Helmet Evangelism

Work: day off.

First of many rants on the subject.

A few years ago, I decided to go on a short, quiet walk at home on my husband’s horse. Who needs a helmet under those circumstances? I did.
Matilda was 25 years old at the time.
We’d owned her for 18 years.
She had lived on this property for 15 years.
She was known to be a nutcase & IMHO not the most talented horse on the planet.

Since she is round & comfortable, I bridled her & hopped on bareback. The intention was to walk around the edge of her pasture 2-4 times. We did this regularly for cool-downs & brief rides. She could get a little stupid, particularly in one corner of the field. I kept at it, hoping she would eventually associate the walk with relaxation.

We had gotten past the scary bits and were walking, strolling, meandering along the calm part of the pasture. She was on the buckle with her head down and relaxed. I don’t remember if I was holding the reins or not. If I was, it was in a loose grasp with one hand. We were headed slightly downhill.

Suddenly the front end disappeared downwards. She had tripped. I grabbed on with my legs, partly out of instinct, partly waiting for her to sort herself out and stand back up, but mostly to avoid pitching forward and rolling off. She shuffled and stumbled forward a few steps on her knees. Then she displayed the talent I always suspected she possessed, gave up the battle, and rolled over on her side. Her front legs had pretty much folded up by then so it was a slow roll more than a sudden flop. My feet, leg, and hip gradually got steamrolled under her side. When my hip/thigh area was on the ground, the whiplash (leverage? torque?) took over and snapped my trunk and the side of my head to the ground. It was less than a fall from a standing position and certainly less than a fall from the top of a horse. Yet, I was surprised at the resounding whack my head made when it finally smacked down.

Results: Nothing broken. My foot was squashed flat with eventual stellar bruising along the sides. Head safe and sound inside my ASTM-approved helmet.

I was in the most harmless, most likely for someone not to have a helmet situation and yet I still hit dirt. It could have been much, much worse. I did have a moment where I looked along the length of my torso to see a horse lying on my leg and thought, “This can’t be good.”

Every ride, every time.

[This example was originally written up for “It’s Only Your Brain After All” by Kathie Mautner, published on the Chronicle of the Horse website on 6/4/10. It didn’t get used there & I wanted to talk about helmets here.  Fortunately, I’m a pack rat and I could find it.  I hate to see text go to waste.  Hence the excessive length of today’s post.]

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