The Better You Ride The Harder You Fall [Video]
 By Winniefield Park   •   30th Sep 2013   •   7,653 views   •   2 comments
The Better You Ride The Harder You Fall

I have some very strong feelings about riding helmet use. I've had two concussions, one because of a fall from a horse, another thanks to a drunk driver (but that's another soapbox). So, I am always excited to see the progress of a group called Riders4Helmets.


How did Riders4Helmets get started? Many of you may already know the story of Courtney King-Dye. For those who don't, I'll do a quick recap. On March 3, 2010, Olympic Dressage rider Courtney King-Dye took a life-changing fall when the young horse she was schooling at a show tripped. Courtney fell from the horse with enough force that onlookers claim her head 'bounced' off of the turf. She was not wearing a helmet and suffered a fractured skull. King-Dye was in a coma for several weeks. Since then, she has undergone rigorous therapy for mobility and speech. She and her family met with financial burdens as medical insurance ran out. Fortunately, for her, adoring friends and fans have taken on fund-raising efforts on her behalf. King-Dye is still recovering slowly, and hoping for full recovery

From the tragedy of King-Dye's story sprang the inspiration for Riders4Helmets an educational initiative conceived by Lindsey White and Jeri Bryant. The success of the Riders4Helmets campaign has been tremendous. Through various social media outlets, the creation of Helmet Awareness Day, and perhaps most significantly the annual Safety Symposium, Riders4Helmets has been successful in spreading the word about the importance of helmet use.

Since its beginnings in the spring of 2010, the Riders4Helmets has promoted an ongoing educational helmet use campaign nationally and internationally, garnering the participation of top level equestrians, retailers, manufacturers, medical professionals and supporters. I recently spoke to Lyndsey White of the Riders4Helmets campaign.

Article: Ten Reasons Not to Wear a Helmet
Article: This Helmet Saved My Life

Helmet use is becoming more accepted in the horse community, even among top level competitors with Grand Prix riders like dressage rider Jacqueline Brooks who made history by being the first dressage rider to wear a helmet at the Olympic Games. Canada was the first country to make helmet use mandatory for all levels of dressage competition. Other countries and associations have made new rulings regarding helmet use. In a brief time, Riders4Helmets has made a significant impact on individuals and supporting associations. Lyndsey shared some interesting facts about helmet use and why every rider should “strap one on."

I asked Lindsey why wearing a riding helmet is so important. “2007 data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) states approximately 78,000 people visit the ER for horse-related injuries and head injuries account for about 15% of that total,” says Lindsey. “A leading neurosurgeon states that of the common sports and activities, horseback riding is the number-one cause of head injuries. Horseback riders sustain more head injuries than participants of any other sport.

But, I asked, aren't good riders less likely to fall off? Lyndsey explains, “People think they are experienced so don’t need a helmet. Jean White wrote in an article, "...the better you ride, the hoarder you fall. Beginner riders fall off. Experienced riders get launched.” Experienced riders stay in the saddle longer, they ride greener or more difficult horses, go faster, jump higher and ride in more challenging situations.”

Considering the number of top level equestrians who have suffered or lost their lives due to a Traumatic Brain Injury, this isn't surprising information. Consider rider Darren Chiacchia who suffered a TBI and credits his helmet for saving his life. Guenter Seidel, a top dressage riding and trainer also credits his helmet for saving his life after a fall that broke his pelvis. And, Federico Caprill who developed the forward seat over jumps died of a TBI — there were no helmets in his day.

If there's one thing Lyndsey wants people to know about choosing a helmet, it's being sure it's ASTM and FEI approved. “I'm shocked there are non-approved, 'for apparel only' helmets being displayed along with the others.” A woman Lyndsey knows inadvertently bought an unapproved helmet, and as a result a child's life was lost. Shop carefully and always remember, no matter what you're doing —whether messing around in the backyard, or galloping over Grand Prix fences, to 'strap one on'.

Image Credit: © Nyul |
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I love Riders4Helmets. I think its great to see more and more dressage riders wear helmets. Now all we need to do is get the western riders to wear helmets but I don't think that's gonna happen any time soon.
  Oct 2, 2013  •  8,146 views
T E M P E S T  
It's great to see more people wearing helmets. I got a lot of heat on a school equestrian team for wearing a helmet in a saddleseat class (usually I ride hunters). It would be great if the equestrian culture became more accepting of helmets.
  Oct 2, 2013  •  8,208 views
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