Even though there are a lot of reasons for wearing a helmet when riding a horse, there are still a lot of people not wearing one. Some people wear a helmet only if they are going to be jumping the horse. Others only wear one if they are riding a young horse or one they know can be unpredictable. Some riders will only put on a helmet if they are at a show, clinic, or other venue where it is required. It sounds as if they aren’t worried about hitting their head or do not think that they will.
It is interesting that using recommended safety equipment is frequently not followed by many people. Seat belts were rarely used until it was required and there are still people who don’t follow this rule. Helmets for bike riders is now required in many parks and roads, but you still see people riding down the road with a bare head. In the states where a helmet is not required for motorcycle riders it is common to see bare headed riders speeding down the road.
Perhaps it is about the numbers. For instance, it is much more likely that a rider will come off a horse while jumping than when going for a trail ride. If the odds go up the helmet goes on. The problem with this thinking is that it only takes one time, like not using protection during sex.
It also appears that more experienced, advanced riders are less likely to wear a helmet than a beginner. The beginner expects to fall, the experienced rider does not. The problem here is that the beginner is less likely to have a serious fall – they aren’t jumping high, moving fast, or performing difficult moves. The advanced rider has probably experienced many falls without any serious consequences and so they aren’t really worried about falling – they have learned how to fall. They no longer take falling off their horse seriously; otherwise they would protect their head!
Some of the equestrian disciplines require head gear that is not protective. Dressage at the FEI levels requires a Top Hat, Derby, or a uniform type of hat that is not protective. Many other equestrian sports have a costume that includes something other than a certified riding helmet. Western riders don’t want to wear a helmet, they love their cowboy hat! Most shows, barns, and clinics require junior riders to wear protective head gear, but it is optional for adults. Adults are supposed to be smart enough to make the proper choice, but sadly many don’t and won’t unless it becomes an enforced rule with consequences.
Helmets ruin your hair and they are hot! This is a very common reason many women say they don’t wear a riding helmet. While many modern helmets today are designed for better air flow and comfort, there is really nothing to be done about the crushed hair except wear it short, put it in a ponytail, and have a baseball cap or other hat available when the helmet comes off. Is the hairdo really more important than your brain?
There are a lot of stories about people who started wearing a helmet because they or someone they know had a serious injury. They were scared into protecting their brain! Most people learn things the hard way, it seems, they have to see it for themselves because what other people say can’t be trusted.
The USEF is currently participating in a symposium about the importance of wearing a helmet and the rules concerning helmets at competitions. Hopefully riders will see this as a sign that wearing a helmet is important and will wear one at all times. Even if it were not required, a race car driver would not think of racing without a helmet, why shouldn’t a horse rider think the same way? If there is any chance at of damaging your brain while on a horse it only makes sense that you would want to wear protective head gear.
Why don’t you wear a riding helmet?