Monthly Archives: June 2005

Helmets, from a cowboys point of view.

I recently started to ride with a helmet. Fortunately there was no traumatic accident to myself or any of my friends, family or students that prompted my decision. I just decided that it might be a smart thing to do.
I started my equine career working full time as a “big outfit” cowboy. Helmets were never talked about let alone worn. This was, and still is, the accepted practice. A cowboy hat was just fine, and I still find it a highly functional piece of cowboy equipment. A cowboy’s hat has a lot of character and the style of hat can say a lot about the man wearing it. Helmets just seemed unappealing to wear and they lack the ability to say much about who is wearing it, don’t they? They all look so generic and bulky. There is the pride thing. Or maybe it was the macho cowboy thing or that I thought I would look stupid. None of those are very good reasons for putting myself at risk.
As a professional horse trainer I specialize in starting young horses that haven’t been ridden and I deal with many horses that have developed problems, sometimes very serious dangerous behaviour.
When working with the kind of horses that I am used to I exercise extreme caution. I work methodically to eliminate risks to prepare the horses to be as safe as he can be. This is sometimes still not very safe.
Last summer my kids started riding quite a bit and were not allowed to ride without a helmet. My wife started her first horse last year and was diligent about wearing a helmet.
With my wife and kids setting a good example riding their quiet ponies and very well behaved green horse. I would get on some half wild horse without a second thought about a helmet. Since they were less experienced than me they needed the protection. I, as the professional, felt no need for the same protection. I guess they started to rub off on me and I started to think about buying a helmet. But since I couldn’t find one I liked I wasn’t in a rush.
I eventually accepted that I should make a bigger effort to protect myself. I actually convinced myself that I wanted to start wearing one, but my ego wouldn’t let me. When I finally did buy one I would wear it at home or when I was by myself where know one could see me. The arena I ride in is about 100 meter’s off a road where much of the traffic is local. Whenever I would see a vehicle I recognized I would take it off hoping not to be caught. Eventually I realized how foolish I was acting and forced myself to keep it on. Wearing it at home was now not that big a deal but what about in public, could I wear it in front of my clients and students? In the past year or so I have started to work at quite a few English barns. This helped a lot because at many of these places I was the only one without a helmet. One day last fall I got up the nerve to put it on at a clinic. I now make it my practice to put it on especially in public when riding green horses.
I now feel that I should be the example Maybe it will be easier for my clients and students to put one on if they see me taking nothing for granted.
I now have a different opinion about those that choose to protect themselves by wearing a riding helmet. A cowboy hat has character and says a lot about the person that wears it. A helmet may not show as much character but the person wearing it certainly does.