Many Wilson students come from different riding backgrounds. Some have started in backyard barns teaching themselves while others enrolled in lessons with a trainer they see every weekend. There is a multitude of ways to start riding a horse but there is one thing that seems sorely unenforced: helmet safety.
Recently, the entire equestrian community has taken up the torch to encourage all riders to wear their helmets. Whether one is jumping a four foot course or taking a walking trail ride, helmets are one thing you should never forget.
Helmets are essential every time you get on a horse. Melony Wagner ’16 talked about how her helmet helped to save her own head, “I was actually in a really bad accident a year after I bought Jag (her horse),I actually broke a 2 by 4 with my head and broke through my helmet so if I wouldn’t have had that helmet it would have been my skull and I probably wouldn’t be here, so I will not ride without a helmet.”
At the 2nd Riders4Helmets Helmet Safety Symposium, Dr. Lola Blackwell Chambless, a neurosurgeon at Vanderbilt, mentioned that equestrians are 20 times more likely to sustain an injury than a motorcycle rider for every hour of ride time. As stated on Riders4Helemets.com, “Motorcyclists can expect one serious accident for every 5,000 hours of riding, an equestrian? One serious accident in just 350 hours of riding.” Blackwell also states that in comparison to contact sports like football, where there is an average of 8 deaths due to traumatic brain injuries per year, equestrians total up to 60 deaths per year.
A report by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) states that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that horseback riding accounted for 11.7 percent of all traumatic brain injuries in a 2007 study. The AANS continues to say, “According to the Ontario Equestrian Federation, a rider sitting on a horse is elevated eight feet or more above the ground, and a fall from just two feet can cause permanent brain damage.” says the AANS. The New England Journal of Medicine states that wearing a helmet can reduce head and brain injuries by 85 percent.
Wearing a helmet not only protects your own head but can also help protect others. Young children look up to older riders as role models and seeing professionals wear their helmets and taking pride in protecting their head will help kids to protect their own. Wagner encourages every student to wear a helmet when riding no matter how silly they may think it is. “The sport is really unpredictable. You can end up on the ground in a flash. You can accidentally get thrown into a wall, you can land on a jump standard. You can never know what’s gonna happen and if you land on your head there’s a very high probability of damaging something which includes your neck and your spinal cord and all that. But I think the best that you can do to protect your head just in case something were to happen is definitely wear a helmet.”