The Hard Truth

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When I purchased a new mare after retiring the horse I had been riding for over 20 years, I decided to take her into training for the first month. A prerequisite of riding with the trainer I chose was wearing an ASTM-SEI helmet.

Having ridden in a baseball cap 95% of the time, I found the concept a nuisance, but complied, and bought the least expensive I could find, an IRH Elite.

When I returned home, having ridden in the helmet every day for a month, I found it comforting and cooler than a baseball cap.? I began to wear it religously.

I normally longe my mare before I ride her, if sHe's had a day off. But this one morning, since she was quiet on the longe line, I cut it short and jumped aboard. It was brisk and bright and after a nice warm-up we starting trotting over the smaller fences.

I have no idea what jolted her and caused her to buck, but one moment I was jumping a fence, and the next I was literally horizontal to the ground, staring at her nose.

When I hit the ground, my head took the impact. I landed in a dry, hardened section of the ring. It sounded like a gunshot firing through my brain. I hit so hard I felt the vibration from my head and neck all the way down my body. About an hour later, I was suffering from lower back pain, but surprisingly my head and neck were fine.

Elizabeth?s ASTM-SEI helmet, after the fall.

Elizabeth?s ASTM-SEI helmet, after the fall.

Two days later I went back to retrieve my helmet. To my horror the entire back of it was cracked open. I was stunned. Had I not been wearing the helmet there is no doubt that my skull would have been cracked open. Scarier yet was that for 20 years I had been jumping around in a baseball cap!

When I contacted IRH to extend my sincere gratitude for having saved my life, I learned they had a trade-in program. If you have an accident with your helmet in the first three years of ownership, they will send you a new one. You have to send in the broken helmet along with a reduced payment. The amount varies with the helmet model, and I've learned that many helmet manufacturers offer a similar service.

I was about to make the swap, but I found the same helmet on sale for less than the swap amount. IRH explained that they were discontinuing the color and apparently this retailer was having a close-out sale.

I've kept my cracked helmet as a reminder of how lucky I am and to show others who might be foolish enough to ride without one. We are extremely fortunate to be the beneficiaries of the innovative technology that lead to the advances in protective headgear. And there is no one more grateful than I.

Elizabeth McIvor is a frequent contributor to Horse Journal.