For over 3 decades I have ridden all sorts of horses, and lived to tell the tales. Thinking back, it is quite amazing to me that even as a beginner I don’t remember any of my instructors recommending that I put on a helmet, except for special occasions such as jumping or a young or especially fractious horse. My instructors did not wear helmets. Neither did any of my riding idols. Paging through my dozens upon dozens of riding books and instructional manuals I see no helmets. This has been the norm in dressage for most of my involvement in the sport. But the norm is beginning to change.
Show attire for dressage is elegant and traditional. Earning your top hat is a big deal. An elegant rider in top hat and tail coat is a beautiful picture. A rider in the hospital after a head injury is not!
Five years ago I was very very lucky. A horse fell out from under me in a freak accident and I was thrown head-first, wearing my trusty baseball cap, into an arena wall. Miraculously I escaped with relatively minor injuries. Did I start wearing a helmet after that day? No. Am I hard-headed? Maybe. My excuses? Just the usual ones, none good enough. If that experience did not convince me to wear a helmet, what could finally make enough of an impression to make me change my ways?
She says it much better than I can. I wear my helmet now for all the reasons she spells out, from helping to set an example to protecting my loved ones while I protect myself. Courtney is using her accident to make a difference. I have great admiration for her, as an athlete, as a person and as an activist for the safety of our sport. So, you might say that I wear my helmet for Courtney. Every horse, every ride.