In September of last year, my daughter was thrown from our 15.3hh Appaloosa gelding. I had just mounted our other gelding. I yelled, “Are you ok?” I fully expected her to ask for the 100th time, “Why do you always ask me that?” Instead, she didn’t move. My heart stopped. My baby was laying in the grass, not moving and not talking. Her helmet was broken.
The next 13 minutes were the longest 13 minutes of my life as I waited for the ambulance.
She ended up being life-flighted to Vanderbilt. I watched her leave in the ambulance around 7:00 PM. The next time I saw her was around 1:30 in the morning. She was unconscious and strapped to a bed. I was told that she suffered a major concussion and a spleen injury but would make a full recovery. The doctor told me that her riding helmet had saved her life.
I spent two nights not sleeping in the waiting room of the trauma unit at Vanderbilt before we were able to take her home. She remembered nothing of the previous 48 hours. 24 hours later were in our local ER because she seemed to be getting worse. I was looking at my child, but she wasn’t in there. The neurologist finally came later that evening and said it post concussive syndrome. The next morning we were once again allowed to take her home, but she was an emotional mess for most of the week that followed.
Throughout it all, I thanked God that she had been wearing a helmet and reminded myself that things could have been much, much worse.
Finally, after two weeks, she was able to go back to work. After a month, she was able to get back in the saddle. As traumatic as that time was for us, she made a full recovery. There are many, many more who did not.
During our two night stay in the trauma waiting room, we learned that the number one reason people are life flighted in Tennessee is motorcycle accidents. The number two reason is horseback riding accidents. That’s a sobering fact for someone who rides nearly every day.
Fortunately, I grew up in a sport that required helmets. No helmet. No ride. I did go through a short time when I was not very diligent about wearing my helmet. I was boarding a barn full of trail riders who regularly rode without a helmet and were not shy about making fun of mine. I gave into peer pressure and became more careless… Until I saw my daughter take off down the trail without a helmet. That was 5 years ago. I have worn a helmet every time since… And so has she.
She complained several times, and my answer was always the same… “You can make that choice when you’re 18. Until then, you don’t ride without a helmet.” After she turned 18, she protested when I continued to make her wear a helmet. My answer? “You can ride without a helmet when you pay for your own horses and your own health insurance. Until then, you don’t ride without a helmet.”
After her accident in September, she hasn’t complained once. She’s even told me a time or two not to forget my helmet. Every medical professional she talked to told her that helmet saved her life, which it did. In the end, there is only one argument for helmets… Horseback riding is dangerous, and helmets save lives.