I refreshed this 2013 article about the importance of wearing helmets because it’s just as important today as it was ten years ago.

  • She’d taken the polo pony out for a trail ride when the mare bolted toward home. As the mare made a sharp right down the lane at a gallop, Merri lost her seat and parted company from the horse; head first into a telephone pole. Meri wasn’t wearing a helmet. She never recovered from brain trauma.
  • A few years later the scenario repeated itself only I was a teenager on my own horse.  At the edge of a huge field my friend said “Let’s race!” and before I could say no my horse was at a gallop and out of control.  At the end of the field he veered left and ran toward the canal. Almost to the end of the pavement he turned to the right.  I didn’t lose my seat until we both hit the pavement, me on my head and him on his knees.  When  I was next aware, someone had brought me home and I was on the way to the hospital. My thin helmet, in England they call them Beaglers, was enough to keep my brains in my skull.
  • He was going to be the next big name in Arabian trainers. All the stars were lined up for him. He was riding a student’s quiet pleasure horse when a stable hand snapped the arena fence with the front of the tractor. The horse went over backwards and slammed Mike’s head into the soft arena dirt. He was pronounced dead 2 times. Mike spent the rest of his life learning to walk and talk and take care of himself.  His brother and parents and wife wished he’d been wearing a helmet
  • I had a “laid back” feeling this day as I led my National Champion Dressage horse into the arena.  My pre school aged daughter looked on while I put my foot into the stirrup to mount. The next thing I knew I was being loaded into the ambulance, strapped to a back board, an oxygen mask over my face.  I’d been out for at least 20 minutes, horse running loose, small child terrified, alone and in tears. I was lucky. I spent the next few years with vertigo that would throw my body so out of control that I’d careen across a paddock out of balance, just from bending over to do up the surcingle on a blanket. It was the one time I rode my champion without a helmet.  I wished I hadn’t been so foolish.

These 4 personal proofs in my lifetime taught me that it’s sheer vanity to think you’re ever so skilled that you don’t need a helmet when you ride.

Proof for Helmets:

Head injuries comprise about 60% of the riding  death among equestrians. The American Medical Equestrian Association calculates that ASTM/SEI approved helmets have reduced all riding-related head injuries by 30% and severe head injuries by 50%. The rate of concussion for equestrian sports injuries is more than double that of any other sport. Check out this University of Connecticut article for the facts.

Mounted on even a small horse (15 hands), your head is 7-8 feet off of the ground.  Depending on the size of the horse your head could be as high as13 feet off of the ground. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (www.aans.org) tells us “. . . it is the height from which the rider falls that most significantly impacts the severity of the injury” and “a fall from just two feet can cause permanent brain damage. Riders ages 10-14 are most likely to be involved in an accident with a horse.” and “While serious head injury can occur while wearing a helmet, the data very clearly shows that the severity of the head injury can be decreased through helmet wear.”

And riders rarely fall off their horse while it is standing still.  When you consider the velocity factor added when a rider falls from a bucking or galloping horse…it just makes you wonder why anyone would question the need for a helmet.

You Can Be Smarter Than Parelli:
There has been discussion around for several years about the stand  Parelli’s Natural Horsemanship has taken about helmets. It came up on Facebook again and personally, I think the topic should stay in play. I’ve included the statement that circulated  from Parelli below, and then one from the staff at Parelli Centers.

“LINDA: Personally speaking we feel very uncomfortable wearing helmets because it affects our balance and perceptiveness. Pat wears his cowboy hat and I would wear a helmet if I engaged in extreme sports such as high jumps or eventing. As far as our students are concerned, we are ‘pro choice’, meaning we respect their choice to wear one or not, and we put a lot of emphasis on safety through savvy. Many people are accidents waiting to happen. I think about what I used to do before meeting Pat and starting the Parelli program, I was one of those. I didn’t have a clue and I should have been wearing a helmet because it was just a matter of time before I was going to hit the ground! I was getting on a dangerous horse every day, one who was mentally, emotionally and physically out of control. He didn’t trust me and reacted badly to all kinds of situations. I wasn’t even safe on the ground! I made bad decisions because I did not understand the horse’s nature and especially because I didn’t know how to get him to be calm and left brain. Many people climb on horses who are right brain and acting like prey animals, or who have the propensity to do so in even mildly alarming situations. They put on helmets and mount up, thinking they are safe, and they try to stay on no matter what. Helmets do not keep people safe. We don’t get on unsafe horses. We put a lot of time into preparation. We get off immediately the situation becomes unsafe. Most riders don’t do any of that, but it’s what we practice religiously and teach our students to do too. This is the example we set and the one we want them to follow.”

From Parelli Centers

“Thank you for taking the time to write us. We understand your views and concerns. As quoted by the faculty at our ranch:

“You are quite right – helmets are fabulous things and they save many lives. Tragically though, people who ARE wearing helmets also die or suffer serious head injuries in accidents with horses.

Our program is intended to address the safety problem at its root – which is behavioral – rather than address the symptoms of it. Our message is about developing the relationship with the horse, and the savvy level of the rider, so that unsafe behavior is addressed long before the rider gets on the horse – rather than allowing the unsafe situations to continue to occur and hope that the helmet, body protector, etc, will protect us from the consequences.

The reason you do not see our people wearing helmets is because we try to teach people that rather than be brave because they are wearing a a helmet to protect them, they would be better off not riding until their horse is behaving safely.

People have called us brave for not wearing helmets, but we say they are a lot braver than we are. We would not get on their horse until we had addressed the issues that cause it to behave in unsafe ways.

We hope this helps,

From the Faculty, Parelli Centers”

What Do The Polls Say?

I have to admit that when I saw these two letters  ten years ago my mind took an involuntary leap back to the dark ages. Who could possibly agree with this view on saving ourselves, friends and loved ones from possible brain damage? And how could a statement like this come from someone who is admired and followed by hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting horse lovers who want to improve their riding and keep safe while doing it?

I’m happy to tell you that in my research I read hundreds of responses to theses posts and found only one person who came to the defense of Pat and Linda Parelli. All I can say is that that person was blinded a lack of critical thinking skills and had been “drinking the Kool-Ade”.

In view of the statistics I’ve shown you, in my opinion the Parellis do a disservice to everyone who listens to them regarding safety and helmets. It’s worse than a disservice- in my opinion, it’s clowns like this that get people killed and crippled.

 Let me high light the statistics:

  • Head injuries are the number 1 cause of death among equestrians.
  • The rate of concussion for equestrian sports injuries is more than double that of any other sport.
  • “it is the height from which the rider falls that most significantly impacts the severity of the injury”
  • “a fall from just two feet can cause permanent brain damage.
  • “…the data very clearly shows that the severity of the head injury can be decreased through helmet wear.”

Let Us Demonstrate By Example:

And as an illustration of how illogical the Parelli statements are, not too long after Linda Parelli made her statement her own horse tripped and fell with her.

Here is the official notice From the Savvy Club Forum:

Linda was cantering Remmer in a field when he tripped and stumbled for about 20 feet trying to regain his balance. At the end he fell and pitched on his nose. Linda was knocked out for a few minutes and under his feet when he tried to get up. So she was bruised on her body and legs and got 4 broken ribs. Remmer is fine. Thanks to speedy attendance and good care at the hospital (plus the red light – photonic therapy), she was discharged home after the second day as she was recovering quicker than expected and could now walk by herself as well as get up and down from bed. She is at home continuing her recovery and as you know with broken ribs, it will be some weeks before she can ride again. But she is in great spirits and not much pain.”

I’m writing this calmly but inside I am screaming: If Linda Parelli had been wearing a helmet she may not have been knocked out (read- concussion) and under her horse’s feet when he got up.  A helmet may have saved her from a concussion and it may also have saved her from bruises and 4 broken ribs. I wonder if that was extreme enough for Linda Parelli. I wonder what she considers a safe horse.

In my opinion the Parelli’s attitude about horses and helmets is so unrealistic, so off in na na land, so wrong  and so obviously dangerous that it makes me wonder what other completely wrong concepts they teach to their followers. In my opinion this stand puts Parelli at the bottom of the pecking order demonstrating a lack of regard for human life as well as a lack of “saavy”.

Time For My Soap Box:

One of my “bones to pick”  has always been the responsibility of people who promote themselves to star status and become the “word” for the industry.    When people become the “name”, the public puts them on a pedestal. They receive accolades for all of the wonderful things they achieve.  But if they are not ready to be responsible to the people who “believe” in them and hang on their every word trying to emulate them, then I believe they should be called out  and taken to task for their errors. Or better yet knocked off their pedestal. In other words, those people who seek to be the leaders and teachers of others better be willing to watch out for their followers and try to diminish the collateral damage that will come from their fame. It’s part of the price you pay for the accolades.

In the case of Parelli’s, it appears to me  they demonstrate that their image is more important than the people they serve. They need to take a positive stand on helmets and set an example for Parelli wannabees who copy every thing Parellis say and do, because “…the data very clearly shows that the severity of the head injury can be decreased through helmet wear.”

My heart breaks for the families of the people who let the Parelli’s play their mind “GAMES”  and are led down the treacherous no helmet path. I have to ask this question. If wearing a helmet is a personal choice and the statistics prove how dangerous it is to go without, why would a high profile professional encourage people to make stupid choices?

Are You Tough Enough?

Think you’re tougher than a bull rider? Read the article. You’ve got to admit there just aren’t too many riders tougher than these guys.  They’re saving their cowboy hats for between rides. They’re thinking about families and loved ones. They are wise enough to see down the road. And they’re not going to be telling you that helmets effect their “balance and perceptiveness” either. Personally I think they are a very cool group of people.

Are You Good Enough?

Another topic of conversation that has been on the internet for several years is the story about Courtney King Dye.

“Courtney King Dye is a USDF Certified Dressage Instructor and USDF Gold Medalist.  As a competitor she represented the United States in the 2007 World Cup in Las Vegas, the 2008 World Cup in The Netherlands, and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Courtney is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in literature.

On March 3, 2010, a horse Courtney was riding tripped and fell. Courtney was not wearing a helmet and suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. She spent 4 weeks in a coma and 3 months in in-patient rehabilitation re-learning how to walk and talk. She was the catalyst and is an avid supporter of riders4helmets.”

Courtney’s brave story about her progress is here.


Be Daring In A Way That Counts
At the 2012 Olympics Dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin won the Gold Medal in dressage and set an Olympic Dressage record with her score. And she was the only rider wearing a helmet.

Good News About Helmet Use:

The United States Equestrian Federation has put in place a helmet rules that effects eventing and dressage riders at competitions.  Basically it says that anyone who is competing in National (USEF) level events or dressage classes is required to wear a helmet. Only riders who ride in FEI only classes are exempt. Aside from FEI, everyone has to wear a helmet while mounted every time they ride at a competition whether it is for schooling or showing. It does not matter how old you are.  If you ride you wear a helmet at National shows for eventing and dressage beginning April 1, 2013.

Canada was the first country to make this kind of requirement, the U.S. is the second. I hope it is just the beginning and that we see many more countries  follow suit.  We still have a long way to go to convince people to wear helmets but progress is being made in spite of the cavalier and the stupid.  Just my humble opinion.

Safety standards for helmets are constantly refined and improved. For more about helmet safety in America read this USEF article.  Or this article for the UK.   And Canada.

Help make our sport as safe as possible.

Thanks for joining me on The Riding Instructor,

Barbara Fox

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Barbara Ellin Fox TheRidingInstructor
  • So true. I decided to start wearing a helmet when my horse tripped in a hole as we were going down the road. He was moving at a slow jog, and was behaving. Everything was “safe and under control”. But the grass covered the hole, and he dropped right out from under me. Luckily, I landed on my feet. We weren’t going that fast, but he was a thoroughbred, so I would have dropped from a good height, and even his easy jog covered some ground. I was doing everything right, and so was he, but things happen.
    And, not to be a jerk, but if you can’t wear a helmet without your balance and perceptiveness being thrown off, there’s a good chance you shouldn’t be on horseback anyway…Or at least not high-level trainers. That’s kind of sad…

    • atangleofwebs,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you wear a helmet. I wish everyone did. Thanks for reading ! Barbara

  • I, too, know this article is old but I am relatively new to your site. A few years ago when I was looking at horses to purchase, I took a spill that cracked my helmet. The horse had behaved fine during ground work, saddling and I also put some weight on his back and in the stirrup – all fine. The minute I put my leg over he took off rearing and kicking. As he headed towards the fence I emergently dismounted (with a little help from him!). I was at a reputable rescue and she asked to keep my cracked helmet to show the 4-H teens and others who think they’re “good enough” to forgo the helmet what can happen. That could’ve been my head!
    Two years ago my thoroughbred who had NEVER bucked before (or since) sent me flying when he got spooked by something while we were at the canter. I ended up in the ER for my leg but every doctor asked me if I was wearing a helmet. Absolutely! Still by the next morning I was clearly concussed with pretty significant vomiting and pain for two days. Imagine what would have occurred without that helmet.
    Not being able to “balance” with a helmet is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!

