Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Public Service Announcement #1

In the comments on the last post, I posted about a horse named BitterCreek Bill and the tragic accident that took the life of his owner. The horse flipped over and landed on his owner/rider in an irrigation ditch half way across the field, across the street from the barn. While a helmet may not have saved her, it very well may have. Who's to say really?

In my email inbox, I recently received another story about a top level rider, who was caught in a bad situation. In light of the fatal skiing accident of the actress Natasha Richardson, I'm not sure how much a helmet would have helped in this situation, but it's always a good idea to wear one and be better safe than sorry.

Admittedly, I don't always wear one. I do if I plan on doing ANY jumping. I do if I am getting on a young horse and I do sometimes, just because. With the girls- it will now become a mandatory issue. Lead by example Mom. When our teenage daughter started riding, she always wore a helmet. Always! Helmet hair isn't pretty, but life support and brain injuries are considerably far less attractive.

This is a picture of Courtney King-Dye, an accomplished rider on the horse Idocus in the USEF HP Grand Prix. Below is the email that accompanied the picture and explains what had happened on a Wednesday, back at the beginning of March. More information can be found on her website- Courtney King Dressage which was last updated yesterday.

Hi Everyone.... so, as usual, I knew I could count on my little group to jump to the prayers.... the response has been amazing and the response, nationwide, has been something that I know Court will be completely overwhelmed by....

I just got home from the hospital.... she is very heavily sedated
and they asked for everyone to leave for the night.... but, she is
holding strong...

SO, I know there are SOOOO many questions, but here is the

She was on her last horse of the day at her farm, a young one....
without a helmet on.... he was not being bad, she was cantering and did a half halt and pushed his haunches out, as he was falling in... he got his legs all tangled up and tripped and fell down.... there was no scramble or anything weird, he simply fell and she literally rode him to the ground.... she stayed on him all the way down and as she went down, her head smacked the ground.... someone was videoing her and said that her head actually bounced it hit so hard....

she was unconscious and life flighted to StMary's Trauma center in Palm Beach... they did not fly her because she was too unstable to be driven, but because of the time situation.... they call the first hour "the golden hour" (so I have learned) after the trauma happens.... the more they can do in that first hour, the better
the chances of a good outcome....

so, what happened.... when her head hit, her brain separated from the lining and shifted a bit..... that caused some bleeding in various spots.... they did a procedure and placed a monitor between the lining and the skull to monitor the pressure in her head.... normal pressure is between 5-7, hers is 9.... the point
that becomes critical that they have to take measures to reduce the pressure is 20, so they are happy about that.... she also has a fracture in her skull, but that is actually the least of their worries.....

she is still what they consider to be medically "unresponsive".... to be responsive, she has to be able to do a few very black and white tasks, when they say, squeeze this hand, she must do it.... when they say, open your eyes, she must do it.... and she is unable to do that right now.... however, the people that came with her were holding her hands and talking to her and when they mentioned Jason to her (her husband) they could feel her respond and try to move and then again with other words.... when they mentioned Viva, her dog :-) so, she IS a little responsive.. ..
they now have her heavily sedated because they want her brain to rest... they want it to have NO stimulation. .. Jason and her dad were able to go in with her for a second, but they asked them to leave as well... they said the next 3-5 days are the most critical.... it could go anywhere from steady improvement to
catastrophic. ...

The waiting room had a solemn tone, but everyone is being optimistic.. .. and of course, there were a few moments where laughter was required.... . it got a little quieter when Jason got there.... (he just HAPPENED to be flying in tonight anyway, got the phone call 30min before his plane left) he came over and sat down by me and after the original conversations there was quite a while when we all sat quietly, then he looked over at me and said, "you girls and your horses" with a cute smile on his face.... I think right now he HATES horses, but he knows how we all feel
about them, his wife included....

Now, I know in this email group are doctors, nurses, daughters of neuro surgeons, etc.... Im telling you NOW that there is probably something that is not exactly correct in the way I said it, but overall, this is the general gist of whats going on.... the bottom line is A) PRAYERS, PRAYERS and more PRAYERS for Court.... and B)
WEAR A HELMET!!!! I know, I am more guilty than anyone on this list of NOT wearing one, but that changes today.... I have already ordered my new one and I can promise you, it will always be on my head.... I have talked to several other professionals down here whose mind changed today..... will keep everyone as posted as

Jodie Kelly


  1. Very good post. I couldnt agree more. I did a post on this same topic a while ago too after seeing another blogger post pictures of herself jumping 4 ft wearing no helmet, with an audience of kids and other onlookers. Arrrghhh!!!

