Some of you may have noticed from my previous posts and pictures that I usually wear a helmet while riding. This is not something that I have always been good at. In fact, I usually only pulled mine out of the tack box for one week a year. I showed at the local county fair in 4-H and there was a pretty strict policy; no helmet, no horse riding. No “ifs”, “ands”, or “buts”. As a teenager, I thought it was dumb. I was a good rider with a bomb proof horse…plus I never wore a helmet at home! However, I never said I made the best decisions at that age.
It didn’t matter what I was doing, whether jumping, practicing barrels, barebacking it, or just going for a trail ride, I usually didn’t put anything on my head. I went through a phase of wearing a cowboy hat thanks to Amy Fleming and Heartland, but that did not provide any protection.
My mom fell off my horse twice during the years we had Murphy, and even her two concussions weren’t enough for me to think a helmet was worth looking a little goofy. There’s no guarantee she would have not gotten injured still, but the concussions may have been milder had she been wearing a helmet.
Fast forward a few years to graduating nursing school and buying my next horse. I looked at a total of three horses and didn’t even think to take my helmet with me. Luckily, two out of the three I test rode didn’t have any panic moments. The second horse I didn’t even attempt to get on after seeing him buck his owner off right in front of me.
After buying Cash, I figured I better hunt down my awful blue helmet from my childhood. I wore it during my first ride at the new boarding barn to appease my mother, but after that it sat in the trunk of my car for months.
My first helmet was a periwinkle blue Troxel that I picked out at Tractor Supply as a twelve year old. My mother specifically told me that I should get a black one, but twelve year old Alli INSISTED that blue was the best. Mom told me someday I would regret not getting a plain color, and I stood right there in the aisle at TSC and promised her I would love it forever. Guess what…my mother has never been wrong! By the age of 14 I was borrowing a friend’s helmet for fair or putting a black cover over mine to hide the hideous color.
Rather than spending money on another helmet, I just decided that I didn’t need one. In fact, it wasn’t until two months ago that I realized what I was risking everytime I climbed into my saddle. I started following Fallon Taylor on social media and became curious about the infamous barrel racer that always wore a helmet. I read about her story of tragedy following a wreck on her horse, and the obstacles she had to overcome to get back in the saddle. I read about her campaign to fight the stigma of wearing a helmet while rodeoing.
Fallon Taylor wasn’t the only positive influence over my decision. Amber Marshall, better known as “Amy Fleming” from Heartland is also an advocate for helmets. I had been watching Heartland for years, and I feel like the show did not promote helmets quite enough. It wasn’t until I started following Amber Marshall on social media did I realize her belief in helmets. Followers even have commented on her choice to wear one in some of her photos. One typed, “Thank you for wearing a helmet Amber! It’s so important that your young (impressionable) fans see you making this intelligent choice!” Another follower asked if she was trying to set an example for younger riders, Amber replied, “…and the older ones! In my opinion there is no age when you should start or stop protecting your brain.” I realized the benefits of wearing a helmet far outweighed my excuses to forego one.
Despite deciding that a helmet should probably be on my head for every ride, I still refused to wear that awful periwinkle blue helmet. It wasn’t until I purchased a black Troxel duratec helmet at a tack sale did I get serious about wearing one. I did quite a bit of research on the different helmet lines available and compared a lot of pricing. Ultimately, I splurged a little to get a helmet I would actually wear.
After moving Cash home, his slight barn sourness developed into more severe buddy sourness to his new friend, Itty Bit the steer. I started to lose some of my confidence the more Cash acted up. Wearing a helmet helped give me some of that back. It definitely felt a bit awkward and bulky at first, but it didn’t take long to get used to it. In fact, it feels more wrong to be on my horse without one now, and I don’t even notice it when it’s on.
I’m sure as Cash becomes a more trustworthy trail companion and as my confidence in him returns, there will be days I opt for a ball cap over my helmet. However, I’m glad that I’ve created a “good habit” for myself.
Now, whether you wear a helmet is completely up to you, but I hope this at least gave you a few things to think about! It’s never too late to start protecting yourself. There is no level of riding experience or skill that automatically makes you exempt from a tragic wreck. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!