Yes, I prefer to ride my enormous Friesian without a bridle. Yes, I do that with a helmet on. Because it is possible to be an alternative equestrian and safety-geek at the same time.
I love Batman, he loves me, but I also love my skull. Therefore, I ride with a helmet on!
Some may find this a little odd, as many “natural horsemanship” or tackless-riders in general often are seen without a helmet at all. In Norway, wearing a helmet is seen as granted. Of course we wear a helmet! Jumping, dressage, trail riding, endurance, western, trick riding and tackless riding, most of us always use a helmet.
And I think that’s an extremely smart thing to do.
To me, safety around horses is priority number one. I think it’s scary as hell to sit on Batman without my helmet and feel naked and very vulnerable! When I ride, I ALWAYS wear my helmet. In some rare cases (special photoshoots) I can sit on him without my helmet but then I always have support from the ground if something will happen. Last time I did our shoot with Hestefotograf.com, we had a pony with us, to keep Batman calmer if something would happen. Of course nothing happened, but it’s smart to have mental support if a huge moose suddenly would appear from the forest or anything like that. In all other cases, I use a helmet when I ride. I’m actually a safety freak!
I ride bridleless, but I am not riding brainless!
I have a great relationship to Batman. I trust him with my life. He would walk through fire for me. But he is a horse, he have something called instincts. Instincts go thousands of years back, and much deeper than anything else. Therefore, your well behaved, bomb proof cordeo-ridden horse might spook and bolt. If that happens, your skull can easily be destroyed if you have bad luck and hits a stone on the ground.
Without meaning to cause any harm, the horse can act before he realize what happened. I trust Batman more than anything else, but I am aware that he can cause severe injury to little me. He is a huge horse, and he spooking has taken me to hospital may times before. I have several concussions, both broken collarbones and many other injuries in my entire body after accidents with him. Not because he is mean or dangerous, but because he got so afraid that his survival instincts took over, and acted before he realized that there was nothing to be afraid of. If I hadn’t had my helmet on when he became terrified because of a bird and threw me off in 2013, I could have crushed my head. I got thrown up 3,5 meters up in the air and landed on my head and fainted. I woke up quickly but was completely dizzy and acted weird as hell for 30 minutes … Concussion. Another collar bone broken in two pieces, auch. I also hurt my back and neck and my body was blue and green for two weeks. My beloved horse I trust so much that I have a great relationship to! He got scared, his instincts said “save yourself or die”. If it goes so far, it does simply not matter how well trained your horse is.
When I’m out exploring with Batman without any tack, I work very hard do observe his body language and the envoirement around us. I don’t push him, and am relaxed all the time. Good basic training is a great way to avoid scary situations, but I’m always carrying a halter, mobile phone and lead rope with me just in case.
Of course, you can avoid 99% of potential accidents with correct training. I do! But a horse can be so scared that he fear for his life, and at that point, it can be almost impossible to make any contact. The horse can throw you off, bolt, fall over, kick, buck or run away in 60 km/h with you hanging after like a flag. In these situations, a helmet can save your life, and not your strong bond.
We have to remember that. Do tackless riding, have fun with your horse, but mind your melon!
Peace, love and Friesian hugs,
Batman & Matilde