This is my helmet. Four weeks ago today, it saved my life.
I have always been pretty good at sticking a buck, spook, spin, etc. But we all end up in the dirt now and then. On the afternoon of the accident, I was in a hurry after a busy day, but bound and determined to ride my own horse.
It was her seventh ride, in fact. I bred her, started her right and we’d been trotting around. She’d never thrown a buck or offered to act her age. But on this day, I was in a hurry and we all know that the words “hurry” and “baby horses” don’t go together.
She reminded me that I know better. I landed smack on the back of my head where the neck and skull meet and I lost consciousness for a moment.
For the past four weeks, I’ve been dealing with a severe concussion unlike any concussion I have ever had before. Insane headaches, dizziness, short term memory loss, sensitivity to light and noise, among other things.
I’ve kept how difficult this has been from my husband, family and best friends. Pretended it wasn’t a big deal—I’ll just pop some Advil and be fine. I continued pushing myself to teach and work.
But I haven’t been fine.
I also haven’t ridden. I committed myself to keeping my feet on the ground for four weeks to heal and in that time, I have found a new sense of motivation to get back to being the athlete and rider I used to be. Growing up a competitive rider and swimmer taught me early how much cross training benefits any sport. Getting thrown off my mare made me realize that if I’m going to ride I need to respect the sport and my body. I deserve this and so do the horses I am privileged to own and train.
It reminded me too how important it is to look out for my safety. I write this post to remind everyone that you are not too cool to wear a helmet. You are not too good to wear a helmet. No one’s head bounces and it only takes a fall like I had to end your life.
Literally, there is never an ok time to sit on a horse without one.
I look forward to climbing back in the saddle tomorrow (with my other Antares Sellier helmet) and I hope everyone remembers the privilege that it is to climb atop a 1,200 pound animal. But respect you aren’t invincible.
I write this in hope that it reminds someone to buckle up their helmet. Every horse, every ride.
This story originally appeared on Denise Finch’s Facebook page and is reprinted here with permission.
Denise Finch is head trainer at Hunter’s Edge in Las Vegas, NV. She is a USHJA Certified trainer and has coached countless riders to championships at A shows in all three rings.