Reposted with the kind permission of the Equestrian Medical Safety Association (EMSA)
By SuSan S. Quinn, ESQ.
former R.N., P.A.-C, President of the South Carolina Dressage and Combined Training Association
As you should know by now, the USDF and the USEF have passed new safety helmet rules for eventing and dressage riders. (See the USDF and USEF websites for full texts of the new rules). Some will argue that the new rules don’t go far enough and have loopholes. Others will argue that these rules merely represent “nanny state” intrusions into our private lives. It’s a free country, and if we want to sustain head injuries with potential irreversible brain damage it’s our God-given right to do so.
Whatever your view, it is axiomatic that riding is a dangerous sport, and even the best, most experienced riders are not invincible or immune from potential life-threatening or severely disabling injury. Each year thousands of riders find themselves in hospital emergency rooms with horse-related injuries. A sizeable percentage of these injuries involve the skull and brain.
ASTM/SEI certified helmets can prevent serious head injuries and save lives. Still, many riders shun the use of helmets. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you’re one of the thousands of risk-takers who use one or more of the following excuses for not wearing a helmet when you ride. If you are (and I know there are some of you out there), allow me to play the role of the official “SCDCTA Buzzkill” and try to refute some of the common helmet non-use alibis:
1). Helmets give me “helmet head hair.”
Buzzkill response: If you think helmet head hair looks and feels bad, imagine how you’ll look when your head has been shaved and your skull surgically drilled open for the brain surgery that may follow your fall. Wearing a helmet is not...I couldn’t resist saying it...brain surgery.
2). Helmets are too hot to wear in South Carolina summers. (please add: wahhhh, wahhh, wahhh to the end of this sentence when you read it.)
Buzzkill response: One severe fall and you may never remember another hot South Carolina summer again.
3). Other people at my barn don’t wear helmets.
Buzzkill response: OK, remember how your mother used to say, “If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?”
4). I’m not going to jump. I’m only going to ride on the flat.
Buzzkill response: Where in the rule book does it say that horses will only buck, rear, spook, bolt or act up when jumping and will be perfect angels at all times while being ridden on the flat?
5). My horse is totally trustworthy and has never done anything to cause me to fall off.
Buzzkill response: These words are the equivalent to a “kiss of death.” Just as soon as you say them (or even think them!), your horse may prove you wrong.
6). Nothing bad is going to happen to me when I’m riding.
Buzzkill response: See #5’s response above, and if you really believe this then you need to get a job as a psychic because if you can predict your future with that degree of certainty, you have a supernatural gift for the clairvoyant!
7). Only kids and amateurs need to wear helmets
Buzzkill response: If you think you’re that invincible and that nothing harmful will befall you ever while on a horse because you are that great a rider, you are not only overrating your own abilities and underestimating your mount’s ability to put you on the ground head first, but you are also seriously Charlie Sheen delusional.
To read more from the Spring EMSA Newsletter click here.