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…


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.


I digress…

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.


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.


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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HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

10 comments have been posted...

  1. Jackie

    I too now where a helmet. I saw a video of a young woman who rode for the US team and she had a hard time speaking. But what happened was she took a young horse for a ride, walking not trotting or cantering just a walk and he didn’t do anything wrong, no bucking, spooking, nothing he just tripped over his own feet tossing her and she didn’t have her helmet on and ended up with tramatic brain injury. I’m sure she was a excellent rider, she said never again will she go with out a helmet. She, i believe had to learn how to walk again and speak so sad to see people without helmets. I bought a new one and it looks a lot better, I’m still no beauty in it or out of it.

  2. Kathy

    Thank you for sharing this! I always cringe when I see photos of “good riders” not wearing helmets. It’s the unexpected that generally causes the biggest problems, and wearing a helmet seems like a common sense option for protecting our fragile skulls from the unexpected. I would feel naked without my helmet, and I live in Florida, where it’s uncomfortable to wear one about 90 percent of the year. My horse is a mellow QH, and I trust him completely–however, if he spooks or trips or otherwise does something unexpected, I could go (and have gone) flying. Plus there was that one time I caught my boot on the cantle while dismounting and fell flat on my back…

  3. Katelynn

    Growing up on my own “perfect” horse I did all sorts of stupid things and was very fortunate that I had a great horse to take care of me. i always argued that if and when I came off it was my butt not my head that suffered! But I have changed my ways! Now as an avid endurance rider I wear my helmet with pride! I had a accident several years back that I know involved angels- and where was my helmet? In the tackroom! NO more! I live in the back country of idaho, good friends with ranchers and crazy country riders and you will see me with my PINK helmet ( great beacon to find me!). It doesnt matter if we are clinging to the side of a mountian, running in a 50 miler, or just goofing off in the pasture- I am a proud pink bobble head!

  4. Ritambhara Tyson

    I never wore a helmet with my first horse and I fell off him a few times! I didn’t have children of my own to be an example for so I got away with it. Now I’m a grandmother to three
    kids and I made a vow to myself that I would wear a helmet with my second horse. I bought a nice light weight one and don’t mind wearing it at all! It really makes good sense.

  5. Seabiscute

    Thanks for posting this! I ALWAYS wear a hard hat — have since the 1970s when I started taking jumping lessons, and back then it was a badge of coolness in my circle: to need a hard hat meant that you were doing advanced, difficult, fun stuff.

    I feel naked without one when I ride now. In fact, I wear it all the time I’m at the barn — for one thing, it makes it easy to find LOL, and for another, when is my head closest to a hard hoof? BEFORE I get on the horse, when I am grooming, etc.

    My personal helmet-saved-me story involves a horse-eating 10?-point buck (I was admiring him standing in the shade at the edge of the woods that flanked the trail on one side) that my fly-masked horse didn’t immediately see. When he did, he made an amazing aerial leap and 180-degree pirouette and galloped for home. I made an amazing vertical sort of cannonball out of the saddle, landed on the sandy path, and found out what having the wind knocked out of you felt like.

    When I got some air again I walked back to the trailhead, where the search party had already arrived, after my horse arrived back at the barn alone. They asked me what happened and was my head OK — I said, sure, I landed sitting down, but they pointed to my hard hat and sure enough, there was a big rip in the velvet. I didn’t even realize I had hit my head somehow, but I bet I would have noticed had I not had my (certified, with harness etc.) hard hat on!

    Like wearing a seat belt or having insurance — you hope you never need it, but boy, if you do, you will be glad you have one.

  6. Morgan Griffith

    I always wear a helmet. No helmet, no ride. It ain’t pretty, it’s hot, its generally a pain. And yes, there is that lovely hair you have when you take it off. You get to look at all your helmetless friends standing there in the same hairdo they started off with. Not me–helmet hair. I wear a helmet because someone else having to change my diapers and wipe the drool off my face doesn’t really look that good either.

  7. Mattie

    Working on racetracks for a great part of my life helmets were just there no discussion, everyone rode in them no exceptions. Later as I had trail horses in a boarding facility I was unprepared for the harassment I got for wearing a helmet, from other adults. I heard everything from “Are you being shot out of cannon later?” to “just learn to ride”. I know helmets have saved my noggin several times and I have come home from a trail ride once with a broken helmet. I agree that sweaty helmet hair is somewhat less than attractive but better than having my head shaved and stitched up any day.

  8. Kitty Bo

    As a wearer of helmets, I thank you. The western world of riding just doesn’t get it when it comes to helmets. I’ve a friend, an RN mind you, who rides barrel racing, and her young daughter is doing the same. A few years ago, the daughter, around age 6, was on a trusted pony at a barrel race, riding w/ some friends, walking along, when the pony slipped on asphalt , daughter fell off, ended up w/ scary concussion in the hospital. I encouraged the friend to consider a helmet, but she still doesn’t have her daughter wear one. Children who rode on my property always wore helmets, especially my grand daughter. I’ve fallen w/ and with out a helmet, and I much prefer with.

  9. Michelle

    Like you, I’m not fanatical about telling others to wear a helmet but I sure do. I’m the main breadwinner for my family and still have two young teens. I can’t afford to lose my head!

  10. ~ cheryl mendenhall

    Smart riders wear helmets – and you’re obviously smart!

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