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11 Reasons People Don't Wear Helmets While Horseback Riding

And Why They Are Poor Excuses


There are a many excuses for not wearing a helmet when you ride. But there is no good reason. The quietest, most well trained horse can cause injury if it is startled or hurt. Ask anyone who has accidentally ridden over a nest of ground wasps, or were riding calmly along when a car backfired. A helmet won't make you invincible, but it will help protect the one part of your body almost impossible to fix - your brain. Please don't use these excuses and do use an ASTM approved riding helmet every time you ride.

It's my head, and I'm willing to take the risk.

Stubborn woman
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You might think, it's my head and I'm willing to take the risk. But, what if your head meets an arena wall, fence post, rock or hard ground? Head injuries can lead to permanent debilitation. And while it may be your head, have you decided who will spend their life looking after you if you can't look after yourself due to a head injury? If you think you don't need a helmet, then you should look your son, daughter, spouse, or friend in the eye and tell them: I don't need a helmet, but if I am wrong it will be your job to care for me.

I can't wear a helmet in the show ring without being penalized.

2008 Getty Images
Dressage riders, western riders, and other folks who compete might feel they will be penalized if they wear a helmet in the show ring. I can understand this from the judge's point of view. When comparing two equal riding performances, with one rider wearing a hat, and one a helmet would you consider the helmet a negative? Might it be a disrespect of tradition or an indication of insecurity of the rider? Or is the helmet wearer just showing good sense? I wish judges would reward the latter, but unfortunately this often isn't the case. There is no justification for valuing fashion and tradition over safety. Shame on any judge or association rulings that penalize helmet use.

I know how to do an emergency stop and dismount.

Rider fallen from horse.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Emergency dismounts and emergency stops are useful skills to learn, but they aren't guaranteed to be effective, and they don't replace a helmet if you take a fall. Falls can happen so quickly that you don't know you are going to come off, leaving you no time to prepare. Read these comments on my blog poll from people who thought they knew how to fall. Helmet Use Poll Comments

Helmets give me headaches.

Woman with headache.
Getty Image
The solution to this problem is not to avoid using a helmet, but to find one (Compare Prices) that fits. Also, I find I get headaches when I'm out all day with my horse. The problem I discovered (it took me years to realize this) was not the helmet, but dehydration. Riding is a sport and like any athlete, you have to care for yourself properly, especially when heat and stress can take their toll. Learn how to choose a helmet that fits you.

It will mess up my hair.

Boy with messy hair.
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Some people can take off their helmet and look like they just walked out of a shampoo commercial as they fling their locks in the sunlight. The rest of us have helmet hair. While a good shampoo and blow dry can do wonders for fixing your hair, brains are a little trickier to fix.

I'm a very experienced rider.

Dressage Rider
Image: 2009 K. Blocksdorf

A study conducted by a team of Alberta researchers found that riders who reported an injury had an average of 27 years of riding experience. New riders had a relatively small incidence of injury.


Accidents don't just happen to inexperienced riders. Grand Prix level riders have suffered TBIs from falling off of a horse. In fact, more experienced riders tend to come off with more force.

Helmets are hot and uncomfortable.

Troxel Sierra Helmet
With the number of styles and fits now available there should be a helmet to fit everyone. Many are adjustable for a custom fit.Troxel Compare Prices, Tipperary andCompare Prices IRHCompare Prices are just a few of the manufacturers you can choose from. All have a slightly different fit and are different weights and styles. Try lots of helmets on before you buy. Ask your friends what they like. With a little research, you should be able to find a helmet that will keep you both more comfortable and safe.

It's not traditional to wear a helmet when you ride western.

Western rider wearing traditional hat.
Image: 2009 K. Blocksdorf
No, it's not. But consider what the traditional hat of the cowboy really was. It was a form of protection. Cowboys wore gloves to protect their hands, chaps to protect their legs, sturdy boots to protect their feet, and a bandanna to protect their face and avoid inhaling dust. Cowboys earned their money by spending a lot of time in the saddle, and used any means available to stay in the saddle. They even redesigned the saddle for safety, comfort and function. Extra cinches, deep seats and tapadaros (hoods) on their stirrups, where all forms of safety protection. Their hats were primarily functional--protecting them from the elements. If the cowboy of yesteryear had the knowledge and technology we have today, no doubt a helmet would have been part of their gear. Tradition, like fashion, is not a justification for ignoring safety. Even cowboys knew that. That's why they abandoned traditional headgear like top hats and bowlers and English saddle design.

Helmets are ugly looking.

Helment Covers
Again, there are helmets in many different styles, like the Troxel Sierra and the Troxel Cheyenne . If you don't like the way the shell of your helmet looks put on a funky helmet cover.  This a great way to personalize your look.

Helmets are expensive.

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ASTM approved helmets cost as little as $50. This is a small expense compared with the amount you could spend on hospital costs or long-term care. International Equi-Lite Dial Fit System Schooling Helmet Compare Prices is just one example of several schooling helmets that are under the $50 price mark.

I wear a helmet--but it's made for another sport.

Bicycle helmet.
Getty Images
Riding helmets are made specifically to withstand a fall from a height or a blow to the head by a hoof. Bicycle, hockey, baseball and other helmets are not made to protect the head from these incidents. Why Not Use A Bicycle Helmet for Horseback Riding? from the American Medical Equestrian Association outlines why a riding helmet is safer than a bicycle helmet.

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