I know the ultra-religious rider defriended me after I posted an artsy photo of a helmet with this caption: “I don’t care who you are, how long you’ve been riding or how quiet the horse is. Wear a goddamn helmet.” Her response, and by the way she was the worst no-helmet offender of all: “Wow. Breaking a commandment. Taking the Lords (sic) name in vain. Sad if any one condones this. If they do die, they will spend eternity in Hell.”
But at least we won’t be brain injured there.
There Is No Excuse
I’ve been known to badger people when they tell me they only wear helmets when they show or jump or go in parades or don’t trust the horse or the full moon is waning or whatever stupid excuse they can conjure up.
Conjure is the operative word here because its dictionary definition is “to make something appear seemingly from nowhere as if by magic.” And magic’s what you’re going to need after you hit the ground with no helmet. I could list all the statistics about the alarming number of people who die each year from equine-related head injuries. But death isn’t really the worst thing that can happen. Use your imagination and linger a while in the Depends aisle of the supermarket.
The bottom line is all the excuses are stupid. Just ask Ms. King Dye. Listen carefully because, in her video, it’s a bit difficult to understand what she’s saying. That’s what an unprotected brain sounds like after it hits the ground.
Why am I so militant on this topic, other than I’m militant about everything I care about? Partly because I wish when I was younger someone had slapped me upside the head verbally as I did to a young woman recently who offered up one of the aforementioned stupid excuses for not wearing a helmet. The same way I wish someone had chastised me years ago for not wearing sunblock. That might have saved the chunk of my face the surgeon removed.
But I’m lucky, both with skin cancer and head injuries. Yes, I’ve had too many. Thankfully they haven’t profoundly changed my life the way they’ve changed other people’s lives. But this crusade really has nothing to do with my injuries.
I am a mother. I know the heartbreak of watching your child almost die. There is only one thing worse, and I can’t even write it. I can’t imagine the emotional agony Courtney King Dye’s mother feels every time she talks to her beautiful, talented daughter. I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on anyone, not even the woman who damned me to Hell.
Everyone is some mother’s child. So wear your helmet. Do it for your mother.
Jody Jaffe is the author of "Horse of a Different Killer," "Chestnut Mare, Beware," and "In Colt Blood," which have been featured in People Magazine and translated into German, Japanese and Czech. She is also the co-author of the novels, "Thief of Words," and "Shenandoah Summer." She is a journalist who was on a team at the Charlotte Observer that won the Pulitzer Prize. Her articles have been published in many major newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Washingtonian and Practical Horseman. In addition, she teaches journalism at Hollins University. She lives on a farm in Lexington, Va., with her husband, John Muncie, and their eight horses. She attempts to ride hunters with her trainer, the ever-patient, Gordon Reistrup.