I have been "involved" with horses since I could be. As a child I was in 4H, but I didn't own a horse. Instead, I was trained to be a judge's assistant, and I learned a ton about conformation, gaits, and how to compare one horse to another. After that, I begged to work in barns. Not to ride, just to shovel poo! The smell of horses was addictive, and just to be privileged enough to smell and see them was all I needed. More was always great, like a pet on the nose, or joy of joys, being allowed to brush one! My parents didn't know about such things as riding lessons, so instead, I spent weekends paying for dude type trail rides. Evidently I was charming enough of a child, that the "wranglers" (mostly students in the dressage courses) would give me pointers and let me try things with the horse I was riding. A little canter, how to sit a hill, and such.
Now, let me just say, that back during that time, helmets were a rare thing. Yeah, I'm old enough to remember those days. One way that I impressed many of the wranglers, was when as an 8 year old, I was on a horse that spooked. Well, the horse behind us bolted, almost running into my horse, who took off toward the rest of the group, and at the last minute, my gelding darted sideways so as not to hit the horse in front of him. Me, I didn't go sideways so well. I landed with my chin on that mare's tail bone, and flopped to the ground right behind her. The next day I found a hoof shaped bruise on my thigh, so I was RIGHT behind her.
From that time on, I got rides anywhere I could. For my first anniversary (of my first marriage) I got my first horse. 2 weeks later, I bought an unbroke 8 year old mare. I decided to try to back her myself with nothing but advice and book knowledge. Shockingly, it went well, but it shouldn't have. Not long after, I began working with friend's horses (I was SO unqualified, but hey... free help!). For the last 13 years now, I have been heavily involved with horses. I can't even count the number of times I have fallen.
And yet, when I decided to take on outside horses - horses who I am not completely familiar with - I began to wear a riding helmet. I have embraced the mentality of a hard head being a safe head. But, both falls I have taken since that time have had one thing in common..... head and neck pain. I've never had that before.
Well, yesterday, when Jae rode Poko, I asked him if he wanted a brain bucket before he climbed on. (I allow all adults to make that decision, as it IS a free country, and killing yourself is.. um.. a right?) At any rate, he made a comment that made me start thinking. He said:
"Thank you, but no, I like to keep my neck in one piece, and I don't think I'm gonna crack my HEAD on the arena dirt".
After his ride, he was telling me about motocross and how it has been found that a helmet is more dangerous when worn with out a neck brace/support. Well, this does kinda support what I have been feeling lately.
Oddly, I haven't seen any type of neck support for horse riding. Now, I understand that we need to use our necks a lot riding (looking out for those lions in the bushes, and defeating them before our trusty mount realizes they are about to be eaten!).
And this is not going to be the old debate of "helmet, or no helmet". That's been hashed out and done over and over.
(me riding Ash circa 1999)
I'm sitting here listening to research on concussive accidents, and how they affect us later in life. I've been reading research on neck injuries in many sports (a lot about football) and how helmets are designed. My big question is, why don't riding helmets, for both horses and bikes, have any neck support?
Why haven't we seen any comparative data on riding accidents of similar nature, and the damage sustained from wearing and not wearing a helmet. I'm almost willing to bet that helmet wearers are more likely to have neck pain. When I was knocked out, my only complaint was that my neck hurt. (granted, most of that was from the stupid neck brace digging into my neck....)
So,my quest now, is to find more data. For the next week, I will be reading those weird and boring scientific reports about sports accidents, and seeing if there's some commonality to neck strain.
I'm thinking, if we can't have neck support, then maybe I need to strengthen my neck muscles. Gain the ability to compensate for the slight extra weight of the helmet, so that I won't have as much force pulling on my neck. I will also be looking for some ideas on that.
And of course, if any of y'all know about some type of neck support that really works.... please share! I'm not about to give up my helmet, but I would be willing to work to be even more safe then I am now.
After neck support, comes an eventing vest!