Mar 6, 2010

But Dressage Just Isn't That Dangerous

  I cannot even begin to count the number of times I've heard that one before.  So while it is incredibly distressing to hear that Courtney King-Dye has suffered a major head trauma after falling from her horse, I cannot say that I am terribly surprised.  I am flabbergasted at how the majority of dressage riders just dead-on refuse to wear a helmet.  Or wear a helmet for schooling sometimes -- depending on the horse dontcha know -- and never wear one during a show.  I find it troubling and distressing.  I've often spoken on this subject:  it's a bit of a pet topic of mine.  I was one of those kids that watched high-profile dressage riders and thought to myself, I can't wait until I'm old enough to ride without a helmet.  In retrospect, how stupid was I?!  And to tell the truth, the only real reason I feel differently on the subject today is because I had one beloved dressage instructor who ALWAYS wore her helmet, whether she was schooling or whether she rode a Grand Prix test at a show.  She believed in them very strongly, and as I idolized her, I also became a strong supporter of helmets as well.  Seriously, you guys, for no other reason than I just looked up to her.  That's all it comes down to sometimes, and all of these Olympic riders without helmets are just encouraging more of the same.  Except in this case, the tradition the younger generations will carry on is fraught with danger.

When Courtney came to the Syracuse Invitational to do a demonstration/clinic, one of the questions posed to her was in reference to how she felt about helmets in her sport.  She skirted around that issue and I was frankly very irritated with her.  In that demonstration she did wear a helmet, but she never had an honest conversation about how she felt about it, about whether she wore one all the time (most of the time, I believe, was her answer) and whether she felt they should start making an appearance in the show arena at the uppermost levels.  What I'm saying is that she had the perfect opportunity -- an adoring audience, full of teens and college students -- and it was clear she just didn't want to take on the controversy.  And if she wouldn't, who will?  We need some young, high-profile role models in our sport willing to make that stand. 

So now we hear that she was trying out a young horse at her farm, not wearing a helmet, and the horse tripped and fell; she struck her head.  Seriously, why do equestrians do these things to themselves?!  It takes two seconds to put a helmet on.  It might save your life.  The only things, I believe, that would prevent someone from putting a helmet on (especially if you opt to wear one sometimes) is either sheer laziness or fear of looking bad.  I cannot think of another option, unless you are really vain enough to care about how your hair may look afterwards, but because that option is so repulsive I choose to ignore its existence.

And I never, ever want to hear another person tell me:
  • A helmet may still not completely protect you -- No shit!  Does this even warrant a response?!  Where is the logic in disregarding a safety device just because it is not 100% effective.  I'd like to ask them how they feel about their birth control plans.  Maybe we should just do away with those, too, because they're only 99% effective.
  • A helmet may cause you more damage -- Yes, and it is possible someone may lose control of their vehicle today and crash into the side of your house, but the probability that this will occur is likely very slim.
Look, I'm in the reining world now and I wear my helmet.  My instructor doesn't wear one, but she has never said a word against me choosing to do so.  When I show, I will be wearing my helmet.  I may be the only one out there, but it only takes one person to start to make a difference.  The western world is going to need to start making that change, too, and that's going to be an even tougher sell.  I haven't been immersed in this world long enough to know how that will work itself out, but the dressage world already has the reasons to change and the tools to do it (there are some pretty nice looking English safety helmets anymore, I might note).  Until there are high-profile people willing to step up and show in the helmets, it will continue to be the status quo.  And I will continue to have little sympathy for people like Courtney King-Dye.  Don't get me wrong, what has occured is tragic and I feel for her family, but she made a very bad choice for the wrong reasons.  Someone needs to point that out.   

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