    • Stacie,
      The article may be old but a discussion about the importance of helmets is always timely. I’m sure glad you were wise enough to wear one! Thanks for making your good comment on this article. Barbara

    • This is for the riders who say they cannot balance well with a helmet. Typically that means the helmet does not fit your head. This is not uncommon. Most brands of helmets only really offer 2 or 3 sizes of helmets. Then use fit foam or dials to hold the helmet on your head. The movement of the helmet on your head then causes you to feel unbalanced. Look for a helmet that fits snug enough on your head to leave a fine line on your forehead (not headache tight, but snug). There are a limited supply of Pegasus helmets still around (www.pegasushelmets.com) where the factory made a separate mold for each size. These fit much better, as there is no excess fit padding: rather the actual helmet fit. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions. I have multiple helmet patents and have been designing helmets for over 30 years. Ron Friedson, PegasusHelmets.com, PegasusButterflysaddles.com
      Cell 203-246-8013. email info@allsaddles.com

  • Barbara,
    I know this article is old, but thank you again for writing it. I have had a number of concussions from riding over the span of many years. 3 of the most severe have affected the rest of my life, and just goes to prove that accidents happen and not every accident is due to an unsafe or preventable event. When I was 17, warming up my hunter for an over fences class, he slipped on some dewy grass at the walk. We had the unfortunate luck to be next to a strip of concrete walkway, and I cracked my (helmet clad) head on the concrete. I lost my depth perception and peripheral vision for months.

    Years later, while working as a trainer and instructor for a large lesson barn, I was schooling a client’s normally quiet horse, when a child spooked him and he threw rodeo bucks the length of our indoor. When I was finally unseated, I landed on my head, breaking my glasses and cracking my helmet. I was unconscious and could not feel my legs when I woke up. The effects of that TBI lasted over a year, and almost caused me to leave the equine industry completely.

    Those accidents happened WITH a helmet on. I cannot imagine how badly injured I could have been without one. SHAME on the Parellis for advocating “choice” on the helmet debate! I grew up with 4-h’ers who used them as an excuse. I agree with you that stupidity and ignorance will never leave, but none of my students will ever climb on a horse without one. I kept my old helmets and show the damage when a student questions why they have to wear one. No one complains about helmets after that.

    • Thank you for your comment Heather. I hate that you had such horrid accidents but and so glad that you were wearing a helmet. I hope others follow your example.

  • Not getting serious about horseback riding till I was in my late 40s (now 62), I came up with an approach that has served me well; “All horses are a 1000 pound stick of dynamite, the only difference is the length of the fuse”. I don’t care what training program you subscibe to, any horse can blow up. The only place you can find a “bombproof” horse in the taxidermist. That being said, all students at my facility under the age of 18 are required to wear approved helmets, over 18 its recommended. To include during any ground work of the horse. I have a friend who is lucky to be alive after being kicked in the side of the head by her horse while not wearing a helmet. Now she will not go near a horse without wearing one. I have had two “trips to the beach” in the past 12 years, one by my own poor horse handling and one from bailing off a “problem” horse that I knew was headed for a wreck (she did crash into the area wall after I bailed). Learn how to fall! Practice what’s known as a parachute landing fall. It won’t work every time so wear your helmet, but it won’t work at all if you don’t know it! Get some true foundation training for you and your horse. No marketing and tricks will help you when your horse blows a gasket and reverts to its “natural” instincts. Foundation training will help and when that fails, your helmet is the last line of defense. And remember, if you have a three dollar head, go buy a three dollar helmet!

  • When it comes to all that is being said here, I am pro choice all the way. I used to never wear a helmet. I’m 62 years old and grew up most my life without them. I only knew that English people wore them. As I am getting older, hitting the ground just isn’t appealing any more! Times have changed, and as people get more educated and helmets are more user friendly, we are more likely to wear them. Several years ago I made it a commitment to always wear a helmet. At some point in my life I did start wearing helmets when I was on young colts, but didn’t when I was riding my “broke” horses. Finally, one day my old broke horse got a burr under her and intentionally tried to buck me off. It was very violent, but I managed to stop her and stay on. That was when I made my mind up to never ride without a helmet again! However, Many people including my most favorite trainer- Clinton Anderson, do not wear helmets. That is their choice. I have not problem with that. People like Pat Parelli and Clinton Anderson have been through the ropes with horses in all kind of situations. I’m sure they have had injuries that they were able to deal with throughout their lives. Some day it may be their last. That is their choice. I am not going to bad talk about them. One final note: If people in select clinics want to wear helmets-good for them and the clinicians should encourage it. It is unfortunate that trainers and clinicians take a “do as I say-not as I do” stance.

  • I was just thrown off of my horse today and feeling mildly concussed. I was wearing a helmet and I landed face first. The front visor of the helmet took the most impact and bent but saved my face from hitting the ground. I am 100% sure if I had not been wearing a helmet I would have broken my nose and been severely concussed. I am very angry at whatever Parelli is trying to promote. I understand natural horsemanship and have worked desensitizing my horse for over a year before ever getting on her back. How can any green horse be safe? My horse spooked at snow brushing against her thigh even though I have desensitized her with ropes and bags over her entire body. No horse can be safe enough. A horse will always be a prey animal. Any of Parelli’s horses could spook at any time…he just won’t tell you about it. Oh and if anyone thinks he’s a good horse trainer you should check out his YouTube video traumatizing and beating a young horse in training. There’s nothing natural about that horsemanship.

    • Allison
      So sorry to hear that you were injured but so glad you were smart and wore a helmet. There are good parts of natural horsemanship (I’m using this as a generic term not as Parelli’s term) but there are also parts that are not so good, even dangerous.I agree with what you say about a green horse and also about Parelli’s horses being able to spook (or even trip) at any time. Natural Horsemanship (or round pen work) is not an end all to horsemanship except for the folk who are making a living promoting it. A wise horseman will learn many good methods of horsemanship and will develop a mental library of options so that when they work with a horse they have options for training situations. Horses are all different from one another and they can be different from themselves on a day to day basis. For anyone to promote one method for all horses and all riders is ridiculous. In my opinion anyone who promotes a complete program is luring the beginner and amateur horseman into believing they have all the answers and will be safe using a no brainer, follow the leader approach to horsemanship. Sometimes this happens because the student really doesn’t know to look for other options or they are looking for a mentor. This is understandable. But it also happens because people like things to haven fast and according to plan. Short cuts just don’t work with horses for very long. And as you have experienced, they are not always short cuts. I prefer to see riders learning to think for themselves. I like to see them able to make choices. Personally, I have seen too many amateur adults injured when they were trying to follow Parelli’s program to the letter. I guess what I don’t like is to see any trainer or instructor promote a program that makes anyone feel like horses are something that they are not. Horses are powerful animals and no matter how kind they are, they will always have natural instincts, fears, and reactions. Since even intelligent, in control, humans make mistakes and have reactions, why would we ever believe a horse wouldn’t? Thank you for your comment, you made good points based on experience. I hope you are back to feeling healthy again soon.

  • Sarah – I looked on your website to see if you had posted your “soapbox”…
    (and we probably ought to have a topic change to “Training With the Gurus” : )
    I think they started out well but then it kind of turned in to the [name your favorite marketing scheme] of “horsemanship”, helped along by the www which seems to have ushered in the era of guru whisperers and trainers and horse training “systems” – both the bad and the good.
    I learned a lot from seeing the Parelli’s, reading their stuff and watching many of the tapes. Some of the stuff they and a few of their followers are able to do with their horses is amazing (aside from whether or not it’s safe). Fortunately I had some background to compare to so was able to use what seemed useful and helpful for me and ignore the rest.
    These “systems” strongly appeal to the older, less physically agile middle to late middle-age returning and beginning horsewomen. It provides a structure, a social tribe, and stuff they can practice with in their own backyard without being concerned about some eleven year old’s superiority or of feeling “lesser” compared to the twenty and thirty something eventers and dressage riders.
    Sadly, many never progress beyond Level I or early Level II and pick up a ton of bad habits on the way.
    What may help is the gaining popularity of “obstacle rides” (the new trail trials?), “agility” competitions and trail classes at local schooling shows – competitions where the less athletic rider can set goals, compete and achieve, and have social interaction with others – they’re not going to do well unless they are somewhat in tune with their horses. (While the “western” influence may not be helpful re helmet wearing, I’m replying here about “training gurus”, not Parellis’ not wearing helmets.)

  • Helmets are required at ALL times when mounted on my farm. No matter who you are.

    I have a pretty big soap box on the Parellis myself. Their practices aren’t allowed in my facility either…

    • Sarah
      Thanks for your comment. I’m such a helmet pusher!! Until the day comes that someone can prove to me that wearing a helmet is consistently a hazard to ones safety, I’ll remain a helmet pusher! I’m glad you are too.

  • Oh man, a few years ago I had an incident riding western. The mare I was on was going into a lope, caught her back hoof on her front shoe, and face planted. I shot of the saddle like a bullet, landed directly on my head, tumbled and somehow landed on my back facing the horse. My helmet was totaled and I walked away with nothing more than a kink in my neck (if I hadn’t been wearing my helmet I can only imagine what would have happened to my skull). The mare was fine too, a solid belgian/quarter horse cross. Gave herself a little shake and was back on her feet.

  • While this isn’t yet developed as a riding helmet, here’s an interesting bike helmet alternative. I’ve not read any of the “real” statistics. But I do think it’s the most innovative option that could conceivably bridge this argument between “wear” and “no wear”.

    It might even help extend a rider’s posture. (;


  • I do agree with wearing a helmet. I’ve personally had my head saved by wearing one. I was thrown into a flowerbox at the bottom of a jump. I was unconscious for about half a minute. I broke my nose, and had a concussion. My helmet was shattered from the brim to the middle of my helmet. The ER doctor told me that I would very likely have been dead or completely incapacitated had I not worn a helmet. Up to that point, I’d worn one every time I got on a horse, and I still do. However, I do not advocate more legislation to require it. For children, I’m fine with it. However, adults do have the right to make poor decisions. I think there is an answer to be found in private organizations and individual riders. Stables can require that riders on their grounds wear helmets, as can equestrian organizations. I don’t let anyone get on my horse without a helmet, nor do I let guests ride with me without one. It’s not negotiable, just like wearing a seatbelt in my car is not negotiable if you’re my passenger. We can find the solution within the riding community, rather than requiring the government to do it for us. Personal responsibility should be the name of the game, not delegating that to legislators.

  • Barbara, Wow! Thank you for this! I left my local horseman’s association a few years ago after battling with them to require our juniors to wear helmets. I grew up riding in a helmet, I still wear one, and I require all my students, children AND adults, to wear one when mounted. Helmets are actually so fashionable these days, I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to wear one. Not to mention the added benefit that it might save your life. I know — I’m an ICU nurse.

  • I always wear a helmet. After reading the quote from Linda Parelli, I do plan on quoting her and blaming my helmet for any balance issues I have while I learn to jump!

    In all seriousness, riding is inherently dangerous. It just doesn’t make sense not to take basic safety precautions. No matter how well trained your horse is or how long you’ve been riding, accidents happen. Be safe out there!

  • Great article and some very good comments. Personally, I can say a helmet saved my life. I had an Arabian gelding at my farm that I was putting 60 days on to get it sale ready for a friend of mine. Very sweet horse and one of the few Arabians I’ve actually enjoyed being around. I’d spent the first 2 weeks of his time here getting him more fit and working on figuring out where is issue might be. He carried his head way too high. Of course, I was young and this was my first horse in training. So I was taking some time with him it never occurred to me that he actually had a real physical problem in his neck/back, which ended up being the case. After the 2 weeks of having him on the lunge and in/out of a rig to help strengthen his back (which is what I thought it was at the time), I tacked him up and got ready to mount. I ALMOST got on without a helmet, but something in the back of my head told me to put one on. Thank God I did. As soon as I swung my leg over his back and was about to sit, he reared up and thew his head back straight into my forehead, then flipped over on top of me. If I hadn’t been wearing that helmet, I would have died on the spot. As it was, I lost all memory of the day, had a major concussion, and was lucky that nothing was broken when he flipped over and stepped on my hand and anke. I was also fortunate that my 14 yr old working student was there.

    Wear your helmet, don’t wear your helmet, but don’t persuade others not to. You never know what will happen.

    As for the horse, it was a back issue that needed a vet and the owners wouldn’t pay for it. The horse was safe enough on trails with a tie down and was sold with this info about what had happened to me. He made a great trail horse and the new owners got his back sorted out.

  • Thanks for posting this! Some people are like “I don’t need to wear a helmet because I am an awesome rider” Every makes mistakes, so don’t risk it and WEAR A HELMET!
    My sister, her friend, my cousin, and I went riding on the beach and anyone under 18 had to wear a helmet. I’m 13 so I wore one gladly. My cousin, Tim, spoke up, “Hey it’s funny that the most experienced person here is the only one wearing a helmet” and I replied “That’s because I know what horses can do. Even the most bombproof horses have their moments.” Even if I was over 18, I would have worn that helmet with pride!

  • I must surmise that if someone is “pro-choice” they are imbeciles and are self-serving from the previous comments. However this is Nanny state thinking where you impose your opinions on others and fail to respect the right of someone to decide for themselves what risk or degree of risk they want to take. This goes to your core values, and in the US at one time we believed it was a right of people to air differing opinions and a right to make their own choices. I for one may disagree with someone, but I will defend their right to disagree with me and respect their right to make their own choices, no matter how crazy I think they are. There is nothing wrong with making the case for wearing helmets so that people can make educated decisions, but trying to impose ones opinions on others by character assassination and calling names seems unnecessary. The lack of civility and respect are sad casualties in this war of opinion.

    • If anyone doesn’t agree with these “pro-helmet” opinions, why make yourselves crazy and continue reading the comments? Go and read something you enjoy! I personally wear a helmet for safety reasons and yes, I am The Helmet Police when it comes to people riding on my farm…if they don’t like it, they can go elsewhere…funny, no one disagrees with my policy and no one has left because of it!

