My Troxel helmet was covered in mud and the inside foam was wrinkled from where I hit it. The helmet absorbed most of the shocked and prevented what happened to my rib and lung from happening to my brain.
I'm confident that if I hadn't been wearing my helmet, I would not be typing this right now. Yes, I look dorky in a helmet. Yes, I get made fun of at times. Yes, sometimes I really don't want to wear it. But you know what? My helmet has saved my life as I know it on three separate occasions. So I will not ride without one. Whenever people ask why I wear one, I smile and tell them that I've had too many close calls not to! Thank you Troxel for making such wonderful products! Thank you for this opportunity to be able to share my story and hopefully convince a fellow barrel racer to start wearing a helmet!