the dressage world's uneasy relationship with helmets



My father sent me an interesting article from the New York Times today.

While some riders are catching on, some dressage riders still succumb to their immature fear of looking like "dorks," for wearing a helmet.  High school peer pressure is alive and well, even at the highest levels of the sport.  And these people are heroes and role models to some...

Has no one clued them in to the fact that they look no less dorky riding around on prancing carousel-like horses wearing top hats of all things?  No one is going to look cool in one of those things.  "Dorkiness" kinda comes with the territory, and we've all signed up knowing that.  Get over it.  As my dad said, in his own special way: "Anyone who doesn't wear a helmet is a helmet."

15 comments:

  1. I like it, you make some good points. Nobody likes the helmet head look but if it saves your life/brains then so what if you look "dorky".

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  2. Super interesting article...thanks for the link. You can argue with those numbers. I feel naked on horseback or bicycle without my "lid" and watching others without theirs makes me shudder.

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  3. When I balked at wearing seat belts (I really feel constricted to an almost claustrophobic degree by them) my husband said "when you got married and had children you lost your right to put yourself in harm's way."

    That's the thing I always think about when I see upper level riders (or any riders) not wearing helmets. What about their families and loved ones who will bear the burden, especially if they're not killed but disabled permanently and profoundly?

    Brain injury can devastate an entire family of lives. And helmets - let's not forget that they MUST be fitted properly to afford protection - seems like a small price to pay, to me.

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  4. GHM - i agree, no helmet is really going to be flattering, but the alternatives are worse :-\

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  5. dp - i feel naked without my helmet too. it's just part of my gear now and so second nature i don't even notice it. i'm like that with boots too - just can't bring myself to ride in a shoe without a heel. but there have been a few occasions where it really saved me a major injury and i cringe when i see riders without one too.

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  6. billie - that's a great point too and one i haven't really considered. i don't have kids but i do have responsibilities and it would be really irresponsible not to take extra care. things happen, but you can always reduce the odds of them being more serious. even if you don't think you owe it to yourself, you owe it to those who depend on you and who care about you.

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  7. I think failure to wear a helmet is a combination of habit (I've never done it), wishful thinking (it could never happen to me and besides I'm not jumping and anyway I'm a great rider) and denial/egotism (see wishful thinking). I rode all the time without a helmet when I was growing up, and had some nasty head injuries including a couple of concussions. I never, ever ride without a helmet now, and I don't admire people, no matter how good riders they think they are, who ride without a helmet - whether they're doing dressage or riding Western - I just think it's dumb and I stand by that.

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  8. I ride at a fancy pants dressage barn where almost no one wears a helmet. They claim going from wearing a helmet to not is a right of passage. It is their choice to not do it (except anyone under 22 I see doing it not only gets a lecture from me, but I am mean and will even call their parents because their young brains are not developed yet) but I always wear mine. I will say that it was a thrill to go to the tack store and try on a top hat and tails after a really good lesson with tempi changes and half pass, but even while doing that I told the clerk that there was no need for the top hat. I am a helmet wearing rider through and through. If I ever do make it to Devon I hope I can set a good example by wearing my beautiful black helmet.

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  9. kate - i think you're absolutely right about the psychology behind it, and i also lose a lot of respect for people who are so adamant about not NEEDING a helmet.

    when i first started i rode in one of those thin shell hunt caps without padding or a chin strap. it was purely for looks and usually fell off my head long before i hit the ground. it wasn't until the padded, harnessed helmets became mandatory at shows that i realized what a good thing it was to have REAL protection on my head!

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  10. OtB - good for you! there has to be a lot of pressure to conform in a situation like that, and i applaud you for doing your own thing and what you think is right. i hope you do get to devon in your helmet - you show 'em!

    i hate the whole mentality that wearing a helmet is somehow an admission of fear or inability - or that it's a phase to grow out of! to me that's almost a form of magical thinking.

    when i was starting horses for a living i was basically a crash-test dummy. i jumped huge jumps on all kinds of horses and could sit to anything any horse could dish out. after surviving all that, i could have gone home and rode my perfectly trained horses without a helmet and probably been fine, but i would have been kidding myself if i believed i was such a good rider i didn't need a helmet. i don't care who you are, no one is that good! any horse can surprise you with a spook or a buck or trip and then what?

    it's always been my experience that the real injuries come from the things you don't expect or have no control over. then it doesn't matter how good a rider you are - i've had horses slip and fall, i've had other riders crash into me, etc., and those are the unexpected things i like to be ready for!

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  11. I have another version of your father's saying:
    Anyone who has something inside their head worth saving, rides with a helmet.

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  12. Totally agree. Everyone knows we're not staring at their headwear anyway...we're ogling at their riding techniques and their beautiful horse. :)

    ~Lisa

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  13. I keep a cracked helmet in my tack room as a constant reminder...that could have been my skull. I've been dumped way too many times to NOT use one.

    I've also seen some pretty ignorant arguments by people who claim they don't need them...until at least one of these folks wound up getting dumped on a paved street and getting knocked out cold for 15 minutes (she was extremely lucky).

    I wote a helmet in the Army and while you could argue that it also makes you look like a dork, it also keeps you alive and that's why I'm now typing this. :-)

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  14. adam - i agree. you can buy a cheap piece of crap from china and it comes packaged well enough to withstand being shot out of a cannon, but for some reason people don't think their heads need even a little of the same consideration :-\ i've bought eggs packaged better than some people protect their brains. my brains are scrambled enough already ;-)

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