A couple of months ago, a video of a horse bucking off its rider began making the rounds on Facebook. The video inspired all sorts of armchair-horse trainer comments, but the one that caught our eye read something like this:

“If you start them right, they don’t buck.”*

Sure, a great start is a wonderful tool, but it is certainly not a guarantee, and anyone who has spent enough time with young horses (especially those that are bred to leap 2 meters into the air) will tell you this is simply fake news, so we had a good giggle.

In other fake news, there seems to be a pervasive assumption that a non-bucking horse is a safe horse. As two riders who began our equestrian careers in western saddles, we understand the self-assured feeling that goes along with riding a bombproof quarter horse as helicopters land nearby**, as well as the perceived faux pas of swapping a cowboy hat for a helmet. Still, we think it should be noted that many riding-related injuries have nothing to do with jumping, spooking, or bucking. Thus, to avoid being preachy while also bringing awareness to a cause in which we strongly believe, this week we’d simply like to provide a few easy-to-remember facts that might be surprising:

  1. The rate of injury per hour is the same for equestrians as it is for motorcyclists.
  2. There is no noted difference in the rate of injury for English and western riders.
  3. There is no statistical correlation between skill level and the likelihood of injury.
  4. Over 100 deaths occur each year due to head injuries sustained while riding.

International Helmet Awareness Day (I.H.A.D.) is this weekend, so we’re taking the opportunity to remind riders of all disciplines that there’s nothing more taboo than failing to protect your brain. Years of experience, super broke horses, and controlled environments are a great way to mitigate the risk of eating dirt, but when it comes to riding horses, falling is not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when.” Hundreds of participating retailers are offering up to 20% off all helmets on August 18-19, and Manhattan Saddlery is even offering free shipping. So no excuses! Be smart (and stay smart!), because the one prize you don’t want to win while riding a horse is a Darwin Award.

At OR, we always strap one on!

* Someone who has never trained a warmblood
** That helicopter analogy? It actually happened. We stood by while a western rider was medivacked out of a horse show due to a head injury sustained in the warm-up area.

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