Seeing as that I'm a TBI patient, I'm rather sensitive to the subject of head injuries and helmet wearing. Sometimes it still makes me so nervous that I get shaky watching the kids around the horses tied up in the barn.
The kids love the horses, that's obvious, we already know that. What we as adults, instructors, and trainers need to consider is making sure the kids in our barns have a healthy respect for the horses. Not that we want to scare them, but they need to realize they are working with a big animal that could hurt them without even trying.
People who work professionally with horses are probably the least cautious to be completely honest. We know our ability levels and we work around horses confidently, sometimes in such a trusting way that we pick up small bad habits that could lead to disaster.
For example, I have been guilty of trying to lead two horses out to the field at a time. It's a time saver, but putting yourself in between two thousand pound animals that may or may not like each other isn't safe. And it's definitely not worth the few minutes that you might save.
Some of us begin our horsemanship journeys more confident than others. Then with time and experience, our confidence level grows. We need to impress upon our young students that they keep that healthy respect, no matter how confident they may feel.
I admit that it's easy to fall into bad habits and let safety slip to the back burner, especially when you are someone like me who used to run a lesson program with back to back lessons. I did everything as quickly as possible, which is not necessarily the safest way possible.
I think we should teach our students that they should put their helmets on as soon as they get their horse out. If we insist on it every time, it will become second nature, just like it became second nature to put it on before you mount your horse.
We can start these safety habits with our students from the start. Then they won't know any other way. Wearing their helmet while grooming and tacking will feel perfectly natural. I don't think kids realize that they could be hurt on the ground with a horse just as easily as they can in the saddle.
I'm now about a year and a half into my TBI recovery. I still have to walk with a walker and go to PT twice a week. Not to mention, I still struggle with headaches and neckaches all the time. I have come a long way but still have a long way to go.
I can almost guarantee that having my helmet on would have made a difference in the outcome of my accident on March 13, 2018. It definitely couldn't have hurt.
This summer, as we spend time with kids at the farm, let's try and emphasize safety. Let's remind our students to always have a healthy respect for the horses.
Have them put their helmets on as soon as they begin to work with their horse. Create a new safety habit. If they moan and groan about it, explain to them that wearing the helmet is a long better than a head injury. If they do it every time, it will become a habit without them even realizing it.
Obviously, this is an issue that I'm sensitive to, due to my injury. I think that makes me the perfect person to advocate for safety around horses. Teaching kids to have a healthy respect for horses is imperative, and for goodness sakes, have them put their helmets on as soon as they start working with their horse.
It's better to be safe than sorry.