A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses
I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Safety While Riding
I don't have a strict view on helmet use. I feel that for children, it is their parent's responsibility, not MINE to choose whether or not that child should wear a helmet when riding. Since I have always heard how "you don't have children, you can't understand" I have learned that well... I don't have kids, and I don't understand. So I'm not the right person to tell ANY parent how to do ANYthing with their child.
I also vary in my helmet use. I'll gladly hop on a horse with just a lead rope and halter, and head off across the pasture. I do ride barefoot, I have ridden in tennis shoes, and I own 5 different pairs of riding boots, but sometimes the horse is there, and I decide to just hop on. It's true, I'm not always very safe when working with my horses. It's also true that I know my horses well, know which I can be less safe with, and I accept the fact that my choices could lead to injury. As an adult, I can do that. As a child, I had to do what my momma told me (although I wasn't always good at that either!)
My personal feelings though do not fit into a cut and dry formula for when to wear a helmet and when not to. I do feel that it's never my place to tell any one else that they need one (although, I think that making people aware of the benefits of a riding helmet are always good). My stable laws are actually set up so that riders can make their own choice. My release form states the use of helmets is a good idea, and those who choose not to release me from all liability from harm. There's no law to wear helmets, and I don't feel it's my place to tell others how to be safe. I do feel that as someone with experience in horses it is my responsibility to make riders aware of the potential risks of horses, and possible bodily harm they can cause.
And yet, we rarely head people discussing the benefits of wearing body protection while riding. Why not?
Of course, when I had a dirt bike, and actually rode it, again, I wasn't always as good about putting on my protection as I should. Yep, I wore a helmet, but that was from speed. I also wear a helmet every time I plan to canter, jump, or ride a horse that might decide to do those things on their own. I'm a slacker, and I openly admit it.
Here's some interesting data:
...there were 5,033 visits during this time span. The average age was 30.0 +/- 17.0 years; 66% were women. The injuries occurred at home (36%), recreation/sporting facility (30%), on a farm (19%), and other public property (12%). The injury was due to a fall (59%), thrown/bucked from the horse (22.0%), and while riding the horse (9%). The most common injuries were contusion/abrasions (31%), fractures (28%), sprain/strains (18%), traumatic brain injuries (12%), and lacerations (6%). The body area injured was the head and neck (24%), trunk (29%), upper extremity (30%), lower extremity (16%), and multiple locations (1%)....
So, there's twice as much of a chance of a fracture, as there is a traumatic brain injury, and a hair more of a chance of a body injury then a head injury. The natural argument here is "But if you hurt your head, it's worse". Not really. Most injuries resulting in permanent loss of motion were to the torso (spine) and could have been prevented by wearing body armor like I posted above! Most injuries resulting in death were to the head. Ideally, riders should be protecting BOTH.
My point is NOT to say that it's ok to go without protection. My point is that it doesn't make sense to encourage the use of helmets when so few of us are wearing body armor to keep our legs working after a serious fall! What we need to be doing is encouraging the use of all protection, and educating the horse owners out there. That is my goal with this post.
And after knowing all that, I still ride without a helmet (occasionally) or body armor (almost always) I really don't see how I can say anything to any one about what protection they choose to use. It's also a pretty well known fact that the best protection against injury on a horse is riding lessons. The more knowledge, muscle training, and experience with balancing and controlling a horse that a rider has, the lower their incidence of serious injury. No, that does not mean that the chances of getting hurt goes away! I'm also not currently taking lessons... although I AM working on finding a good instructor.
My better half and I have had many discussions over the "what ifs". If I get killed riding a horse, I have explained to him exactly what I expect to happen. The first thing I said was that NOTHING should be done to the horse. If the horse can not be re-homed into a quality home, then my family is responsible for it, in my memory. We have discussed what should happen if I am seriously disabled from riding, and the consensus was that we should place/sell the horses who would not be suitable for driving, as that would become my next sport. I honestly feel that my life wouldn't be as good without horses in it, even if that means it could be shorter.
Having helped my instructor recover from a broken back, having broken an arm in a horse related accident as a child, and taking many many facers off a horse, I am under no delusions that the sport I prefer is very dangerous. I still can't seem to pull myself away from these animals. I feel that safety is very important when handling horses, and I work hard to teach people how to interact with a horse in the safest way possible.
I do wish though, that encouraging the use of helmets and body protection while riding is something that could be done in a more pleasant manner. I think in our (equestrians) zeal to enlighten others, we often accuse rather then teach. This confrontational manner often has the opposite result of what we want. Too often I have talked to people who don't like helmets because of the way they were introduced to the idea. As those who have been to my farm know, I always mention helmet use.
Lisa made a wonderful example of encouraging helmet use in the comments to Rover's new home:
"Sure wish that little cutie gal on his back was wearing a helmet and some boots with a heel though.
Horses can spook and be unpredictable and it only takes a second for someone to get seriously hurt. That little sweetie has a lifetime ahead of her and it would really stink if it was spent in a wheelchair."
It's not confrontational, it's enlightening. I hope we can all encourage our fellow equestrians to be safe like this, and not make new riders feel like they are being run out of town because of their personal choices. I would also love if we could encourage the use of body armour - although I need to convince myself to use it too.
Note to readers: I decided to make this post based upon a few coincidences, not because of the comments on my previous entry. After reading a forum where someone was seriously harassed over not using a helmet (adult rider), I had to vent a bit. So, for everyone that wants to vent, please feel free to do so here. We all have different ideas about what is enough, and for me, it's interesting to see where everyone stands on the issues.
And now, I'm going to go wash a draft horse, without a helmet, but with proper footwear, and try not to get over heated in our lovely Texas sun.
Posted by Pinzgauer at 11:03 AM