    • Dear Lee Huffman,
      This goes back to the Parelli Faculty statement, “The reason you do not see our people wearing helmets is because we try to teach people that rather than be brave because they are wearing a a helmet to protect them, they would be better off not riding until their horse is behaving safely.” This statement is misleading and gives the impression that a horse can be trained so well that an important piece of safety equipment can be disregarded. The crux of the argument here is not as much pro or con helmet or pro/con opinion, as it is a high profile training system that issued a misleading statement regarding a piece of safety equipment.

      Yours is the first comment to use the term imbecile and your comments are not tolerant of another person’s opinion. Kellie gave an account of a real life occurrence that aided in the formation of her opinion. She didn’t attempt to impose her thinking on you. IMHO your comment was very harsh. I’m requesting, as blog owner and author of the article “Wear a Helmet Even If Parelli Doesn’t”, that you refrain from this kind of harsh comment on The Riding Instructor. I am very happy to have people comment here but I must insist that commenters use a modicum of civility.

  • Thank you so much for posting this. I had no idea the Parelli’s had a “pro-choice” stance on helmets and I agree that as an industry leader, they should be encouraging safe behavior. Even well trained horses can become scared or fall and it only takes a split second. I learned to ride with friends of mine who had horses and we did not wear helmets. Shortly after getting my horse, my non-riding mom and I went out for a ride. On our way home her horse took off bucking and she was knocked unconscious when she hit the ground. I thought I had just watched my mom die in front of me. That was the worst moment in my life. This was before we had cell phones and I was a teenager alone and scared. Thankfully she only ended up with only a broken collar bone, but she doesn’t remember things as well as she once did. I am a huge advocate for wearing helmets now, every time. I would never want to relive that moment ever again. Thank you for spreading the word. Our brains, our families, and our friends are too valuable for us to lose.

    • Susan
      I’m just flabbergasted after watching this video. There may even be smoke coming out of my ears! I could say so many things about this but… I suggest everyone watch it for themselves…I call this digging the hole deeper

  • While it is disappointing that the Parelli’s don’t endorse helmets, I find it even more disturbing that local trainers don’t wear them at home. The kids they teach ADORE them, and the example they set is that cool people don’t wear helmets. I don’t buy any of the arguments for NOT wearing one.

    I always wear a helmet. Personally, almost every time I’ve fallen off I hit my head. Two seconds before it happened I didn’t know it was going to happen. Other than having whiplash, I’ve been lucky enough to never have had a serious injury or concussion from these falls. I ride a 24 year old TB I’ve ridden since he was 5, and I know him like the back of my hand, but regardless of any training, his first and top priority is himself. While it’s easier to ride through his spooks now than when he was younger, he is still going to spook to some degree if he is startled. And a helmet is going to help if I go flying off (again!).

    Most riders wouldn’t consider riding without whatever boots are appropriate to their discipline. Part of the reason for that is to make sure their foot comes out of the stirrup in an emergency. Yet many still fight the whole helmet idea when the consequences of repeated brain injury are so grave.

    I have a dear friend who grew up in another country riding horses as kids do. No helmets on anyone, and lots of falling off and hitting her head. As a brilliant adult going for her Masters at Harvard, she is now a proud owner of a draft cross that she keeps at home. She was just out petting him as he stood in his paddock, he swung his head around to look at something that startled him, and he knocked her flat. She hit her head on the ground, suffering a severe concussion.

    She is now living with the consequences of a lifetime of concussions. The danger of multiple concussions is immense.

    Saumya is an intellectual, highly spiritual person. She is eloquent in her writing, and has a blog that covers some of what she is going through with this injury. If you want a first hand account of what it means to live with this, please go to this link:


    Please know that she is also a vodoo priestess, and no, it is NOT the stuff you see in movies. There is a lot about that on her blog.

    Her loving husband also has to live with the consequences of her injury. Here is a heart felt post on his blog:


    It is heartbreaking to see a friend go through this, and she is one of the lucky ones.

  • I have owned and ridden horses for 40 years, and the injury that has taken me out of riding happened standing on the ground, next to my horse. He unexpected swung aroung, hit me from the back with his hip, and sent me flying. The last body part to hit the ground was my head, on asphalt.

    I thank the powers that be every day that i learned years ago to put my helmet on before latching the leadline on to a halter. Sounds extreme, but it saved me from a head injury. Too bad there was nothing to save my shoulder, which after 6 surgeries is put together backwards with a reverse replacement.

    So, yes I have studied NH and raised horses so safe and quiet that one earned the distinction of being a nationally recognized therapy horse. But they are BIG and unpredictable. Period.

  • I’m going to be crass, but I just couldn’t resist responding to Sally.

    Sally, please, by all means, take the risk and ride without a helmet, if you’re convinced they “don’t work.” I don’t think anyone is trying to convince you that helmets will save you from any and all brain injuries, just like no one would claim that wearing a seat belt in the car will always keep you alive in case of a car accident. The physics of modern helmet material function has been well explained for you; but you don’t have to believe it if you don’t want to, I guess.

    If you’re so determined to have a reason not to wear one, hang on to that “I don’t see anything that says helmets prevent concussion” line, and don’t wear one. I just hope you’ll never make an unfortunate addition to the Darwin awards home page, although not passing along such ignorance to future generations would certainly be a plus.

    Do us all one favor, though, pretty, pretty please: DON’T use whatever influence you may have on others to dissuade them from wearing a helmet. They may still have a concussion, but I know the day I got kicked in the noggin as I fell from my young mare, I was very happy to walk away with a few stars in my eyes (light concussion, yes) instead of being whisked to the emergency room for much, much worse.

    • I didn’t say they “don’t work”. I said they do not prevent concussion or work in a way that MANY people seem to use them which is “I’m wearing a helmet, I’m protected from TBI or concussion.” I have agreed that they are the bomb to protect against skull fracture and gashes.

      You must have been selective in the posts of mine that you have read, because in many of them I have said “do both…wear a helmet AND help your horse and you become smarter, calmer and more athletic.” Why would I tell someone to not wear a helmet? How could that possibly impact me in any negative way?

      The arguments about my (or anyone’s) insurance rates going up or having to “support” someone suffering from a TBI are not based in fact.

      What I said, and what I am still saying, is that many people believe that what the helmet manufacturers “guarantee” are impact-resistant statistics that have not much to do with actual head injury statistics. Their ads and testimonials are carefully worded, and many people are not careful readers…

      I do appreciate your concern for my well-being though! So far so good for me…and I hope to keep it that way! You take care as well, please. (:

  • Stumbled across this post from a friend on Facebook. Personally, I think riding without a helmet demonstrates a lack of self-preservation and possibly a high level of ignorance or stupidity. I refuse to have anything to do with Parelli training, and the statement they gave (listed above by the author) is ridiculous. I’m all about developing a good relationship with your horse, understanding what works and doesn’t work with training, and knowing what makes your horse happy…but let’s be honest. With all that in mind, let’s not forget they are ANIMALS (gasp!). They are wild creatures, no matter how domesticated we make them. In an instant, they can do something completely unexpected that goes against everything you have ingrained into them. With that being said, you should wear a helmet….because you are on top of a 1200lb wild creature, who is not looking out for your safety. That’s your job.

    I was riding my exceptionally well-behaved and highly trained show jumper a few years back when we had an accident. We were taking off at the base of a 3′ jump when something spooked him in the woods nearby (which has happened maybe twice in the 10 years I’ve owned him). He shied mid-air and I lost my balance. When I fell, my head hit the ground first, and then one of his back hooves landed DIRECTLY on my helmet. The whole helmet split in half, but I was fine. I walked away with only a scratch on my elbow. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet.

    • The bottom line is this…………..WE KNOW we should and I do, wear a helmet! But I cannot impose MY will on anyone. Either can ANY of the top trainers of any discipline! NONE of THEM. Unfortunately the Parelli’s were asked a direct question, they answered. A lot disagree. Good! Do what you need to do. Wear your helmet. I wouldn’t have an accident such as yours, before I made the choice to wear one. We have to think for ourselves. Don’t blame Parelli’s for peoples lack of intelligence. They have been an inspiration to many, they can and DO a lot of wonderful things with horses…….Float your own boat. PLEASE
      I’m starting to think that the article was INTENDED to be a Parelli Bashing tribute. Was it?? Again….lets ask Clinton, Buck, Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt…..about helmets. Yes I know some are not with us. Let’s move on……….

      • Vicky Rhein, I appreciate your zealousness for the Parellis so I’m reposting the same answer I gave to you on September 23 –

        Parelli was the topic of this because of the following statement “The reason you do not see our people wearing helmets is because we try to teach people that rather than be brave because they are wearing a a helmet to protect them, they would be better off not riding until their horse is behaving safely.” Had they not taken a stand that indicated you could train away the need for a helmet, I would not have written about it. If Buck or any of the others issued a statement that turned people away from helmets, I would write about them too.- end

        While they may teach other things that are very good and helpful to horsemen, they are teaching that this particular safety avenue (wearing a helmet) is unnecessary. If at anytime the Parelli’s would like to revise their statement, I would be happy to write a blog post about it. You are obviously an experienced horsewoman, but Parelli (and all of the other round pen trainers you mention) influences a lot of beginner horse lovers who are looking for a mentor and want to be like their heroes, therefore they have a responsibility NOT to lead people down an unsafe path. I don’t care if they personally choose not to wear a helmet or if any of their trainers chose not to but IMHO they are wrong to indicate to the public that a horse can be trained to the point that a rider would not be safer wearing a helmet. Should I run across any statement made by any other trainer, indicating that wearing a helmet is a matter of training and bravery, I’ll write a post about them.

        Unfortunately for the Parellis – they made what I consider to be a foolish statement from their high profile position and it can not be left out there to point the way for others. When I find any other training program that promotes something that, in my opinion, is as unsafe as the statement Parelli makes about helmets I will write about it and hope it draws as much attention as this issue has.

        If you really believe the statements you made that my blog post, “was INTENDED to be a Parelli Bashing tribute”, and “I am starting to think this was a ploy to just bash the Parelli’s”, you have sadly missed the point of everything that I wrote.

    • Their mentality is similar to people that won’t wear seatbelts! Yes, people do die from wearing seatbelts. But I like the odds with wearing one. Yes, people do die even with wearing a helmet on. But again, I like the odds of wearing one than not! Common sense goes out the window with these topics. People need to put vanity in the toilet. Unfortunately, many clinicians won’t wear helmets. Shame on them.

      • I know tons of Western riders that simply refuse to wear a helmet, I guess out of vanity. My other half is one of them….and his daughter. Funny though, when his granddaughter went on a big trail ride last year, they bought her a helmet and made her wear it!!!

      • I’m imagining that everyone wears a helmet when they drive as well, even with seat belts…after all, the professionals do EVERY time they drive. Of course, it might have to do with the speed they are going. Or maybe it has to do with the speed everyone else is going? Or is it “OK” because the cars are equipped with airbags?

        When does the line get drawn on who gets to decide who is “stupid” or “ignorant” for what they do or do not do for self-protection?

        In this day and age, judgements like these are considered bullying.

        • Dear Sally,
          The title of this site is The Riding Instructor and its purpose is to provide information that is helpful to riding instructors and students of riding. That would include information about teaching, learning, safety, hazards, trainers, methods etc. Many of the topics that I write about are controversial and I express my opinion which has formed from a deep base of educated experience.The very nature of a blog is to allow the blog owner/author to express their opinions.

          I want to state very clearly that it is the opinion of the author of The Riding Instructor, that it is safer to wear a helmet when riding a horse than it is not to wear one.

          I am also stating that no one and I repeat NO ONE can train a horse so thoroughly that it is infallible, consequently I recommend that people wear riding helmets.

          Fortunately we still live in a society that allows us to make our own choices. You may choose to wear a seat belt, or not. You may choose to wear a helmet or not. I choose to recommend helmets.

          You also may choose whether or not to read my blog posts or the comments of the readers who take the time to add their thoughtful statements and opinions. But the line gets drawn here at The Riding Instructor when accusations, such as “Bullying”, are made. The people who have written in favor of other’s wearing helmets are passionate about the safety of other people. Often their opinions have been drawn from very painful experiences or from the relief of a near miss. There is no bullying in that. I applaud passion and caring. The ignorant and stupid will always be among us.

          Barbara Ellin Fox
          The Riding Instructor

        • Who’s being a bully here Sally? I don’t see anyone doing any bullying…except maybe you… Everyone has their own opinion…there’s no need for sarcastic remarks

          • Sally, I believe it is time to let this subject lie. You have definitely started beating a dead horse. IMO enough time has been spent on this topic. Maybe it’s time everyone moves on to something else. How about them Dodger?

          • I’m not being sarcastic, I’m being honest.

            When people are calling others “stupid” or “ignorant” for making a personal choice (whichever it might be for this topic…) that is different from their own, society is calling that bullying in this day and age.

            I see a lot of those words used in a lot of posts on this topic.

          • I left this blog a couple weeks ago, and back then Sally was arguing about this same thing! I made a comment that she should let it drop, it was getting old, and here she is still trying to be a bully! This is getting to the point that she is harassing people…you are making it uncomfortable for people and causing unnecessary drama. I think it’s about time she be blocked from further posting on this site… Whoever agrees that the owner of this blog should do so, please speak up.

  • I’m a liver transplant recipient, my donor died from a TBI. Wearing a helmet isn’t guaranteed to save anyone, but it certainly can help, just like a seatbelt. After receiving this precious gift, I wouldn’t consider getting on my horse without my helmet – it would be like slapping my donor’s family in the face.

