Saturday, April 3, 2010

My new helmet

It was cold and it was windy, but Cara and I were not going to be denied. We made the long drive north to my friend Trisha's farm in Wellington, Colorado yesterday and spent an absolutely delightful afternoon on horseback. This is me aboard Katie.Observant readers might notice something unusual about this photo--that is, I'm wearing a riding helmet.

I started taking riding lessons when I was ten years old. My instructor told my parents that I needed a helmet and boots, so we drove out to a tack shop in Burbank and made those first exciting purchases. The helmet we ended up with didn't fit very well. It left a red mark on my forehead and gave me a headache, but I was young and oblivious. Pain, what pain? I was just happy to be riding!
A few years later I made the transition from riding in adult-supervised lessons to riding borrowed horses on my own. I was no longer immune to helmet pain, and since there was no adult around to enforce the rules, I just stopped wearing it. Of course it was during this time that I also stopped using saddles,
and bridles!
My friends and I did wear our helmets every now and again, but that was usually when we were doing something so spectacularly stupid that even we know it was dangerous. Here's one example--back to back bareback riding on a horse who was not quiet. Yes, we actually trotted and cantered this way!
Fortunately, we survived. We even learned a bit from our mistakes. By the time I had graduated from college and moved to Tennessee, all those brave/crazy riding antics were just a memory. I was riding really nice horses at serious show barns...
and it was important to look and act responsible. This is me in my 1990's era riding wear--custom chaps, Grand Prix paddock boots and a Millers t-shirt. Still no helmet, though!
Surprisingly most of the places where I rode didn't have helmet rules. Occasionally, however, I'd find myself among the safety conscious.
Since I worked at a tack shop, it shouldn't have been difficult to buy myself a helmet, but that wasn't the case. Although the shop carried many brands and styles, none of them fit my head properly.

I ended up with this "For Apparel Only" Lexington H425. Unlike most of the other helmets, this one didn't give me a headache. That was good. What wasn't good was that it was too long from front to back and also too deep. It would tip way down on my forehead making it hard for me to see. I wore it when I was required to have a helmet, but otherwise it stayed in its box.More time passed. I got married, moved back to Colorado and had a couple kids. I didn't ride much for several years, and when I started up again, it was without a helmet. This was as much by circumstance as choice. I did go helmet shopping on several occasions, but invariably I was presented with a bunch of helmets that didn't fit. The whole thing seemed impossible so I just kept on riding bareheaded.

Still, there were times when I found myself on a very young...
or very green horse and it would occur to me that I really ought to be more careful. As those thoughts became more and more common, I decided to get serious about my helmet search. I started making the rounds of all the local tack shops looking for a schooling helmet that fit. None of them did, but I didn't give up. I tried on every helmet I could find and eventually I did fine one that worked. Unfortunately that one already belonged to someone else, but I got the pertinent information and found a tack shop that would special order it for me.

My new helmet arrived this week. I was almost afraid to try it on. There have been so many false starts in this search but I am pleased to report that it fits! It really fits! For the first time in thirty one years of riding, I have a helmet that fits!
I will continue to post the occasional old picture of me atop a horse without a helmet. These photos bring back so many good memories, and although I know that some of them are Fugly Horse of the Day fodder, I really don't care. We were young and invincible. Our horses were much loved and generally well cared for given our teenage limitations. Even on our worst days, I don't think they suffered too much from our craziness.
However, from this point forward, all new photos of me on a horse will include a helmet.And that's a promise!


  1. And Dad said "thank God", and I want to know how come I didn't worry about you.

  2. You really should have worried about me the year we were riding in Duarte. Neither Laura or I had a bit of sense and there were NO grownups at that stable to tell us that riding upside down and backwards was a BAD IDEA.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. And Linda Y said...ever since I got dumped off into a dry stream bed full of ROCKS (not rocks) and cracked my helmet, I wear one no matter what anyone may think! Or that it gives me helmet hair! Rather have that than be drooling into my lap!

  5. I fully support helmets, especially for people with children who depend on them!

    Of course, I took up riding again as an adult at 29. I had just spent 8 years putting higher education information into my brain and I was not going to let looking dorky stop me from protecting my head. I blew out two discs in my lower back a few years earlier (not on a horse) so I knew that I didn't bounce any more.

    We'll have to go riding again sometime. I have a new helmet that is sparkly green!

