I usually try to avoid news related topics, as news is more accurately reported on news sites, this forum is generally based on my opinion but it seems pertinent to address the recent tragic accident of America’s Olympian Courtney King-Dye. If anyone is still unaware of the accident she was riding a young horse in warm-up at a competition when the horse slipped and fell, fracturing Courtney’s skull. Courtney is still in a coma at the time of this writing. Horse Channel.com has an article with more details on the accident and an address to Courtney’s Facebook page as well as a mailing address for well wishers. I will include them at the bottom of this post as well.
This accident has stirred a lot of debate in the dressage community concerning mandatory use of helmets at competitions. I received a letter from my local GMO yesterday requesting feedback from members of the equestrian community, as horse show organizers are fearful that if they alone enforce such mandatory regulations they may suffer loss of entries to shows that do not enforce the safety measures. While I understand that entry money is what makes horse shows possible, hiring judges possible, etc. I am saddened that cash flow is the determining factor in most every decision that arises anymore. It seems that competition dressage should now be termed commercial dressage.
As those who know me can testify I rarely, if ever, wear a helmet. I am certainly not bragging about this, just stating the facts before someone else does in my comment section!! In fact, I was forced to purchase one to ride while schooling some riders on a cross-country course a few years ago and in mock protest picked one with a picture of Mickey Mouse riding a horse on it. After that day, I wore it very rarely. It is not that I consciously disagree with the use of helmets, I wore them when riding as a child and when I used to jump. I believe I am of the age that safety was not as stringently observed and regulated as it is now. Seatbelts were not mandatory and I’m not sure many people used them when I was young. Nobody wore helmets when riding a bike, or skating as they do now.
I was, however, bucked off a horse a few months ago that was startled by my swishy jacket (see my first blog post!). The next time I rode the horse, I removed my jacket! and asked the owner if I could use her helmet. She had a Charles Owen helmet and it fit me perfectly. The horse behaved wonderfully and luckily I didn’t have to test the helmet but I must admit I did feel safer and rode less apprehensively wearing the helmet. After the ride I examined the construction and realized they have come a long way from the Mickey Mouse helmet that was little more than thin plastic over egg cartons.
Ever since riding with that helmet I tossed around the idea of purchasing one of my own. Oddly enough I bought one the day before Courtney’s accident. It is still not a natural instinct for me to grab it and wear it every time I ride, but I did yesterday and I do see the value in it. I don’t yet know where I stand on mandatory helmet rules. This opens up more questions like wearing protective vests or break-away stirrups. I am coming around myself, however, to wearing the helmet, both for my own safety and as an example for the kids I teach. As for the adults, that is a decision they can make for themselves.
I sympathize greatly with Courtney and her family and wish her the speediest recovery. Please send her your well-wishes on Facebook or by mail. Every acknowledgement and intention of well-being goes a long way in helping the recovery process. She is a great rider and an inspiration to all dressage enthusiasts. It is an unfortunate reality that no matter how many safety regulations are enforced, there is always a risk of injury when riding a horse, no matter how accomplished the rider or how quiet the horse.
Check out Behind the Bit’s post today for some interesting information on head injuries.
We’re all rooting for your recovery Courtney, get back in the saddle soon.
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