  • I don’t care how good of a rider you are, what a wonderful horse you have, or what awards you have won, IF YOUR HORSE STEPS IN A GROUND BEE NEST or GETS STUNG BY A WASP, there is a VERY high possibility you and your horse will part ways. It just makes sense to protect yourself the best way you can. NEVER, NEVER, get on a horse without a helmet. On another note, let me add that in the 40+ years I have been riding, I will never forget the loud crack I heard when I had been bucked off a horse in a competition during my college years. As I brushed myself off and got up to get back on the horse several people rushed out to make me sit. Turns out the sound I heard was the crack of the horses hoof on my head as he jumped over me. Could have been a whole different life for me if I didn’t have my helmet on! Enough said.

  • I think there are some very important points in this article and I heartily agree with your position on wearing a helmet. It’s the cheapest insurance out there. However, I also think that Parelli sometimes unfairly gets wrapped up in this debate. There is an enormous number of really wonderful horsemen who do not wear helmets. While it would be admirable if the Parellis took a stand towards making helmets more socially acceptable in the horse world, since they are certainly in a position to do so, they haven’t made that choice. Neither has the vast majority of professional horse people. We have something to learn from everyone, so if you want to disregard the Parellis’ training methods, don’t do it based on their stance on helmets. When it comes to helmets, take inspiration from Charlotte Dujardin. When it comes to the Parellis, make your own decision, and take what you can. It’s easier to just write them off, but they do some cool things with horses, so there must be at least SOMETHING they’re doing right. Think critically, be responsible, and keep an open mind.

    • Well written Maggie. I am starting to think this was a ploy to just bash the Parelli’s and unfortunately it looks like its worked for the last month, lets move on, shall we?

  • Than you, thank you, thank you, a million times thank you for this article. I have never liked the Parellis’ “our way or the highway” attitude, but when I read about their take on helmets a year or so ago, I was appalled. I am so glad to know that other professionals in the horse world feel the same. Thank you again for this wonderful post!

  • I wish it had been the norm several years ago when I was riding with a friend at a local stable. The trail horse I was riding shied, reared up and fell over….it’s fortunate that I had been thrown clear of his fall as he, sadly, died (heart attack I understood was the suspected cause). I was left with a lot of bruises, a hip that, to this day, bothers me, and a nice few knots on my noggin. Last time I rode (still years ago) I had a helmet.

    So, as you can imagine, I don’t agree that all things that could go wrong are ‘behavioral’. Sometimes, no matter the amount of preparation, there are things that are wholly out of a person (and, indeed, a horses) control that happen.

  • This was a very informing article. The one time I got full of my self and went on a trail ride was the one time I got bucked off and slammed into a post almost breaking my back. I did not know the Parelli method advocated such poor choices. I don’t follow their training methods, and it is disconcerting that they would lead people into dangerous situations. I would think that a couple with their experience would know that even the safest horse may spook at something and panic. I am glad I read this. Thank you for writing it.

  • I used to not wear a helmet. I had friends that pestered me all the time to wear one. I blew them off.

    Then I changed barns. In that barn, there was a clear division between riders who wore helmets and riders who were irresponsible horse people (in all aspects). I wanted to be a responsible horse person. So I started wearing a helmet for every ride. And I required that anyone riding my horses had to wear one too.

    And I’m glad I did.

    I had an incident a while back. I was going to get onto my senior, very broke, gelding. From a nice high mounting block, so I could ride him bareback. Something I had done a thousand times before without issue. He normally stands like a rock – doesn’t move at all because he’s waiting for his cookie.

    Well that night, he did. He stepped away after I had one leg mostly across and was hopping off of the other. I fell, hitting the mounting block with my body and the ground with the back of my head. My helmet was snug and well fitted. Even with that, I felt my brain slosh inside my skull.

    I was able to dust myself off and get back on. I had a headache for four days.

    If I hadn’t worn that helmet, it would have been a trip to the ER.

    Doesn’t matter how well trained, how good of a rider, how safe the environment. Stuff happens and better safe than sorry.

    [now if I could get a vest in my size, I would totally wear one of those too!]

  • Even the best-trained horse can stumble and fall, freak accidents happen and hopefully the rider has some protection when it happens.

  • I was introduced to riding and required to wear a helmet for lessons about 40 years ago., so it’s second nature, like wearing a seat belt for me. The possibility of a horse stumbling or spooking always exists. There’s a documentary called “Every Ride, Every Time” that I saw a few years ago and it illustrated with several people’s stories of how their life was impacted, whether by severe injury or death of a family member injured badly while not wearing a helmet. Given the “right” circumstances any horse can do something that causes irreparable harm to the rider, and not just while sitting in a saddle. To me, helmets are part of riding gear, as are boots with a heel. I have studied Pat Parelli’s 7 games and liked using, but I think the helmet statement was not well thought out, perhaps even off the cuff. I will say that I liked Pat’s line from the 7 games that goes “I’ve learned that neither horses nor women like being patted.” Since then, when I see someone pat, rather than rub a horse, it always strikes me as discordant, and jarring- and certainly not what the person intends, but those words of Pat’s made an impression on me.

    • Hmmm….I wonder….your statement about Mr. Parelli claiming that horses don’t like to be patted….I heard John Lyons say that EXACT thing at the Equine Affaire about 13 years ago…..hmmmm….

  • by the way, wearing a helmet, doesn’t protect your spinal cord at the base of you head..which is about the diameter of a dime, so we all might need some kind of spinal cord protector too. LOL

  • I am in my 60’s now, but when I was 15, I spent 3 week in a coma with a skull fracture and a brain concussion. At that time helmets were not ever thought of . I still ride a bit, but do not have helmet. I have suffered with terrible migraine my whole life from the accident as a teen. Helmets will save your life.

  • if everyone is really worried about injury, maybe y’all better start wearing chest protectors too. Don’t even get me started…helmets..of course I wear one and never saw hardly any instructors of ANY kind wear them before after, or during Parelli being around…people are so defensive about Parelli’s …get over it..insecurities are showing.

    • nothing to do with insecurities…or blaming the Parelli’s for people not wearing their helmets… People are just saying that it doesn’t help to have someone who is so well known in the horse world, to so openly encourage against wearing one. Not the cause…but definitely not helping either…

  • Great article and thank you. What Linda and Pat have failed to mention is the horse is a flight animal. Anything can happen even to the best trained horse. They are still an animal. I wear my helmet always. It is just like putting a seat belt on in the car now.

  • If one was to go on the parelli Savvy Club website one would see parelli followers arguing that helmets cause more injury than not wearing one. Just crazy!

  • I agree with the Parelli’s that a helmet impairs balance and “perceptiveness”; however, I’m SMART enough to value my life, own 3 helmets, and I’m shopping for that “perfectly fitted” one that I will wear ALL THE TIME I’M RIDING!!!
    It’s “STUPID” not to!
    Thanks for the reality and reminder!!!!

  • My reply from Pegasus Helmets. I’m grateful for the quick reply and as direct a response (as possible) to my question! I have not yet called him, because I pretty much understand what he is saying in his reply…

    >> Dear Sally

    My apology for the delay: minor family crisis last week.

    There is no anti_concussion standard. All modern certified helmets are tested for impact.

    Which not quite the same thing

    If you would like to know more feel free to call me at 203 XXX XXXX

    Ron Friedson <<

    Wear a helmet if you choose, please understand its limitations.

  • One of Parelli’s gimmicks… Or shall I say, their subliminal message is that their training is SO good that the horse will NEVER do anything wrong because their methods are just that amazing. There is no need for safety equipment when you have the ultimately safe mount. I say it’s just a matter of time before one of them ends up in the hospital after a serious fall… not wishing it but the odds are stacked in that directiop.

  • As I said in another post a few days ago, I am a student of Parelli. It has helped me go places with my horse I never thought possible. Never ever without a helmet though.I certainly do not agree with there philosophy on that point. You can’t control everything that happens. It doesn’t matter what sport, if your brain could be harmed, where a helmet. My son is 21 and at college and we bought him a bike for around campus. Before he left for the new school year, he said “Mom, can’t forget I need a new helmet.” So off we went helmet hunting. So very important.

  • Thank you for posting the Parellis ridiculous stance/rational on their stupidity for not wearing helmets. I’m now positive I will never entertain attending any of their programs. They will not receive one penny from myself for any of their services. If they’re dumb enough to believe they’re safe without a helmet I’m smart enough to pass on their methods! They seem to forget that horses are living, breathing, thinking beings & it doesn’t matter how well trained a horse is he can still spook/bolt/rear/buck/slip & fall down! Helmets do not in any way compromise your balance……idiots!

    • Oh my god, I cannot believe this vitriol towards something that you don’t even understand with regards to helping you understand your horse. You don’t have to understand the Parellis to understand that horses ARE living, breathing creatures with their own set of priorities that don’t follow those of closed-minded predators that believe there’s no room in the horse world for actually understanding the mind of a prey animal as well as perhaps changing oneself to accommodate those prey instincts that are usually not ingrained into our human behavior.

      Your post has underscored why horses and humans have so many disagreements.

      Helmets are a great idea, so is understanding the psyche of the prey animal when we choose to put ourselves near them or on them. How interesting that there are opinions that would cut us off from connecting with a prey animal in their lexicon and understanding of the world.

      It’s not “either/or”, this isn’t a war for gosh sakes, yet if people believe it’s better to suit up defensively vs. understand the other side, then there should be no surprise if the horse isn’t a willing participant.

      • what if you choose to do both??? it is possible to suit up and understand. i think its a problem when one is one or the other extreme

          • Whoa! For those of you who are my age (over 29 and closing in on 29 the second time :), all this reminds me of the vitriol when certified helmets were first mandated many years ago.

            Some science and a comment, if someone wants to organize an open video conference where I can present the science of helmets in detail let me know, would be glad to do it no charge.

            Concussion is a general term for when the brain bangs against the inside of your skull: This happens for multiple reasons; It does not even require a fall. Shaken baby syndrome causes concussion! Basically any action where the brain bumps into the inside of the skull.

            When you fall, one goal of the helmet is to let your brain decelerate as slowly as possible. The slower you decelerate the softer the “bang” of your brain on the inside of your skull. Helmets are a compromise: too soft liner and your brain slams against the shell, to hard a liner and the liner causes your head to decelerate to quickly.

            Land on a hard surface and more energy is transferred to the liner so you need a harder liner to do the job. Land on a soft surface and you need a softer liner that will do its job with less energy.

            There are far more details than I mention here and other kinds of head injury from rotational damage to skull fractures. All of which have different whole or partial solutions.

            Like many things in life, what fixes one makes it do a worse job for another problem.

            By they way I teach and train instructors as well as design helmets and saddles. So I have been at multiple points in the horse business.

            Back on August 27th I came off and ended up with a mild concussion: because I was wearing my helmet. No helmet, could have been very serious.

            Best Regards
            Ron Friedson
            tel 203-246-8013

          • Dear Ron,

            Thank you very much for this good explanation. I’m past the second 29 years, so I have lived through the whole helmet evolution. I’ve worn them since I was a child except for when I trained in the Arabian Industry. As I mentioned in my blog post “Wear a Helmet, Even if Parelli Doesn’t” my worst head injury came during mounting my multi National Champion Dressage horse, so much for training. That was the last time I got on a horse without a helmet, except for the day I had a ball cap on. Thinking it was my helmet, I mounted up and set off for a trail ride only to have my daughters race down the road to chew me out and hand me my helmet.

            By the way, the severe vertigo I suffered from the head injury on my dressage horse, lasted for a year. I couldn’t even look up to bridle him. Now I’m always slightly prone to vertigo. Concussions just don’t seem to go totally away.

            I would love to see a video conference about helmets but haven’t a clue about video conferencing. Have you done any video discussion on YouTube?

            Thanks again.
            Barbar Ellin Fox

          • look, i believe in biomechanics, im a dressage rider only, i know how much the slightest shift of my weight changes what im telling my horse, im known locally as a ‘horse whisperer’ because i read body language and get into the horses psyche. my horse is a dressage horse, i backed him and brought him on as a baby, he is now 10 years old and i still ride him with a helmet. accidents happen, that is why they are called accidents. in the 10 years i have known him, i have only once gotten off him on an outride and walked him in hand home, because i knew he was so scared that he needed to see me on the ground and lead him as his heard mom. a concussion is nothing compared to a split skull, ive had concussions and ive thanked my lucky stars thats all i got!!!

      • There is not a single comment on here that says anything AGAINST connecting with and understand the horse on a deeper level! Where on earth did you get that? People are just saying that the Parelli’s are idiots for the things they say and do…no one said they’re stupid for wanting a better understanding of their horses… sheesh

  • Dear MB,

    You can be fit with a helmet that is comfortable to wear all day. We make Pegasus helmets so there is a size for the most long oval and the most round heads. Pegasus helmets come in 16 different molds: Most brands just use 4 molds.
    Please call me at 1-800-888-8721 and we can talk about how you can get fit. Best Regards, Ron Friedson, Designer www. pegasushelmets.com

  • It’s always bothered me that in Western events when helmets ARE required for young riders, they think it’s cool and grown up when they get to “graduate” to no longer needing (i.e. being required) to wear a helmet when they turn sixteen.
    It needs to begin with the responsible adults – parents, clinicians, instructors, etc. wearing helmets and setting examples.

