Yes, I wear a helmet when I trail ride.
As I sit here, I feel like I have to defend myself since most of us think of trail riding as an experience where we are ‘one with nature’ our ‘hair blowing in the wind’ and the sun beating down on our little heads.
Yup. I used to ride like that.
Until that fateful day…
BUT FIRST, NO ONE WEARS A HELMET TO LOOK GOOD…
Not too many people look really good in a riding helmet. Well, maybe a few guys, but not many girls.
For me, I don’t wear a helmet to look the part because I don’t look even remotely cool in a helmet. I am a small person with a pin head so when donning a helmet, I pretty much look like a golf tee or the Seattle Space needle. To ice that lovely cake, I have very fine, short hair so in a helmet, I appear like a small, hairless chihuahua with a bowl on its head.
The best part, however, is after a particularly hot day or long ride, I remove my helmet to reveal what little hair I have – matted to my head.
Oh and the itch! Yikes! I swear to horsegods, I always feel like some crawly thing has gotten in under my helmet and is excavating a Bug City in my scalp. I must take off my helmet and check it like a monkey about every 20 minutes or so. I’ve even gone so far as to spray my Peppermint Fly Spray (EquiSpa) into my helmet before we take off.
I feel ridiculous but I smell nice…
Anyway, I hate helmets as much as you do.
But, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be able to type to you right now if I hadn’t worn my helmet on that fateful day.
Aladdin is my dearly departed perfect trail horse. I am presently erecting a statue in his likeness out of rocks, sticks and mud. (I’m not very artistic). He was the most perfect horse and I am constantly trying to find him again.
OKOK, He wasn’t actually perfect. To be honest, most people hated him. He was fussy and spooky. He refused to let anyone but me handle him. He would whirl and blow at anyone who tried to make nice. His best trick was to keep his nose two inches from the hands of anyone else trying to catch him. Endearing.
He was a piece of work but he was my piece of work and we trusted each other completely.
And I never wore a helmet for the entire 12 years we had together. I was lulled into a false sense of security…
It never occurred to me that some mishap might happen – perhaps Aladdin zigging while I zagged – where I could potentially fall off and crack my noggin.
I mean, we have all heard the stories of freak accidents like this. I knew of one woman who was on her trusted mount in an arena at a complete stop. The horse merely cocked his foot while she was at full extension reaching for a water bottle on the rail. She went head first and spent the rest of the year in traction.
NO HEAD, NO PERSON
It could happen… just not to me. After all, I’m a good rider…
I just felt that riding without a helmet was a risk one took for the freedom of it… kinda like skiing without a helmet or walking under a coconut palm.
You just did it and most likely nothing would drop on or smash into your head.
That’s what I thought, anyway. And, for the most part, I was correct.
I rode Aladdin without ever hurting my head.
So then, what are the odds of hurting oneself the more often one rides?
All I do know is that one fateful day, I got onto someone else’s mule in someone else’s large and slick Western saddle and proceeded to trail ride. For some reason, I told myself to wear a helmet. So, I wore my bike helmet.
It looked ridiculous but I wore it anyway.
An hour into the ride, the mule decided he wanted to end our journey together. He lurched forward, the bridle broke and I had nothing but my prayers and my slippery grip on the shiny saddle to save my life.
I wrote about that ride here.
To make a terrifying 60 seconds into a memorable moment, let me just say that my life did pass before me as the mule carried me against my will into brambles thicker than humanly passable. We lurched downhill ala the Man from Snowy River. In the end, I found myself seated on the only patch of unblackberried ground in the entire hillside.
When I checked all my vitals and discovered that I was basically OK, I took off my helmet.
It came off in three pieces.
Need I say more?
And the more I will say is that my riding partner went back to the scene the next day and took a photo of the tree limb that hit my helmet. There was a huge dent in the branch. It looked like a baseball bat has taken revenge where my head and made contact.
The only reason that I can write to you today is because I was wearing a helmet.
Case closed. ‘Nuff said.
MORAL OF THE STORY
Well, there isn’t a moral. Do what you want to do. I totally understand both sides of this argument.
For me, knowing what I know now, I wear my helmet and forget the discomfort because the memory of my insanely cryptic and wild ride lives on in playback mode every time I feel a tinge of ‘oopsy’ in the saddle.
I don’t ever want to think about how it could have turned out for me.
…No head, no person.
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