I’m a fan of protecting my brain while riding. I always wear a helmet on Batman, except from during planned photoshoots with fancy dresses or things like that. On photoshoots like these, I take the helmet off right before we start shooting, and puts it back on immediately during breaks or while moving to a different location. I have strict safety procedures on location with people on the ground ready to assist, simply because the human skull is fricking fragile! If you fall off from a horse standing still, and land the wrong way, you can suffer from head injuries. Therefore, I’m always extremely careful when I’m on a horse, and especially without a helmet. I’m absolutely not comfortable without my helmet, and will probably never be.
I feel vulnerable without it, maybe because I have had some bad accidents earlier. Before my first bad fall with Batman, I often rode without a helmet when taking photos with no problems at all, I felt completely okay with it. But after the accidents where I my head was hit, something changed …
If I had not worn my helmet during these rides, I would probably suffer severe brain damage. Some years back, Batman threw me up in the air, and I hit the ground, head first – on a rock! I lost consciousness, and had memory like a goldfish the next 30 minutes. I behaved very odd and suffered from a concussion. It was very scary, and this was with a proper helmet! Imagine the outcome if my head hit that rock without the helmet.
Two days ago, I went for a 200 meter hack (literally) on Batman. After 1 minute in slow walk, we had barely left the stable, Batman was looking at something, and did not pay attention and stumbled. He fell, and landed on his knees, and I was on my way towards the gravel, when he suddenly got back up again and I landed with my face on his forehead, supporting my upper body on his strong neck, avoiding landing on the road. One small rock was the reason this well balanced 700 kg horse, used to rough terrain, fell. This can literally happen to anyone.
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Imagine how many distractions the horse meets on a warmup arena! None of my accidents happened because I’m a bad or unbalanced rider, they happened because Batman is a living animal, and he can react to things around him, and he can slip, or lose his footing too.
If you break an arm, a collar bone or a finger, the bone will eventually heal. But severe damage to the brain won’t.
Therefore, I was very happy when NRYF (Norwegian Equestrian Federation) launched the new rules for competing in equestrian disciplines in Norway. From now on, a safety helmet is mandatory in all competitions in endurance, dressage, cross country, icelandic, driving, mounted games and show jumping. That’s a huge step in the right direction!
I can’t decide whether adults have to wear a helmet or not, but I recommend you to wear one. Simply because a single fall and a dose of bad luck can have a very sad outcome for you, your horse, your family and friends.
When it comes to the new regulations here in Norway, I hope the rest of the world soon will follow. Safety first – mind your melon!