  • Riding is a sport that is also an art just like pairs ice skating, gymnastics, etc. Helmets in all those other artistic sports would probably reduce injuries and deaths, but what would the sport become? Even regular dancers and actors on a stage are hit and sometimes killed with heavy battens (pipes) and other scenery and equipment falling from high above. This happens more than the general public realizes, and helmets would probably help, but who would want to attend the resulting ballet? As far as riding, personally I would be more inclined to wear a riding helmet more frequently if I could find one to fit. My head is round in shape (sort of the opposite of the “long oval” fit) so that any helmet that remotely fits me squeezes like a vise on the sides and flops a bit front to back — and this is regardless of how it is padded! After 15-20 minutes I am beset with a pounding headache, and even though I have taken to wearing a lightweight ball cap under my helmet, my head still hurts and the remaining flopping worries me. I do wear the helmet when I am getting on a youngster for the first time, or when starting a green horse in a new activity, but for day to day riding if I had to wear a helmet all the time, the pain would probably have to mean the end of my 50+ years in the sport. If helmet manufacturers can make a “long oval” they can make a “round oval” or similar so that everyone can ride pain-free — but they do not.

  • have 2 friends with a metal plates in their head from a kick that happened on the ground. One is permanently disabled and can no longer ride as well as being blind in one eye. I make my daughter wear her helmet to go out to the paddock to fetch her horse.Wear the helmet, your life can change in a second.

  • Major Dittos.

    Even the best trained horse can slip and fall on you. I’ve never agreed with the Parellis on a lot of things, but my biggest complaint is jumping large fences with no helmet and bareback. I also dislike the ‘watch the video, now go train your horse’. I can’t tell you how many horses I’ve had to re-train for people who watched a training video then went and tried it on their horse. Then when the horse is completely unresponsive or head shy from the whip being flipped at them too many times or worse the horse has started rearing under saddle, I get a call to come fix them. I have to bite my tongue when I get a glowing report from these same people about Parelli at the same time I’m up to my elbows in fixing the mess. Sorry for the rant! I just discovered your blog and LOVE IT!

  • I’m with Regina on this one. Parelli bashing is not necessary here on the subject of helmets. Just lost a little respect from you. Regina is right about all the other clinicians not wearing helmets also. I have been wearing a helmet while mounted most of my life as I played polo, and it was required. I am a helmet advocate and all my students wear them. It is a choice that people can make for themselves just like smoking.

  • I’m glad to see this article beneath the student section!
    I have had my share of falls, one of which almost landed me in the ER but thankfully my mother is a nurse and made sure I didn’t have a serious issue. I was wearing a helmet when I was thrown halfway across the arena after mounting a horse – and immediately got on another, calmer mount.

    I find many people are resistant to helmets for foolish, for lack of a better word, reasons. People forget that without your brain, your body can only function for a few minutes. Your brain tells your body what to do and how to do it and without it, your muscles only do what they were “trained to do”. (Hence why medically your heart can beat for a few minutes after your brain “dies”.)

    Your brain makes you, you and without it, there is no you.
    Of course we can argue how a helmet theoretically only protects so much of your brain and skull, but why even take the risk of serious brain damage in the first place?

    Be it Parelli fans, oversea riders, or just your average Joe, can’t everyone agree that the helmet protects your skull better than not having one? Sure, learning ways to fall and having extreme luck are good too, but neither of them compare to the extra protection. And, of course, helmets aren’t foul proof, we only need to look at motorcycle and bike riders and serious equine accidents to see that. However, the guise that “the horse needs to behave correctly” is not enough to prevent me from wearing a helmet.

    Even though the Parelli’s seem to be well versed horse people, the term “well behaved or correctly behaved” in terms of equine behavior is entertaining. A horse wasn’t born to act like a human being. He will react to his surroundings and no amount of training is going to make him steady in every single circumstance imaginable. We, as humans, can fool ourselves to thinking that but it simply is not possible.

  • While I agree that wearing a helmet is the smart choice to make, I don’t understand this BOLDED comment by the author –
    A helmet may have saved her from a concussion and it may also have saved her from bruises and 4 broken ribs.
    While a helmet does prevent MOST head injuries, does someone want to elaborate how it would prevent bruises and broken ribs? Sorry for my possible ignorance here, but that just doesn’t make sense…

    • Because when you are unconscious you have no possible chance to get out from under the horse’s hooves during a fall unless fate throws you clear. The helmet may have kept her from being knocked out making it possible to purposely roll out of the way of the horse’s hooves reducing the possibility of broken ribs etc. You can’t do much when you’re knocked out.

  • It is now a rule in the US that ALL riderscin dressage and eventing must wear a helmet, regardless of level. As a rider whose helmet saved her life a while back, I don’t understand the people who say helmets are unneccesary. Course these people probably said the same thing about seat belts when they first came out…

    • You could be right about the seat belts! I looked it up and New York was the first state to require seat belts – 1984. Funny- they also require helmets on minors 🙂 Thanks for posting

  • in my teens i was one of those who thought it looked much cooler to ride with no helmet, and ride youngsters helmetless… thank God he had angels watching over me!! I stopped riding for a few years, and when i came back into it, my friend who i rode with insisted i buy a helmet and refused to let me near a horse without one. After backing youngsters at a stud farm for 3 years, i will not get onto a horse without a helmet even if you paid me 100k . My helmet has saved my life so many times its unbelievable. one particular incident: i fell off a youngster i had just mounted, when he began pig rooting, being that i did not know what he would do if i let him go, i held onto the reins and ended up pulling him ontop of me. he stood on my face. i managed to twist my head at the last minute, so the brunt of the impact was taken by my hat. he was wearing shoes. my hat was pretty messed up, i suffered a very mild concussion, a piece of my cheek bone chipped off (and later relocated itself, giving me a permanant odd looking dimple too high up on my face)and my earring tore right through into the cartlidge inside my ear. i shudder to think what would have happened if i wasnt wearing that hat…

    incidently, im from South Africa, for as long as i can remember, under no circumstances at any show, practice or graded, is any rider allowed onto a horse without a helmet. you get fined by the grounds if you are seen without one, even if you just stable there and have come to ride your own horse and are not participating. the only time you are allowed to ride without a hard hat are from elementary level dressage and higher.

    • I’m so glad you had such a good friend who convinced you about helmets. I also find it real interesting that South Africa requires helmets. I wish we would see more of that here, especially with children. Thank you for your interesting post

  • Excellent article, and lots of interesting discussion. Such faulty reasoning and blatant disregard for the statistics is very troubling. It might be easy to say these people are more concerned about their marketing image than the safety of their followers. Glad to see so many people on the pro side of helmet use. No, they don’t make you bullet proof. But, even Pony Club found they had a 29% reduction in head injuries with mandatory helmet use. Hopefully, the manufacturers, using increasingly better technology and materials, can increase that percentage for the rest of us even more.

    • Thanks, Katherine- The more we talk about this topic the more people will read it. I’m all for helmets on every child and I think USPC does a great job promoting helmet use. I’m afraid you could be correct about marketing. Thanks for posting your comment.

  • almost all of the western disciplines don’t wear helmets…. even the reiners and cow working riders, where anything could happen… not to mention gymkhana riders….

    • It’s going to be really hard to get the western riders to change because the cowboy hat is such a part of their culture. None of the helmet companies have come up with a helmet that suits them. I think it the door way in is through the kids, 4-H, youth groups. I hope it doesn’t take the same kind of tragedies to convince the western riders, that it has taken in the english disciplines

      • yes, get them comfortable young…wearing one… I was thinking about bike helmets, I wear when on a bike, they are smaller and very cool for summer riding. If you can hit pavement in one of those off a bike, maybe it would work for when on a horse, or should I say when coming off… : )
        Need to get that old west “tough” attitude out of the young kids… smart and alive is always better… 4-H is a good way.

        • Funny thing. My farrier and I were just having the same conversation about bike helmets. The trouble is that bike helmets are designed for a different kind of a fall. Bike riders usually fall forward while, horse riders frequently hit the back of their heads. Equestrian helmets come down lower in back and are designed to protect the back of the head. While it seems like one should cross over to the other, it’s really important that riders use helmets that were designed for their sport. My farrier wears a bike helmet for cross country biking. I asked him if he wore a helmet to ride. He said not so far and that he wished his barrel racing wife would, but that their little daughter never gets on her pony without a helmet. It’s a start

          • the bike helmet does protrude in the back and front, but there is something about the snapping of the neck at impact that causes neck injuries, but I believe it has to do with the brim…not sure…

          • From what I’ve understood, the fixed brim causes frontal brain trauma in the event of a forward fall, which is why so many helmets have a brim that will collapse on impact now.

          • yes it was the husband of my friend who invented the first collapsable brim… he was a E.R. Dr. and Marge, his wife did 3-day eventing so he was set on keeping her safe.

  • I have been a helmet user since I first started riding at the ripe old age of 30. I am not the popular mom because I require helmets when my kids ride. However, my western riding daughter fights me all the time. My English girl just does it without reminders or complaint. I am dreaming of the day that OK 4-H requires helmets on all riders although since my kids have been in 4-H we have progressed to having the rulebook state that riders will not be penalized in placement for wearing the helmet. Progress is grindingly slow.

    • Good for you! Progress is slow. I wish we could hurry things along and keep riders safe. New York has a law that requires all minors to wear helmets when riding a horse. Maybe that will spread to us in the MidWest one day

  • I was never a fan of helmets and only wrote them under protest as my husband would not allow me to ride if not wearing one. Thankfully he did.. I had quite a major fall last year while riding my very quiet, 14hh stb gelding. His saddle slipped as I got on it spooked him to the point that a horse that I was able to put beginners on, freaked out and bucked and I came off. Thankfully it was only a small fall as I was able to twist properly and take most of the impact on my shoulder but my head still hit quite a large rock. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet it could have been much more serious than a headache and some bruises and scrapes. I will continue to wear one while competing in western pleasure events next year with my qh boy.

  • I believe the most unpredictable cause for a horse to react dangerously… is a wasp or bee sting. That could happen while mounted or on the ground. Absolutely unpredictable. Think about how even you as a person reacts…
    It can happen anywhere anytime.

  • I hope everyone knows that all helmets really need to be replaced every five years if no falls (helmet crashes) have occurred? If the helmet has been hit, or dropped violently on the barn floor it should also be replaced immediately? The materials break down over time especially if the helmet is kept where the elements can get to it (like out in the tack room where it gets cold in winter and hot in summer).

  • My 8-year old daughter took a tumble from her pony last year while jumping.She WAS wearing a helmet and suffered a depressed skull fracture and brain injury. Some would say the helmet didn’t do its job….her neurosurgeon, looked me square in the eye after her surgery and said “your daughter wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t been wearing her helmet”…it absolutely did its job. Today she’s a happy healthy 9-year old who loves jumping and showing her pony! The technology utilized in designing helmets needs to continue to evolve to try to reduce injuries that occur while wearing helmets, but why would you not use every tool available to keep you / your children safe in a sport that has risks.

  • I completely agree with all riders should wear helmets, even those who lunge should consider wearing one also. One thing I need to clarify is that Charlotte was not the only rider wearing a helmet at the Olympics, actually Jacqueline Brooks of Canada was the first rider to compete at an Olympics, which was London, in a helmet.

  • Riding with a helmet on doesn’t make me “more brave” (that’s what the Parelli’s said, right?). I wear my helmet in case something happens. Even the very best Parelli trained horse (even if Pat himself did the training) could step into a ground bee hive and get attacked….do you think Pat’s horse would just stand there and take the hundreds of stings leaving his rider to make all the next decisions?

    No one is attacking the Parelli methods…only the dumb reasoning behind the helmet statements.

  • Come to think of it, Parelli is correct to teach people how to train their horses correctly and handle situations to make riding the horse as safe as possible….shouldn’t ALL riding instructors be doing that as well?

    No horse is 100% bombproof, even old Dobbin that’s 30 years old, been there and done that. Poor Gretchen had a freak fall from a wonderful horse that was doing what he thought was the right thing. Stuff happens….thank God for good helmets!

  • Several times I have fallen off a horse and bought a new helmet because there is a dent in the old one. That could have been a dint in my skull. It’s like wearing a seatbelt in a car–a no brainer (in more ways than one).

  • what if a system of horsetraining is that good, that you really don´t need helmets when it´s done? What if the the trainers know this much about horses that they can fully control horses emotion?

    parelli, i guess, don´t say: don´t wear helmets. they only say: we don´t need it. I think Parelli means with this statement: If you really need a helmet to ride, you better get off the horse and fix it better from ground. And when i look at their horses i can understand them totally. Well trained parelli-horses seems to be bomb-proofed and they are like a real life-insurance.

    for me, i take it as a goal not to need a helmet, that is what i´m training my horse AND me for. ´Cause i realized that most of the things that happened depends on me not my horse.

    I see a lot of horses on trail, or even in the arena, where I think: I would´nt ride this horse ´cause the ride will fall off – sooner or later, i´ll get off this horse because it is not safe enough to ride. I will fix this prob on ground NOT in the saddle. In my opinion, a plenty of riders misjudge their horses and themself and this is the reason for the real problems.

    For me it means: My goal should be not to NEED a helmet, which dosn´t mean not to USE it. And that´s what i train me and my horse for. In the meanwhile i´ll use protection (helmet and vest).

    In my opinion, Darvin Award deserves those people who don´t train their horse that well and stopped training because they thought they are trained enough… this is the most problem i see whit riding horses.