  2. In the book Summer Pony there were three rules for jumping.

    1) Never jump alone.
    2) Always wear your helmet.

    and I cannot remember the third one. Someone else here will, I am sure of that, but I think it was either never jump in the dark or always give your horse a chance. something along those lines.

    On Sprinkler Bandits blog, she mentions the gift of having someone as your 'ground crew' to reset poles and raise or lower them.

    But it is much bigger than that. A ground person can also call for help if anything goes wrong and explain to the emergency crew what happened when they get there.

    I certainly don't mean to come across so skeptical about whether or not a helmet can or may help- they certainly DO in many cases. When the injured person wasn't wearing one, it's anybody's guess how much protection would have been offered if they had been.

    And for anyone who was watching the Gamblers Choice either in person or via live feed, there was an EMT crew on hand in the judges gazebo. Thankfully they have not been needed.

  3. (hangs head in shame)
    I was too lucky, that's for sure.

    I'd add never ride alone, actually.
    But that's really hard for some to do.
    I wouldn't ride alone.

    Prayers to Courtney, and thanks for posting, CNJ.

  4. Nicku- Adding that as a clicky link

    I agree about the $4000 saddles and $50 helmets. Seems a bit out of line there, doesn't it? Add in what is spent on the horse and it is all off kilter in a BIG way.

    And just as a reminder, there are a few things I do NOT ever buy second hand. Helmets being first on that list. You just have NO idea if it has been through one fall or several and is still intact to provide you any protection.

    Is your head really THAT unimportant to you? Or your kids head?

  5. GL- at summer camp we were always told to always travel in packs of no less than 3.

    If one person got hurt, the second person could stay with the injured and do first aid, while the third person goes for help. Makes sense, but not always something that can be done.

    Leaving an 'intended route' at the barn when trail riding gives others a place to start looking should your horse come back to the barn by themselves. 'Flight plan' anyone?

  6. I am a bad one with the helmet issue .The rule on my place has always been under 18 ride with a helmet. Add to that I strongly encourage all the adults to wear one ,esp on greenies, but I don't own one yet! I keep planning to and not getting it done.(the reason I say under 18 is after they become and adult I can only encourage not force)Lucky for me I have not run into the "practice what you preach argument thrown back at me. long stroy short , will have to get a helmet soon

  7. I'm very pro helmet, and I definitely agree with not buying one used. They are supposed to be replaced every five years (ish) and if you ever end up using them to cushion a hard knock with your head. I have a nice $60 tipperary that looks fine and is light and cool.

    I guess I've just hit my head on too many jumps to ever really be comfortable riding without them.

  8. SB- replacing the helmet every five years is a good rule of thumb- crash or not.

    Police officers replace their Kevlar, bulletproof vests every five years, due to the materials losing some degree of their protective qualities. *From the makers of Kevlar*

    Factor in temperature extremes- fagility in colder temps and warping in hotter temps and we all have a lot to consider when protecting our noggins. I keep my helmet inside, along with all of the clothing- show or schooling. I know where it's at, know it's clean and the bugs are not in them.

    Fern- have you even started looking for one yet?

  9. Yup , looked at a few at the tack sale , and the local farm store , I have found some that fit OK and some that I feel like I am wearing a huge hockey helmet.I think the one I likesd best so far was a Troxel . But I just have to bite the bullet and buy one

  10. I am a helmet fanatic. Period. My oldest son suffered a traumatic brain injury(he came through okay for the most part) and I would not wish that on anyone. 2nd--I would have done the same a few years ago, except I HAD MY HELMET ON AND BUCKLED.

  11. I grew up rarely wearing a helmet. I always wear one now, no matter what, and so do my girls, even when we are just leadlining. I'm not really freaked out about them falling off - they are going to fall off - but I would like the most vulnerable part of them to be protected as much as possible. A broken leg heals - a broken head????
    The way this happens sounds not good. I know someone told me early on (in polo I think), that if your horse is going down - sideways, frontways, backwards, if no thing else - DON'T RIDE THEM DOWN! Why? Because of exactly what happened here, you get "whacked" into the ground by the force of the horse. Even if you push off and hit the ground just a split second before your horse falls on you the likelihood is your injuries will be less life-threatening.
    When I was about 14 I was schooling for my C-1 rating and my horse, mad because he didn't want to do trotting figure 8s and wanted to go right instead of left, simply tripped over his own two front feet and he did a frontwards somersault. I launched myself over his neck just slightly before he literally rolled, head over heels, over the top of me. Thank god for sand arenas, and young age...I was well and truly squished and had a sore back, but was otherwise unhurt. Rode for my rating the next day (albeit sorely!). I'll never forget the look of horror on my instructors face when I looked up from my little sand pit in the arena!

