I horse back rode regularly from ages 8–16. I wore a helmet regularly up until those last two years because I was young, dumb, and reckless. I also rode Western just about exclusively those last two years, where helmet wearing is much less common than say English riding. “English vs Western” refers to the style of saddle and type of riding activities you do with your horse if you are unfamiliar with equestrian terminology. “English riding” tends to involve sports like dressage (essentially “horse ballet” with the riders), show jumping, and fox hunting. “Western riding” tends to involve sports like barrel racing, roping, and reining. Yes, my helmet saved my life at least once while riding.
The idea that minors should wear helmets is a hot subject for debate within the equestrian communities. A lot of adults will use the argument “Well I turned out just fine and didn’t wear a helmet” while those on the other side of the argument are worried about children’s safety (horse falling on top of the rider, rider falling off, etc.). For me, having worked in the ICU and occasional ER, I strongly recommend all minors (ages 17 and younger) to wear helmets when riding horses.
Horses are large animals, many around 800–1000 pounds. It really is amazing when you think about it how we control them while riding through flimsy reins and kicks. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye and horses are prone to spook, regardless of the trust built up between rider and horse. A helmet saved my life where I could have easily bled out and/or died because my head collided with a stall metal door while I was being dragged by a horse. Laws relating to helmet wearing vary between local and state levels within the USA.
I get it. Kids don’t want to wear helmets because they are often clunky, can be uncomfortable (depending on the brand and built, as well if it’s properly fitted to one’s head), and often aren’t very attractive. I had this mentality when I rode during ages 14–16. Luckily, I did not have a serious accident involving my head while I rode. However, I did have a nasty accident around when I was ten years old (as explained above).
Head injuries aren’t something to mess around with. Especially with developing minors. As an adult, you have the ability to analyze the facts and come to your own conclusions (hence the term ‘autonomy’ and ‘informed consent’). As an adult, that is completely on you. For children? Nope, need to wear that helmet.
No one likes thinking about “what if’s” and “terrible accidents”, but I am begging you as someone who has worked in healthcare and loves horses/riding, it is not worth that trip to the ER.