Inevitably, all riders when talking to non-horse friends, get the same question; Isn’t it dangerous to ride a horse? And while most of us pass it off with a smile and a shrug and a “nah, it isn’t so bad,” the answer is simple.

Yes. Riding a horse is very dangerous.

Whether you are an internationally acclaimed Grand Prix rider, or a fan of trail riding at home around the lake, at any time, the inconceivable can happen, and tragically that happened Saturday night in Mississippi.

Lara Dewees and her horse Ginny, while barrel racing in competition, had a bad fall at the third barrel. Though her horse managed to recover and get up, Lara had lost the reins and was unable to gather them back as Ginny took off out of the arena, slipped on the pavement outside which threw Lara to the pavement. She succumbed to her head injuries Monday.

According to Facebook, Dewees had recently become engaged and leaves behind an 18 month old son. She was also a teacher of social studies at her local middle school.

The equestrian community is no stranger to the loss of riders from falls. And no matter what discipline, the outreach of our amazing community crosses the borders of western to english to dressage and beyond. A GoFundMe account for Dewees has already raised over $14,000. In the time it has taken to write this article, the amount has grown by $500. And it is because of this care and concern that we have for each other as fellow equestrians that I pose the question: Why is it not a standard rule for anyone aboard a horse to wear a helmet?

I do not by any means want to give the idea that I am judging this wonderful young woman. The outpouring of emotion for those who knew her and those who only briefly crossed her path at the ingate shows just how many lives she touched; the countless young minds at the school where she teaches, her own little boy.

We’ll never know if wearing a helmet would have changed the outcome of this tragic situation, but helmets are not just for protection for what we know can happen… they are for what we never think will happen. There are no guarantees in life, but if we are proactive in our protection and wear appropriate gear when around horses, then we can give many riders a better chance at survival from such accidents.

An online movement called #HelmetTough is on a personal mission to “end the stigma associated with wearing a helmet in the western and rodeo industry.” From their website:

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The primary point to take away is anytime you are in the saddle; hacking, driving, piaffing or standing, your head should be in a helmet. This rule that should come from the highest levels of every equestrian association and apply to every show down to grass roots schooling events.

If you would like to donate to the GoFundMe account for the family of Lara Dewees, follow the link below.