Tuesday, December 30, 2014


On Sunday, I was riding. The horse I was riding, not unfamiliar to me, spooked at a dog in the trees next to the ring, and I fell off. We had been cantering, and so falling at that speed resulted in some injury. I hit my head, and my back and hip very hard. There is one small section of the sequence of events that I cannot account for, and it all happened so fast that I am not sure I can't remember it because I hit my head, or because it was all so quick. I remember the feeling of Flicka spooking and shooting off to the side, and then I remember seeing the sand of the ring rushing to meet me, and the split-second "OH SHIT" moment that always accompanies realizing you are falling.

After that, it was all pain, and the awful moment of thinking I just wanted to take a nap.

I know I rolled around in the sand for a few seconds, calling to my friend that I couldn't breathe, trying to find a position that didn't hurt, knowing I could not get up. I thought I was bleeding from my back, I tried to sit up, but almost passed out. I laid in the cold and wet sand of the arena for a while, covered with horse blankets and a saddle pad under my head. My friends came to sit with me, three of them nurses, and one a doctor, plus others who were there and came to help. I cried. It was scary, and I knew I had hit my head, but I remembered my husband's phone numbers so someone could call him. I remembered I wasn't wearing my ID bracelet, because I had taken it off to go to a fancy party at the museum. The ambulance came and took me to the hospital. I had a CT scan and tests, an IV, X-rays, multiple neuro checks. I was admitted for overnight observation.

I'll probably say this again...and again....but this is my page and I can say it as many times as I want to. You don't have to listen.

Yes, I'm a Helmet Evangelist.
Me, riding Flicka  (Something Victorious)
November 2014
No, I would not even consider *sitting* on a horse without a helmet on my head.

I cannot, I mean, really CANNOT, fathom how *anyone*, English discipline, Western, Saddleseat, whatever, would ever consider riding without a helmet. I simply cannot grasp it at all. In fact, the helmet use issue is one of the things that utterly turns me off of SCA riding, although I know some folks do wear, and advocate for wearing, helmets at all times. The ones that don't are usually the worst riders with a very inflated sense of their own competence.

I've heard the arguments -- "I'm very experienced... this horse is SO QUIET... I am an adult and I can handle the risk...this horse is bombproof... we're only walking... I don't jump/we're not going to jump... this horse isn't very tall", or my personal favorite chunk of BS, "Helmets can make your injury worse/give you whiplash/some other stupid argument about helmets making it worse".

I'm here to tell you that you can say whatever you want, but those arguments are crap when technology today produces lightweight, decent-looking protection that absolutely protects your brain. Absolutely. I know for a fact that had I not been wearing my helmet, I would have sustained a significant injury that would have had me in the ICU, very likely post-surgical, instead of home on my couch with my family. It would have given the neurosurgeon something to do instead of standing in the hallway,outside my space in the ER, being annoyed that some radiologist saw a speck of blood on my head CT films, and protocol dictates I be admitted for observation. Now, I love some neurology, and the guy was really nice, but I prefer he practice neurosurgery on someone else.

If you don't want to wear a helmet when you ride, that's fine, I guess. It ultimately *is* your decision. None of your arguments will sway me from my point of view on safety, and I reserve the right to think you are an idiot. When you are riding a bike, fine, go helmetless and take your risks. When you are riding a 1200 pound being with its own separate nervous system, goals, and ideas, put on a fucking helmet.

Or don't. I work in rehabilitation, so it just ensures my job security.

Believe me, I want to wear that top hat in the ring at the FEI levels, someday when I finally get to that level. It looks so damn spiff with the tailcoat and the shiny, braided, super-fit horse. But I'll be wearing a top of the line spiffy safety helmet instead (like world champion dressage rider, Charlotte Dujardin), because it only takes one fall, one horse tripping over its own feet, one mistake, one accident to change your life forever. I have too much to live for, and I wouldn't put my family through the horror of the ICU, then inpatient rehab, and the myriad of life alterations that would be necessary to accommodate my changed abilities.

I'm thankful that when I had my injury this past Sunday afternoon, I was riding with someone, that I was in the ring and not on the trail, that I could be attended to immediately. I'm also grateful that I happened to pick the barn with the trainer and other riders who are medical professionals.When I fell, I had two critical-care RN's, another RN, and an anesthesiologist right there to provide first aid, call the ambulance, provide specific and accurate information to the EMT's, and handle calling my husband without freaking him out.

I can't thank them enough. Really.

I'm not able to ride for a couple of weeks, and I definitely feel crummy. I might have to miss a favorite New Year's party, and I absolutely will not be able to participate in my tradition of riding on New Year's Day. All of that matters so little, though, in comparison to what might have happened had I not worn a helmet.
Above my finger, the crack in the foam where it absorbed the impact

To the right and left of the crack, the imprint of the straps that held the helmet on my head at impact

This retention harness is supposed to be attached at the sides of the helmet.
That it isn't means the impact was significant.

The color is abraded off the helmet where it skidded in the sand.
I'm so lucky.