Last week, I made an involuntary dismount. I would have been OK, but for the fact that I landed on a fence rail and as a result, am trying not to cough, laugh or sneeze until my cracked ribs mend.
It could have been a lot worse. The fact that I had to count to ten before I sat up and acquired rather a lot of dirt in my ear proved that I’d also whacked my head. If I hadn’t been wearing a hat, I probably would have suffered at least concussion.
Accidents related to horses can happen to any of us, at any time, whether we’re in the saddle or on the ground. So please – if you’re one of the riders who has been tempted to ride without a hat during the heatwave, think again. You might have more stickability than me and you might have more luck, but equally, it might be your turn to experience an unlucky throw of the dice.
The more experienced and the more skilled the rider, the greater the severity of their injuries is likely to be in the event of a fall. The reason is simple: top riders can stick on where we lesser mortals can’t, so when top riders part company with their horses, they do it in a big way.
Just as many accidents happen in familiar home surroundings as in competition. American rider Courtney Dye-King was schooling a friend’s horse in an arena when he slipped and fell, catching her head with his hoof. Courtney, who wasn’t wearing a hat, suffered a traumatic brain injury; she spent four weeks in a coma and three months learning how to walk and talk again.
Last year, a friend decided to show her well-behaved two-year-old in-hand for experience. As they waited to go in the ring, another horse reared and bolted, spooking all the others. My friend’s horse knocked her over and clipped the side of her head with a hind hoof. Before the show, she’d debated whether to wear a smart felt trilby or a hard hat and to keep her husband happy, opted for the latter. The damage that an unshod hoof can do to a BSI-standard hard hat has to be seen to be believed: imagine what would have resulted had she gone for the soft option.
So, I’m not going to apologise for ranting at everyone who rides hatless because they’re ‘only in an arena’ or ‘only doing slow work’ or ‘ride Western.’ And as for celeb riders who allow themselves to be photographed riding hatless, shame on you!
Use your brain. Keep your head. Wear a hat.