  6. YAY for brain buckets! You never know the true importance of them until you have that fall when you aren't wearing one...I still slip up every once in a while and don't wear one, but it's like wearing your seatbelt. It just makes sense. Now I have to remember I am setting an example for my own children, and I definitely want them to wear one.
    Great post - I loved all of your old photos...and new ones as well!! You look great in the saddle!

  7. My daughter is dong the crazy thing now and not wearing a helmet. I need to get on her case about this and I'm glad you have a helmet that fits!

  8. As a 4-H leader and first hand experiencer of what helmets do, way to go!

  9. In my defense, my years of riding without a helmet had nothing to do with vanity. Have you seen some of the pictures I've posted of myself? I think it's pretty obvious that I'm not hung up on looking cool! :D

    The fit problems I have simply cannot be overstated. I can't wear a Troxel or a Tipperary or a Charles Owen or ... So many other brands! Those are all much too round for me. My head is long from front to back and narrow from side to side. When I say these helmets don't fit me, I'm not kidding. They really, really do not fit. Fortunately, the International is much more of an oval shape. I actually forgot I was wearing it and that has never, ever happened before. I had pretty much given up on ever having a comfortable helmet!

    And don't you know, after I went through all that trouble to special order it (the first tack shop I tried to order from took all my information but couldn't seem to get it ordered. I ended up having to go somewhere else) I now know of two places that actually carry them on the shelves! Neither is particularly close to my house, but still. I would have loved to have had that information a year ago!

    Anyway, thanks for all the feedback. I'm actually kind of surprised that no one's given me a load of grief over the back to back bareback picture!

  10. I'm so glad! Now get your kids some shoes with heels on them, girl!

    I've had three horse-related concussions. One of them involved crashing a jumper fence, horse fell. One of them, we were having a disagreement about a turn, horse tangled his feet and fell. The earliest one was a result of the sort of foolery you show in your pictures - long suffering pony we used to ride double, some brilliant kid got the idea to ride her TRIPLE and she deservedly dumped all three of us on our rear ends.

    Funny thing is, I was wearing a hard hat for two of these events! Remember good old fashioned 1980's strapless hard hats where the hat was the first thing to hit the ground in case of disaster?

    Anyway, I'm not kidding about the boots. At least make them ride in the stirrups with taps if they aren't wearing heels. The fall I mentioned above where the horse tangled his feet, I did the classic Victorian-heroine-in-distress thing and got my foot caught in the stirrup and dragged. (The saddle had releases on the stirrups, but it was new and they were stiff, and they didn't work.) I don't remember the accident. I don't remember that entire day, in fact. Western saddles don't have stirrup releases! Anyway this is a long about way of saying it does happen, people do get dragged, and it's not something you ever want to happen to your kid.

  11. What a great blog post! I grew up rididng western - still do on the rare occasions I ride - and I don't think I ever rode a helmet no matter what kind of wild and crazy things I was doing. To this day I think that the vast majority of western style riders don't wear helmets. Maybe because we don't typically jump? There is no good reason for it tho.
    I love the little bay mare you are riding in the first picture! She looks like a sweetie - my first "til death do us part" horse was a little bay BLM mustang mare and she was the sweetest, best horse I ever had.

  12. It's funny, I can wear the Troxel Sport (also the least expensive of theirs), but all the others are for rounder heads than mine.

    I used an International for my show helmet. Others, like you mentioned, are to too tight across the front and back.

  13. I love the new helmet and I love your saddle too!! My daughter would have loved to have one like it but there was only one saddle in the ENTIRE Dover Saddlery Tack Shop that fit her and unfortunately it was above our price range...but what we do for our daughters!! I hope you have a great Easter holiday! As a chemist who worked in at a plant site with safety helmets, glasses, shoes and the whole bit, my daughter didn't have a choice but to wear a helmet but I suspect the stables would have required it too. I hope you're doing emails may not be getting through lately but Tiff said you are well...I'm going through withdrawl not being able to order your gorgeous tack!! The endurance set from last year's NAN auction that you made and I was lucky to win is headed to this year's NAN...yippee! S. Peet (don't remember my google username and don't know what the others mean...I'm computer illiterate!)

  14. its funny to read this jen, because wearing a helmet when i ride is an automatic reacton. Here in the UK its mandatory for anyone under 16 to wear a helmet at all times when mounted, and any mounted person at a competition of any sorts (any age) is compulsory to wear one. The only exeptions are if youy are over 16 and are on your own property that your not obliged to wear one. Its strange really, how things differ from country to country, it fascinates me. you always see discussions about this sort of thing in horsey magazines and the feelings are mixed, but im glad you posted this, interesting!=]