    It is all on yourself. I think a good trainer or instructor don´t say: Don´t wear helmets or Protection. I think he will say: Your goal should be not to need it! And that is what i am training you and your horse 😉

    • I think if it were possible to train a horse to the point that he totally trusts you to protect him from Godzilla running toward him, he would be a very sad, brain-dead animal with no personality left at all. Sometimes I see very “well behaved” horses at horse shows with their heads down, ignoring the world…they look so depressed with “dead” eyes….

  • Pat & Linda have never ever discouraged their students not to wear helmets, maybe if you looked at their program and followed it for a few months you would totally change your view about the Parelli’s!
    Why do so many people think they know what they don’t know! If all instructors in the UK implemented natural horsemanship, people would stop blaming their horses, spend less time bullying them ad treating them like machines and learn to listen to the feedback their horse is giving them! I see some appalling BHS instructors that I would not let near my horses under any circumstances, they do not have a clue! If this is the state of the BHS – you can keep it – they clearly do not move with new advancement in horse training techniques ad there is no forward going self improvement program for the instructors. Through Pat & Linda’s program my horses and myself continually progress, so please for goodness sake find someone else to pick on!

    • Never once did the writer of the article say that Parelli training was inherently bad or picked on the Parelli’s. She merely intended to point out the flaws in their logic that you can train all danger out of a horse (because you can’t). She never once said that she didn’t like Parelli training, just that she didn’t like their philosophy on helmets.

      Please read an article more carefully before bashing the writer for things that aren’t even in the article.

  • I’m certain I’d be dead if it weren’t for riding helmets… I took a fall once head-first into a pipe panel fence. I was wearing a helmet and still got a pretty serious concussion, stayed overnight at the barn so I wouldn’t have to drive home and had a killer headache for probably three or four days.

    Personally, when I’m looking for a riding instructor or even considering volunteering somewhere, particularly if there are children being instructed, two of the major things I look for are whether the facility and staff strongly advocate helmets and whether the adults who are setting an example are wearing appropriate footwear around horses. If I see adult instructors wearing flip-flops or Crocs around horses, or children on horses without helmets, or I see a trainer at shows coaching kids in very poorly fitted helmets because the rules of the event demand a helmet but it’s obviously not that trainer’s usual practice, I know that’s not a facility I want to support with my business, time, or effort.

  • I liked what Gretchen said about her fall, how bad it might have been. Her friend who did not know her each week From TBA, This is very true as to how they would be if they live through it. My husband and I have rode all our lives. Started colts, trouble horses. I wore a helmet off and on If I had a bad acting horse, my husband never did. We never think it will happen to us. Kids that came to ride we made wear one. I think we fell we our better or can handle any thing that will happen. Not true in the flash of a second your world changes. My husband saddled his horse , I was already riding, as he rode out of the barn the horse tripped lost her balance, they both went over on there side. As I watched jumping from my horse running to him. He was in convolutions stiff trapped in saddle. I keep my weight on horses neck dialed for help. He now lives with TBA he had to learn to walk he still falls at times. He can still set on a horse and walk, with a helmet Dr. says only if he wears one. He can no longed work. It has been 2 years His short term memory is bad. he goes to rehab still. Our lives have changed now forever. There is NO fixing a head injury. It is not like a broken bone. They teach you to work around, He can now walk but not like he did. All I can say is It is your brain not everyone gets hurt but you never no if you will tell it is to late. I now ride in my cutting class and reining with helmet I just wear it all the time. I hope you do to.

  • I always wear a helmet and insist that all my students do as well. I foxhunt, which is a sport that traditionally does not include real helmets. This boggles my mind as foxhunting is the original, extreme equestrian sport!

    I had a major crash this February while hunting. We were just walking up a steep hill. Not galloping with our hair on fire. Not jumping a 9 board coop or a 10 foot ditch. Walking up a hill. As we ducked under a branch, my mare saw a log on the ground so she jumped it. Not a big deal – hunt horses are supposed to jump logs. Trouble was she jumped it before I had a chance to clear the branch above us. So I brained the branch on my helmet just above the brim. My friend (who was wearing a bowler hat, BTW) said it sounded like a baseball bat cracking on a fast ball. I fell off and watched as my horse flipped over backwards on top of me. I was able to get into as close to the fetal position as I could while we sort of rolled down the hill together. When she finally got up I was underneath her, in between her hind legs. Because I never lost consciousnesses I was able to keep my limbs tucked in out of the way. The mare never once stepped on me. She kicked my ribs several times, but finally she got away from me. My helmet was not cracked, but was ruined nonetheless. My hunt coat was shredded. I didn’t break a single bone but pulled most of the muscles in my core, neck, ribs and a groin. I had a bone bruise to my humerus. I can’t imagine my injuries if I had hit the branch below the helmet. Or if I had been knocked out, rolling underneath a horse with no control of my self.

    I once met a lady each Sunday. Every week I would have to re-introduce myself. She had no short-term memory, and would forget me each week. She had fallen from her dressage horse without a helmet. It took her 6 months to relearn how to use a knife and fork, tie her shoes, etc. She became an alcoholic after the fall. Her personality changed. Her husband divorced her due to it. Her life became completely upside down. The vanity of not wanting helmet hair is just not worth it.

    I have also had a concussion while wearing a helmet but never actually hit my head. I was bucked off and landed down hill (more hill trouble!). So my brain banged itself on my skull from the fall and not an actually impact. Knocked myself out, then threw up when I woke up.

    Still, I will ALWAYS wear a helmet. ALWAYS. Those that don’t deserve the Darwin Award.

  • I have been showing horses for about 20 years now and when I was younger I always had my helmet on while practicing but never while showing western. I now have a daughter of my own and am also a leader of a 4-H group. I still show but I now wear a helmet while showing. I am also a nurse and I deal with TBIs on a daily basis and i do not want my daughter or any of my 4-H kids to end up as one of my patients. I get flack from friends but I always tell them that my brain is more important then my image. I for one am proud to wear my helmet. And as a role model for young kids I will always do what I can to make this sport safer. I agree that knowing when to get off is important but accidents happen. No one plans on falling off.

  • I think many Western riders have that sense of security because their saddle is so much more substantial than our English ones. They don’t fall off as often as some of us do because the high swell and horn and the very high cantle makes for a very deep seat that holds one in. Now, having said that, it could be a real problem being that stuck in your saddle if your horse falls over sideways or rears up and goes over! That happened to a very experienced professional friend of mine….his horse, out of nowhere, went up and over….he happened to be riding in a Western saddle and couldn’t jump out of it. The horse landed on top of him, breaking ribs, his thumb and thoroughly smashing his helmet….no head damage at all, not even a slight concussion! He was wearing one of his own helmets that he designed and patented. PHEW! I recommend his helmets!

  • I ALWAYS wear a helmet. ALWAYS. I was injured when I was 10 (riding bareback – halter and leadrope – dumb kid) and my horse spooked and headed for the barn. He slipped on the roadway and I woke up in the hospital. Now, my helmet is just part of my riding gear. You can have the best horse in the entire world and still be separated unfavorably at any time. Adults don’t “bounce” like we used to, and I think the Parelli’s are idiots for not encouraging helmets.

  • I wear a helmet. Every time I’m on a horse. Period. I am also a student of Parelli. I’ve never been criticised for my decision to wear a helmet at any Parelli clinic or lesson I’ve taken. And, at least in my area, have seen most students wearing helmets. Yes, I want my horse to be with me physically and mentally prior to riding as I believe that does decrease the chances of something untoward happening, but riding does involve risks and I want to minimize any risk that I can. The references to Linda Parelli and the injury she suffered when Remmer fell happened a few yrs ago. I’ve seen many more pix of her riding with a helmet over the past year than I ever have. Just because you follow a trainer’s program does not mean that you should take or do everything that they do. Make it right for you. Wear your helmet! 🙂

    • Mary- I love to read about someone who thinks for her self. Good for you. And I’m glad to hear that Linda Parelli is wearing a helmet. Kudos to you and to her

  • How can you refute that proper training can prevent all serious injuries? It’s not just training of the horses — it’s also training of the people to get off the horse at the first hint of trouble. The first sign of trouble is relative to the experience and risk profile of each individual rider/student.

    I understand that horses can be stung by bees, bitten by snakes, and spooked by a shadow (so can people!), but for any of you who have ridden for years and years, you probably have a pretty good understanding of when things are even hinting at going south, and whether you’re choosing to stay on because you believe you can, or you’re choosing to step off because you believe you cannot stay on and be effective in your training.

    I have NEVER had a riding instructor “allow” me to dismount when I’ve felt concerned or nervous. On the other hand, I was given carte blanche permission by the Parelli program to step off my horse at ANY time I was not feeling safe and continue the conversation on the ground via groundwork. I could (and would) mount back up and try it all again. Sometimes I’d get off again, sometimes I’d stay on. But the fact that no one I’d ever ridden with except the Parellis ever had a plan for getting down and working through problems with my two feet (and bum) safely on the ground kind of speaks to the chasm between “helmets are a necessity for safety” and “helmets are a good idea”.

    I’ve practiced getting off my horse quickly a LOT — at all gaits, from both sides, with and without his cooperation, and with different horses. It’s a practiced skill, and I don’t see many (if any) 1-hour riding lessons that incorporate it — let alone incorporate it on any consistent basis. To not train riders to do an emergency dismount and have it as available in their skill set as readily as they might a half-halt is an interesting prioritization of instructor priorities.

    If you’re an instructor that chooses to teach this and make time for your students to practice it every time you see them on a horse, I applaud you. But if you don’t, and you spend time arguing blindly about the necessity of helmet wear and flak vests,
    I admit I would be suspicious of your avowed concern for student welfare.

    • Sally — you made me laugh out loud with your parenthetical: “…with my two feet (and bum) safely on the ground…” When I first started practicing my emergency/flying dismount, I often landed on my feet and ended up on my bum (due to over-enthusiastically bending my knees)… I have found the emergency/flying dismount very powerful in developing my confidence and skills as a rider.

      I do still wear a helmet every time I ride, as I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

    • Sally- anyone that thinks proper training can prevent all serious injuries is seriously mislead. Linda Parelli’s accident is a perfect example. You just can’t train a horse not to trip or stumble. As for emergency dismounts – personally I teach them to all of my students but a person can get hurt doing those as well. No one has attacked Parelli’s method of training here only the statements in which they indicate helmets are unnecessary, such as “The reason you do not see our people wearing helmets is because we try to teach people that rather than be brave because they are wearing a a helmet to protect them, they would be better off not riding until their horse is behaving safely.” It’s one thing to not wear a helmet yourself, it’s totally another to indicate to your followers that the horse can be trained so that you will never need one. I think suggesting that I am arguing blindly about the necessity of helmet wear shows blindness on your own behalf. You need to separate the issues here. Your defense of Parelli on the topic of their statement regarding helmets is misplaced. Your bravado about the Parelli training method is fine, but has nothing to do with helmets. And as far as never having an instructor who would allow you to dismount when you have felt concerned or nervous. . . I’d suggest that you look for instructors who do not make prisoners of their students. And whether or not you dismount from your horse has little to do with helmet wear as it can be done both wearing a helmet and not wearing one. I choose to encourage people to wear a helmet, whether it raises your suspicions or not. And I sincerely hope that you never have need of a helmet.
      Thanks for your comments because you have given me the opportunity to defend an important position in the face of bad logic. Not the first time and won’t be the last.

      • Susan – what brand of helmet did your friend design? Do you have a link?

        Barbara – I wonder where this article got linked to today that is bringing all us Parelli folk out? Or maybe we all came in from the recent article about how the quality of instruction is degrading and why, which has been making the rounds on Facebook, and then saw the magic word “Parelli” in the sidebar? LOL In any case, it made me smile when I buckled my helmet on this morning in between Internet comments.

        • Regina – thanks for taking time to comment. I’m not sure how any of this occurred but just today Wear A Riding Hemet Even If Parelli Doesn’t has had 2600 views and Top 3 Reasons Why America’s Producing So Many Mediocre Instructors received 4,125 views with over 13,500 this week. The interesting part is that I wrote these a while back. They aren’t brand new articles. I’m just flabbergasted and I appreciate everyone who has read them.
          Kudos to you for the helmet. I hope you had a good ride today

          • I’m friends with a lot of Parelli people on Facebook (I used to work there… er, Parelli I mean, not Facebook) and it seems to be making the rounds there, so you might get some more defensive Parelli students, I’m sorry to say. 😀

          • Thanks. I expected that. It’s interesting to see how people jump all over the place to defend Parelli’s entire training system when I never criticized it and no one knows whether I use it. They get way off topic, thinking their ox was gored and run to do battle. Parelli’s are getting a lot of free publicity . It’s all good!

        • My friend’s helmet is the Pegasus: http://www.pegasushelmets.com/
          He took years to develop the designs and many, many trips to the ASTM testing labs in upstate New York to perfect the safety. He wanted to design a helmet that looked great, not the mushroom head that many helmets look like. His have a slim profile but still have all the protection that a helmet can provide. George Morris endorses one of the designs!

          It’s true, a helmet cannot guarantee that you won’t concuss at all with a bad head crash, but it can take a lot of the brunt of the hit (similar to a car bumper that crushes rather than holds up like the old steel ones of the past), and also will prevent your skull from cracking open like an eggshell! For me, if I’m going to have a fall (let’s face it, it happens sometimes) I’d rather have a small concussion than a traumatic brain injury! I’ll keep wearing my helmet and require all my students to as well!

      • I can see where I was misunderstood with regards to using “you’re” as pertaining directly to you. I actually meant that as a collective “you’re” meaning all riding instructors, but I can see that I could have worded that more clearly.

