Riding Helmets Save Lives

By Stephanie Conner UF/IFAS Clay County Extension Agent
Posted 2/13/19

I was recently riding my horse with a group of friends and, as we passed another group of the trail riders, I noticed another horseback rider and thought to myself, “Huh, I wonder why she has a …

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Riding Helmets Save Lives

Posted

I was recently riding my horse with a group of friends and, as we passed another group of the trail riders, I noticed another horseback rider and thought to myself, “Huh, I wonder why she has a helmet on?” We pass each other, smile and wave, but I am left wondering is she a new rider or is the horse new to trail riding?

As luck would have it, I happened to see this person again and was able to ask her why was she was wearing a helmet. Her response was simple, “I forget enough stuff as it is, I do not need to bump my brain and make it worse.” We talked a bit longer and then parted ways, but the thought was still in my head.

As a 4-H faculty member I work with young people who ride horses and I always firmly tell them no helmet, no riding. After all, their brains are growing and developing so they need to take extra care to protect themselves. After the conversation with this woman however, I’m thinking that maybe my old brain needs protection too – not because it is growing and developing, but because it is just trying to remember something from last week!

As I thought more about this topic I turned to the body of research regarding injuries, helmets, and horses to learn more. What I found was a salient reminder that we should consider the statistics and not become one of them because we didn’t think we needed a helmet or that it was not fashionable.

According to the University of Connecticut, there are over 70,000 individuals in the U.S. who are treated in emergency rooms because of horse-related accidents. The most shocking statistic is that 60 percent or more of horse-related deaths are caused by head injuries and wearing a helmet can reduce that risk by 70-80 percent.

Pun intended here, but given these statistics wearing a helmet sounds like a no brainer. That raises the question, why are there so many adults who will not wear helmets? The excuses range from ‘I’ve never ridden with a helmet,’ ‘they are hot,’ ‘I couldn’t wear my ball cap if I wore a helmet,’ and ‘they never fit right.’ The very best excuse I heard was, “I’m over 18 and I do not need to,” as though being over 18 automatically insulates you from an accident and God forbid subsequent head injury.

For those of you considering a change, follow this advice to make sure you have the right helmet. First, your helmet should be ASTM/SEI certified. The ASTM, or American Society for Testing and Materials, sets standards for many types of safety equipment. Not all helmets are ASTM International/SEI standards certified, so make sure to read the label.

For those thinking bicycle helmets are a cheaper option, hold tight, bicycle helmets are designed for bike riders, not for horseback riders. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reports each type of helmet is made to protect your head from the kind of impacts that typically are associated with a particular activity or sport. For horseback, rider helmets are geared for higher distance falls and protecting the back of your head.

In addition to the helmet certification, riders need to make sure the helmet fits. If it is sliding around your head, then it is too loose, if it is leaving indentions then it is too tight. The straps under your chin should be snug but not choking. A helmet that fits should stay firm on your head. If you have experienced a fall from a horse and have a crack or deep abrasions on your helmet you should consider replacing the potentially compromised helmet.

Statistics don’t lie. So, if you are riding a horse it doesn’t matter if you are 5 years old or 65 years old, you should use your head and also protect it with a helmet. For more information about helmets or 4-H, you can contact Stephanie Conner at (904) 284-6355 or sconner04@ufl.edu.

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