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The statistics are gripping. Equestrian-related injuries account for 70,000 emergency room visits yearly, with 12,000 of those being head injuries. Equestrians across the country, and across disciplines, are sharing their harrowing close calls and their reasons behind wearing riding helmets.

Leslie (Barrel racer)

Horse Back Riding with Helmet

I ride in a Troxel. I remember being in OKC at the Better Barrel Racing Finals and just decided it was time to wear one. It was before the helmet fad started. When I pulled up, they had 1,500 entries. I went right to the stockyards, bought a helmet and brought it back. That weekend, two girls hit the wall. One girl went to the hospital. Then six months later, my horse went front end over end. I ended up underneath of him. Two hooves scrapped by the helmet, and I stood up with no injuries. I was totally lucky and thankful I had the feeling I needed a helmet before that happened. I always ride in a helmet. Thank God I wore it before; a lot of people wear a helmet after an accident. Trendy or not, it’s smart.

Sonja (Jumper)

Horse Back Riding with Helmet

One day, we were riding around the outdoor arena, and out of nowhere, my horse Luna tripped, and then tripped a second time. I prepared myself mentally for the inevitable fall that was coming. As I felt her body fall out from underneath me, I hit the ground face down, and the next thing I knew she was rolling over top of me. I will never be able to get the sound of my helmet crunching as she continued to roll over me and then away from me. I was, and am, so lucky for both her and me to walk away from our worst fall/crash basically unscathed. It was in those heart-stopping moments as she tripped, fell down and my helmet crunched under her body weight that I realized just how appreciative I was of all the trainers and people along my way that preached to me that I must ALWAYS wear a helmet.

Anne Marie (Jumper)

Horse Back Riding with Helmet

I had a horse fall on my head in November and didn’t even get a concussion. My helmet was smashed in three places, but besides bruising and swelling, I walked into the ER with no concussion and never blacked out. The doctors were so impressed with the helmet!

Tina (Barrel racer)

Horse Back Riding with Helmet

The main reason I wear a helmet is because I had three friends who within just one summer, all had head injuries from horseback riding. It was then I thought to myself, "OK, it might be time to start wearing a helmet." I’m an older rider, and I’m the first to know that I don’t ride as well as I once did. All three of my friends who had head injuries are now wearing helmets. It’s been about two years since we were at a barrel race, and it was misting. I was warming up, and my horse drifted off the dry ground to grass, taking a bad fall. I had my helmet on, and I broke my ankle. The helmet was covered in mud; I obviously hit my head. I hate to think, "What if I hadn’t been wearing my helmet?"

Chakara (Trail rider)

Horse Back Riding with Helmet

I wear a helmet because life is too short not to. A close friend of mine spent all of her life on working ranches, riding anything and everything. She made a living training horses and working as a ranch hand, being considered one of the guys. Until one day, that all changed. She was moving a bull on a horse she trusted, something they had done many times before. But that day was different. The bull didn't want to move and ended up throwing her horse and her with it. After a lengthy hospital stay and having to learn basic motor functions all over again, she now wears a helmet. And that is why I do, too.

Riders can help avoid grave risk by wearing an ASTM/SEI approved helmet. With an extensive selection of riding helmets available, equestrians can have peace of mind knowing they are protected.

Editor's note: A college friend is a doctor in one of the busiest emergency rooms in the country. The first thing he asked was if we rode with a helmet. He explained the number of serious head injuries, and even death, could have been avoided by riders wearing helmets.

This article originally appeared on Valley Vet and is published here with permission. Valley Vet Supply was founded in 1985 by veterinarians for people just like you - people who want the very best for their four-legged friends and livestock.

All photos courtesy of Valley Vet.

There are more informative articles in our section on Health & Education.

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