        I don’t see where I said anyone was attacking Parelli’s method of training, rather that I think his statement about proper training is a valid statement, and most likely speaking to more mental and emotional training for the horses and the riders than physical training. This would include a rider’s ability to either just not get on the horse if things don’t seem safe, or grow an ability to assess the safety of the horse at any time. I believe the skill of dynamically assessing a horse’s mental and emotional fitness takes a lot of time to develop, and I don’t imagine Pat Parelli made that comment in a one-dimensional way. It’s not like Pat Parelli doesn’t have his own personal experience with brain injury given the encephalopathy and stroke suffered by his son, Caton at a young age.

        I am disappointed that the comments have become “defensive” in any way. A person’s opinion is formed from their experience. To decide that any (my) personal experience has led to “bad logic” is quite dismissive.

        I don’t believe I have bad logic. I believe I stated a fact that, except for the mentioned “patented helmet” that doesn’t seem to be marketed anywhere yet, current helmets do not protect against concussion. So I do agree with Parelli to the point that “just wearing a helmet” without the benefit of learning and practicing how to recognize and avoid as many “oh no!” situations as possible — is possibly even more important to safe riding as strapping on a helmet that some people seem to believe will help them from sustaining concussion.

        I happen to be one of those that, before Parelli, ended up with a near-broken neck thanks to the sun visor of my helmet leveraging the ground against my neck. So if we’re accepting individual experience as “bad logic” — I guess count me in. From my personal experience, I would have learned not to wear a helmet.

        Let me be as clear as I know how to be at the moment…my opinion is NOT ABOUT WEARING OR NOT WEARING A HELMET, so there is really no logic involved as far as I can tell…

        My point is, at this time, there is apparently no helmet on the planet that prevents concussion. If some time was taken to read even a FEW articles about TBIs or review current statistics, it would be clear that any 2 people could suffer the same accident parameters and end up with totally different diagnoses and results.

        Feel free to call it bad logic…but I say there’s no logic to it. All it is is current fact, as pathetic a fact as it is. Would I like it to be different? Hell yes. But that doesn’t change the fact that current helmets cannot protect against concussion mild or severe. Not for equestrians, not for football players, not for motorcyclists, not for skiers and not even for our military.

        Wear a helmet with pride or don’t wear one, it doesn’t exactly matter because what should matter is that for those of us that choose to wear a helmet, we must clearly understand that it seems we all have as much possibility of suffering a closed-head concussion WITH the helmet secured carefully on our heads as WITHOUT one at all.

        Given those crappy odds, Parelli’s point helps me push those odds in my favor as I’d like to have as much knowledge, experience and skill regarding horse behavior as I can hold in my head — whether that head is helmeted or not.

        For me, Pat Parelli’s thoughts about gaining as much knowledge INSIDE my head about horse behavior makes as much (if not more) logical sense to me as putting a helmet that doesn’t protect my brain ON my head, especially given my actual life experience falling with a horse with a helmet on (I had the helmet on, not the horse…!). So, in my experience, continuing to study and learn and apply current concepts and principles of horse behavior has actually kept me way safer to date than with helmet alone. That’s my personal experience.

        • I agree Susan! I to, have wondered the validity of helmet claims. But, as its all we got, I wear it. If it remotely helps to keep me from having to have the drool wiped off my lips, well, I’m IN! I strap it on. And I continue to study Parelli. Its truly Linda and Pat’s journey as to what clothing and apparel they wear. That part ain’t my rodeo. We could get into a debate about wearing boots with heels, vs tennis shoes, and get a statement from the Parelli’s about that one as well. I’m still gonna wear boots with a heel, and I’m still going to study Parelli. As with anything, somebody has to have the common sense to do what is right for THEM.

        • Sally- in the words of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

          • LOL!!!

            My two cents are that horses fall down. Even perfectly trained ones. Even ones with perfectly trained riders in the saddle. No amount of training will prevent an accident. So why not prepare for the accident with the best technology available? It is ludicrous to assume you can train away accidents. It is irresponsible to claim that it is possible to train away accidents. Accidents happen unexpectedly – that is why they are called accidents. Wear a helmet to protect your head from the worst of injury. It is that simple.

    • …If you teach someone to get off when they feel nervous or uncomfortable every time, they might as well quit riding or stick to public trail rides where you have to try to fall off. I realized with my new horse that one reason I essentially wasted the old one was after some major crashes, I developed the habit of bailing the instant I was upset. Basically, it turned me into a whiny baby. Groundwork is not a substitute for riding or training. Dithering around with a lead rope will not make you a good rider. You ride past the nerves or you find a safer sport that doesn’t involve a live animal. I’ve had moments with the new horse where I realized I could get off and play stupid games with leading, and ingrain a bad habit, or I could stick with him and win the argument.

      Note I’m not saying this with dirty buckers, or flippers (the former need to be sent to a specialist pro, the latter destroyed) but if you’re going to bail because he won’t walk down a slight incline (as I almost did before I relocated my spine and bopped him one) and you’re scared, don’t ride. It’s not the sport for you. Heck, I could have had a panic attack/tantrum on a known dirty stopper, despite being warned. Instead I knew she was going to do it, was ready, disciplined her and (as I was also told in advance) the next time she took the fence. Allowing “outs” when there’s no immediate danger to life and limb is teaching the student to be a coward and wasting the instructor’s time.

      (Note my horse has only been subjected to Parelli-like ground work once, and being a good racehorse he put up with stupid human tricks, but he clearly felt there was very little point to it and why were not just working and being done?)

  • Although I practice Parelli and have for the last 15+ years……..I have ALWAYS worn a helmet. I can agree to work with my horse with a certain method and get good results, but as far as MY brains are concerned, they are my own, and I have chose to protect them, due to past history I made that decision no matter what or whom I choose to learn from. Let’s not just point a finger at the Parelli’s but rather, all clinicians, C.Anderson, Buck B., Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Dennis Reise, on and on, lets ask them the same questions, ( and yes I know some of them are deceased) but you can pick from a slew of living Horsemen that do NOT wear helmets, that give clinics, and participate in high level horse shows, events, and clinics, like Road to the horse. Don’t just pick one Group and not include all of them. If you polled the Parelli participants you would find a lot of helmet wearers. Just sayin, lets be fair. Let’s ask Clinton or Guy McClean, or Dan James…………

    • Good for you for wearing a helmet. Parelli was the topic of this because of the following statement “The reason you do not see our people wearing helmets is because we try to teach people that rather than be brave because they are wearing a a helmet to protect them, they would be better off not riding until their horse is behaving safely.” Had they not taken a stand that indicated you could train away the need for a helmet, I would not have written about it. If Buck or any of the others took a stand that turned people away from helmets, I would write about them too.

      • I dont’ think the Parellis took a stand to turn people away from helmets, even they aren’t that stupid. Let’s ask Buck, and get his reason, maybe nobody asked Buck, and if Buck said, I just don’t want to wear one…..ask him why, drill him, until he CRACKS! Let’s put him under a microscope and really sort this out. NOT. Nobody’s gonna ask Buck. So that way Parelli stays at the forefront and can be the scape goat. Again.

        • Vicky, it’s up to Mr. Parelli whether he wants to personally wear a helmet or not….but, he should never, ever teach his students that his methods of horse training will avoid the need for a helmet. That’s where everyone is coming from on this post! John Lyons, Craig Cameron, Guy McLean, Chris Cox…you name them all, they all wear cowboy hats and no helmet but I’ve never heard them claim that one of their trained horses is so good that no one needs a helmet when riding! It was just a dumb statement for the Parelli’s to put out there.

          • I guess my point is……..that nobody ASKS all the others………never seen a statement from any of them. What would they say? Its like people WAIT to see what the Parelli’s might say so they can just RUN with it. Where is the common sense that each of us is responsible for? Some people shouldn’t even OWN a horse. I am sure the Parelli’s have wished they had said or did some things better or over.


        • true..Parelli’s are, have been and will be continue to be scapegoated…they didn’t start and will not end how many “riders” of horses wear helmets…this is not an argument…it is about your level of understanding and self-care, and ignorance. it is a high risk sport, anyway you look at it.

          I never saw anyone wear a helmet before or after Parellis…so you can all quit blasting them now…insecurities are showing.

    • Dan James just had a recent fall as his horse mis- interpertaed a cue and he fell and was found a bit later by staff, first thing I thought if was people that say with the right training you dont need a helmet like parellies and warwick schiller. Not sure what Dans stance was before this though.

  • It’s not a matter of shaming people for not wearing helmets. As long as the rider in question isn’t someone I’m going to have to take care of for the rest of his or her life, I’m quite okay with giving them their leeway. What’s shameful here is Pat Parelli’s comment that suggests that proper training (his way) will prevent all serious injuries. That’s simply a lie and nothing but bald-faced marketing. That is shameful no matter how one couches it. TBIs are bad, but skull fractures are worse. My crushed helmet hung on the wall for years as a warning to young riders here and a reminder to myself. I walked away without so much as a headache because helmet technology has come so far that the impact was mostly absorbed instead of transferred. Helmet up and live to ride another day.

  • Good news — Linda Parelli has been wearing a helmet quite a bit this year as she’s gotten into rider biomechanics with Colleen Kelley and dressage with Walter Zettl. I don’t know if Linda’s decision to wear a helmet will influence anyone else’s decision. I do think it’s a good sign that people can learn and grow and change even when they have publicly expressed their old way of thinking.

    I think that “official statement” was a mistake for Parelli. They’d have been smarter to say “helmets are personal choice and we don’t discourage anyone from wearing them” and leaving it at that. OTOH, they are learning their life lessons just like the rest of us are, and how do I know they don’t cringe every time they remember what they said?

    I have noticed that bull and bronc riders are wearing neck and head protection now, and had seen that rule that USEF competitions are now requiring helmet as of about 5 months ago. Change takes time — especially, in my affectionate observation, among horse people — and I think these signs of helmet acceptance are good news.

    Alas, I don’t like the trend of shaming people for not wearing helmets or trying to shame people INTO wearing helmets. People, like horses, don’t learn best when they are being accused of stupidity or ego or made to feel wrong. If we want others to wear helmets, and if we believe it’s our responsibility to create that change in the world, I believe we’ll be more effective if we can encourage in ways that don’t create brace or resistance.

    Which brings me to a question. What clinicians do wear helmets? I’ve not seen Buck Brannaman, Chris Cox, Monty Roberts, Clinton Anderson, John Lyons, Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Craig Cameron, or any of the other cowboy clinicians in helmets. Have they ever released a statement about helmets? Do rodeos allow ropers, barrel racers, etc. to wear helmets? Julie Goodnight has some photos of her riding in helmets and others in cowboy hat. Karen Scholl is in cowboy hat, as are Wylene Wilson and Stacey Westfall. Karen Rohlf isn’t usually wearing a helmet in her training photos. High level dressage people like Jan Ebeling seem to wear top hats (although that might be changing, with the new USEF rules?) — but *someone* must wear helmets every time, right? LOL

    On that note … I just found The Riding Instructor and am really enjoying it! Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking articles!

    • Thanks Regina – I agree with everything you have said. And even though there’s that old saying, “pride goes before a fall”, I wish someone could design a protective helmet that all disciplines could be proud to wear, including our indestructible TV clinicians. I don’t know many cowboys that want to don a helmet.

      And I agree that it is hard to grow and change in the public eye but. . . and this but is a big irritant to me. People who chose to be in the public eye and make their living and reputation from instructing trusting neophytes have an obligation to do it right, but more than that. . . when they make a mistake or grow past a bad train of thought, method or conclusion they need to shout it loud and clearly to the public and correct it as much as they are able. You can’t chose to be a guru and then choose to only be responsible for the things that go well. I suppose Cowboy Up is an appropriate term but the real word is accountability.

      Thanks for reading. I’m glad the articles are thought provoking. We need lots of good conversation. Status quo is not a viable condition!

      • JMFriedman — Excellent points! And especially the reminder that helmet technology is so much better now, with helmets providing better protection while also being more comfortable and much lighter on one’s head.

        People who didn’t use helmets 20 years ago because they felt awkward might be surprised now at how quickly you can forget you’re wearing one, if you have a good fit. I love the crushed helmet as art and reminder!

        On a side note, I rode a motorcycle for 15 years before I sold my Ducati to buy a horse, and after wearing *that* helmet and other safety gear, the equestrian helmet is like nothing. LOL

    • Karen Rohlf actually does wear a helmet now (you just won’t see it in her older videos)… and in sounds like in part she made that decision because people did bring it up with her a lot. She has a video where she talks about it here:
      I really like that she did this and acknowledged that she essentially was setting a bad example, and that serious accidents happen when you least expect them. I find it really admirable that she was willing to look at the situation and the risks and decide (without a major accident as impetus) that she ought to be safer and set a better example for her own students.

    • Sally- You are correct helmets cannot prevent concussions. What they can do is lessen the severity. When the severity is the difference between eating through a straw for life or having a headache for a few days I will choose the helmet every time. It is very similar to a seat belt- it will not prevent crashes but it lessens the severity.

      I do not fault the Parelli’s comment I just think its poor advice; given it is often (in my experience) the calm horses (that are well trained) that people “get careless on”. Even the bombproof ones can have two left feet and hit a rabbit hole while walking. All horses can trip, spook, collapse. Why not be prepared?

      I have ridden some crazy horses. Horses with so many issues they were sent away to be re-trained. I have started young TBs and Warmbloods, and the only horses I ever fell from (as an adult) were the older bombproof guys. Whether it was a trip or a shavings bag flying in the wind I was not “on guard” riding them. Courtney King felt that way the day she rode without her helmet on a well trained horse that tripped. So my fault in the trainer’s comments is “Sh*t happens” I don’t care if Monty Roberts trained that horse and you gave it tranquilizers! We risk enough just riding so why not wear a helmet?

      • Alexandra — I appreciate your comment.

        My understanding is that even a lessening of injury might not mean a good outcome for some people…of course the reality of being able to protect “everyone” might prove too expensive.

        I’ve changed my battle cry here from “please understand we might not be protected by helmets as much as we want to believe” to “let’s press the manufacturers to figure out how to protect our brains from smacking into our skulls”. (:

        Keep riding as safely as possible Alexandra (:

    • Regina, about two years ago I was at a John Lyon’s clinic at a horse expo. Someone in the audience asked him with all the safety talk he was proclaiming and talk about being watchful all the time, why HE did not wear a helmet. He went on to comment on how he thought helmets were a great safety item and people should wear them….BUT….he has been riding for years and is a cowboy and just didn’t think he needed to wear one with all he knew and had done without one. I was quite flabbergasted at that type of thinking. I have always liked John Lyons and his way of teaching, but I lost a lot of respect for him that day. I also wonder why all the “cowboy clinicians” just don’t feel it is necessary for them. They have more smarts than the little people, I guess….and their horses don’t trip or bolt or run or fall or rear….

  • The real fact that most “us vs. them” helmet discussions omit is that TBIs occur INSIDE the skull as the brain crashes into the skull. Helmets cannot yet prevent this. They CAN prevent skull fractures and cuts and bruises, and that’s enough reason to wear them. But I haven’t seen a helmet yet that can effectively slow down the brain inside of the skull. If there was one, the military (blast-related TBIs) and the NFL would be using it.

    I’m not against helmets. I am for the truth that they do not create a safety barrier of any real or repeatable sort with regards to a TBI or even slight concussion, no matter what the helmet companies aver.

    • Sally – you have a good point- just like body protectors don’t prevent broken backs. However I’d rather have the concussion inside the head than see my student’s head split open.

      The helmets used in the 60’s were nothing but a shell. The helmets we use today are an improvement over that. Progress is being made even if it’s slow.

      The great Federico Caprilli, father of forward seat riding, died from a head injury when he had a heart attack and fell from his horse while it was standing still. There were no helmets in Caprilli’s day.

      Helmets do effect impact and do offer the best protection that we have at this time. IMHO Anyone who teaches riding to another person is amiss if they do not actively encourage the use of riding helmets. No one gets on a horse at my barn without one. No one needs even a skull fracture.

      • It’s a good point BUT the helmet does slow down the brain impacting the skull by absorbing the initial impact and therefore prevents the brain from say “bouncing” back and forth in the skull as many times as it might should the skull take all the impact. So, if your skull hits the ground there is nothing to absorb the impact and your brain hits your skull, but if your helmet hits the ground it collapses and minimizes the impact on the skull, therefore lessening the movement of the brain. Make sense? It’s just layering the materials to absorb the impact. The more layers the better, the less the brain gets rattled. Sorry if I’m unclear – picture the impact in slow motion and add more and more layers to absorb the impact and see what happens to thing in the centre of the layers.

    • I had a friend die in front of me from a fall from her horse it was later determined that the helmet she was wearing caused her death. The back of the helmet snapped her neck. So helmet or not things happen.

      • If a helmet is not adjusted properly it can be dangerous. Loose chin straps will cause the helmet to tip back and cause the type of accident you referenced. A properly fitted helmet is as important as the use of a helmet.

    • Sally, you are wrong about how an ASTM certified helmet works. The helmets are designed to decrease the risk of the brain crashing into the skull. The padding in the helmet is designed to crush upon impact. The crushing of the padding slows down the acceleration of the brain and this is what makes the helmet protective. It is simply physics nothing magical.

      See the following article fora simplistic explanation of how an ASTM certified helmet protects your brain.


      • I’m sorry, but I didn’t read anywhere in that article how a riding helmet protects your brain from concussion. I read where some standards are being met that were created by a very official-sounding materials testing company. Do we know who funds the materials testing company? Do we know who the members of the society are? I read about it after reading your article, and I’m not sure I trust my brain to those “standards” especially because I don’t know who created the standards, and if the NFL thinks their helmets suck, I’m not feeling too confident about ours.

        Here’s a not-simplistic article. It’s primarily about football helmets. But I think it’s quite relevant to our athletic pursuit as well:


        My point is, we shouldn’t be lulled into believing current helmets will protect us from concussion. If a football helmet can’t do it, chances are the little light helmets we wear while riding won’t do it either.

        Maybe follow the current concussion issues in the NFL. I mean, if they can’t figure it out, why do we believe that Troxel can? If riding helmets are so protective, I’m going to march one over to the Vikings’ head office and tell them to start playing using them.

        Again, I wish the truth was different, but sadly I can’t find anything supporting it. )):

        • regardless of the mechanics, the materials etc… i’d rather be wearing one. it has saved my life on numerous occasions. also, to the parelli peeps… yes, train away, train all you want, teach a horse to be a good solid mount so you have no use for the helmet. can you also teach the ground to be perfect? so there are no soft spots where my horse might trip and fall? and while you are at it, will you teach my horse to always pick his feet up properly, and not trip over his own hooves occasionally? oh and also, get that flight instinct out of him, or at least teach him to wait before he bolts or gets upset for me to dismount before he throws a hissy fit?? that would be awesome, actually maybe the answer here would be just to ride a carosel horse at the fairgrounds… or a hobby horse like we had when we were kids.

          After backing and training horses for a living, i can honestly tell you, there is no such thing as a safe horse. they are sentient creatures!

          thats like saying to a human, ok you chilled, and cool, but if you see godzilla charging down a road towards you, and you are convinced he is gonna eat you, chill, dont run. even though you’ve been trained to be brave, listen to your training , not your instincts.

    • Sally- have a friend hit you in the head with a helmet on and then without (same force) we used to do this in Pony club. And it will demonstrate how good todays helmets are! I suffered a minor concussion while wearing a helmut when I was younger. I am fairly certain the helmet saved my life- I fell off a horse that refused a jump onto my head. Of course you can still die wearing a helmet. Just like you can still die in a car wearing a seat-belt. The only difference is people will blame you more if you took such a foolish gamble. Why would you not buckle your seat-belt and why would you not wear a helmet? Its such an easy safety measure that takes 5 seconds of time.

      • Equestrian Helmet Facts:

        Between 12 to 15 million persons in the United States ride a horse or pony every year.

        Approximately 20 percent of horse-related injuries occur on the ground and not riding.

        Most riding injuries occur during pleasure riding.

        The most common reason among riders for admission to hospital and death are head injuries.

        A fall from two feet can cause permanent brain damage. A horse elevates a rider eight feet or more above ground.

        A human skull can be shattered by an impact of 4-6 mph. Horses can gallop at 40 mph.

        According to the National Electronic Surveillance System figures the most likely ages for injury is at 5-14, and 25-44 years with each decade having about 20 percent of the injuries.

        A rider who has one head injury has a 40 percent chance of suffering a second head injury. Children, teens and young adults are most vulnerable to sudden death from second impact syndrome: severe brain swelling as a result of suffering a second head injury before recovery from the first head injury.

        Death is not the only serious outcome of unprotected head injuries. Those who survive with brain injury may suffer epilepsy, intellectual and memory impairment, and personality changes.
        Hospital costs for an acute head injury can be in the range of $25,000 per day. Lifetime extended care costs may easily exceed $3 million. There is no funding for rehabilitation outside the medical setting.

        Helmets work. Most deaths from head injury can be prevented by wearing ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials), SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) approved helmets that fit correctly and have the harness firmly applied. Other types of helmets, including bike helmets, are inadequate.

        Racing organizations require helmets and as a result jockeys now suffer fewer head injuries than pleasure riders. The US Pony Club lowered their head injury rate 29 percent with mandatory helmet use. Britain’s hospital admission rate for equestrians fell 46 percent after helmet design improved and they came into routine use.

        The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Medical Association through the Committee on Sports Medicine, Canadian Medical Association, and the American Medical Equestrian Association/Safe Riders Foundation recommend that approved, fitted and secured helmets be worn on all rides by all horseback riders.

        – American Riding Instructors Association -ARIA

        • WHERE in all that does it say that wearing a helmet protects from concussion?

          There is a lot of statements presented, with no real citations, but no claim that a helmet protects from concussion. I do see one sentence that says “Helmets work!” I just don’t think that will hold up in court.

          And even thought all of those official associations recommend wearing a helmet, it still doesn’t mean the helmet will protect against concussion.

          I just don’t think we should necessarily believe the claims put forth by the manufacturers, and in all honesty, they never actually CLAIM to protect against much of anything anyway when I went back just now and read the websites and articles I was referred to.

          I wish we could quit fighting against each other and turn that intensity and energy towards the helmet manufacturers who really don’t yet have a product that does what we need it to do.

          • Helmets DO prevent concussion – your brain doesn’t slam as hard into the skull if there is an element of absorbent material to slow the impact. BUT that’s only if you HIT your HEAD, not if you land on your bum, back, arms, etc… If your head is the point of impact your helmet slows the impact and helps lessen the speed at which the brain hits skull. And most concussions come from impact to the head, not from hitting another part of your body first. SO, HELMETS DO PREVENT or at least lessen the brain damage that can occur during a riding accident.

            AND yes, helmet manufacturers should continue to improve their products, but unless they make a helmet that goes inside your skull and around your brain, the only thing one can do is have more absorbent materials to take more of the impact to lessen the impact to the skull and slow down the brain when it slams into the skull.

            There’s not much of an argument to be made here, I think we can all agree Sally – helmets are MUCH better than nothing at all and do help prevent concussions when one hits their head.

            There are risks with riding, but helmets help prevent or lessen the extent of some of the more dramatic injuries that one can incur, INCLUDING CONCUSIONS – it’s physics.

          • Ok Sally! We see you don’t believe they protect from concussion! Why must you keep coming back and harping on that aspect?? You yourself agreed you’re better off wearing one and won’t ride without one…so why are you so determined to keep arguing when people are just trying to help give useful sources to convince people to wear one? Just be happy that they’re trying to help, and quit being so pessimistic!! Everyone knows your viewpoint…it’s getting old!

          • Thank you for reiterating my viewpoint…I guess it can’t be getting THAT old.

            I did not see the limitation with regards to emphasizing one’s viewpoint on this blog, can you point it out? The blog owner has been quite unbiased and relatively gracious allowing everyone’s viewpoints, even when they do not coincide with hers, which I definitely appreciate.

            Feel free to believe what you want to about helmets. I never said don’t wear one. I said be aware of what it can and cannot do.

            PS. you reminded me to post the reply that I got from Pegasus helmets when I wrote in regarding anti-concussion test results! (:

          • I’m not trying to start anything… I’m just saying, please stop trying to talk people out of wearing a helmet! Cause when you constantly point out the one thing you believe is not prevented by a helmet…it appears this is what you’re doing. There are some people out there who will look for any excuse to keep being stupid…let’s try not to just hand them one…

          • I dented a car with my head last year after flying 1 metre off a galloping horse. Slight concussion. Sans helmet, doctor predicted I would have been dead on impact. Until we can create a perfect product, why not make the most of one that we know still helps?

      • I noticed that Parelli posted the link to your other article about horsemanship and instruction in the US, which is probably funneling people over here as they see the magic word Parelli in the sidebar. Hopefully we aren’t swamping your server or driving your hosting costs up with our passion for writing 1,000-word comments… LOL

        I love the Pony Club exercise of bopping each other on the head with and without helmets! Simulations are such a great way to teach.

  • You are so right in everything you say here, including your assessment of the Parellis. Their contention that you can eliminate the possibility of accidents through training is preposterous! Horses and humans are imperfect, and no amount of training will achieve perfection — unless you’re God. For anyone intelligent and knowledgeable enough to work with horses to make such a statement is disingenuous and self-serving… and dangerous!

    • It makes me angry that a group with as much influence as Parelli would undermine all of the hard work that has gone into helmet awareness. I know N.Y. just beefed up their juvenile helmet law and the USEF/USDF made a huge change requiring helmets at all National levels. In my mind I’m screaming about ignorance of safety when I read Parelli’s stance. I think self -serving is the right word. I’d hate to have anyone’s brain injury on my shoulders…
      Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading The Riding Instructor

      • I remember being very excited about seeing Pat Parelli up at the Equine Affaire a few years ago. When he came out on his horse into the Colosseum arena the crowd went crazy, many of them proudly wearing their Saavy jackets and gear. He rode around doing all sorts of fancy movements, circles, direction changes, reining moves, all the cool stuff. I kept wondering when the “teaching” part of the seminar would start??? John Lyons taught us things, Monte Roberts taught us things, all the big celeb trainers taught us….except Pat Parelli. All he did was show off and urge us all to go sign up for his $200 Saavy package……puke….

          • Linda actually taught some useful information in a later seminar but I wrote them both off that day! Give me Julie Goodnight or Mitzi Summers or Sally Swift’s Centered Riding book….

        • Haha – that must have been the same year I took my soon to be husband to EA to see him; I had ALWAYS been a huge fan of Lyons. I went as far to take my then Arabian ex-race mare to a Lyons trainer to get lessons and coaching; fantastic results. The join-up that Roberts teaches is easy to replicate too, when practiced. All I saw with Parelli was a “show” – nothing to take away from their presentation that day. The bummer was that my future husband wondered what all the “fuss” was about.

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