  12. Bottom line- NONE of us ever plan on hitting the dirt. We just don't. But horses are horses, have a mind of their own and can trip just like we do at any given time.

    When it all goes south on you, it either does it in slo-mo or so quick you have no clue what just happened. Even in slo-mo, you don't always have time to prepare for the unplanned landing or brace yourself- which can be the wrong thing to do. You just never know.

  13. I always wear a helmet. ALWAYS.

    Back in the day, they were called "hunt caps" or "hard hats," and came with a lame elastic strap and chin cup. Not effective at ALL.

    I have a friend who came off a bike in 1990. An experienced cyclist practicing for the Little 500 race at I.U. and got tangled up with a newbie during a routine handoff. He hit so hard, his helmet split, and went through over 15 years of absolute HELL. He tried to kill himself a few times, he suffered weird pain all over his body, crippling daily migraines, shaking hands, hallucinations, spectacular depression and a whole raft of bizarre neurological maladies made worse by the fact that his 2 loves (outdoor sports and violin making) were totally out of the question.

    It took 15 years of various therapies and healing before some smart specialist put him on Aricept, I believe, and brought him back to about 90% of his former self.

    I would not wish that on anyone or their families. Phaedra, BLESS YOU and your son.

    Anyway, everybody, just wear your damn helmet. Chances are, you won't need it, but when you do, you'll be glad of it. Such a little thing that makes such a big difference. If you survive a traumatic brain injury, the results WILL be permanent. And unpleasant. So what if you think you look like a dork. That's what people who used seatbelts used to think, and seatbelts have saved me 3 times. I came through a way-too-fast rollover accident on the freeway with a big cut on my head, mild concussion, scrapes and bruises. The cops said that it was my seatbelt and the fact that I was driving a Honda that saved me.

    Little trivial risk-management things.

  14. UGH, I'd heard about Courtney. It can go so bad in the simplest situations. One stumble, one equipment failure and it can all just go to hell.

    I started out as a trick rider. MMMHHHMMM...with a dressage foundation, curiouser and curiouser. Not really my point, but would I do it now? HELL NO! Cinch could break, horse could stumble, and any horse can spook. This fat old woman is not hanging off the side of any running horses anymore (well at least not on purpose).

    I would love to tell you I always wear helmet. It would be a huge lie. I'm trying to be better about it. I just don't think about it. The only time I wore a helmet growing up was the engish caps in shows. My helmet does show the signs of some I've been lucky in the times I remembered to wear it. Something is looking out for me. I even bought a new one.

    CNJ your story about the horse in the ditch was awful, and the horse got blamed. UGH. I'm so glad Sto's people didn't go that route. The woman has her grandkids ride him once in awhile. They would be the girl's neices. I'm glad the family didn't hold a grudge and Sto is still a member of their family.

  15. HP- a grudge can be an easy thing to carry or hold, in some cases. Some people are just out to find a 'scape goat' to blame things on rather than admit it was an accident caused by a bad decision.

    I lost Tess due to a bad decision. The one who takes full responsibility is the one typing this now. It cost me one of my favorite mares, a riding partner and a horse who cannot ever be replaced.

    I miss that horse a lot! Although I wish I could have her back, I don't ever wish to have buried instead, the one I believe did the damage. It just wouldn't be fair. Life is not always fair.

  16. My next weight loss reward is going to be a good helmet.

    I wonder if wearing one would have prevented the "contre-coup" injury I got 20 years ago? The padding and inner rigging would have slowed my head down.

    Troxel even makes them with hats - cowboy and derby.


  17. I was occasionally lax about helmets until midway through college, when I was involved in a fall on a horse I wouldn't have expected it from. I was lucky it was very soft ground, but I've been very good about helmets ever since.

    I am one of those who buys a new helmet every 2 years, or after a fall... and even so, my fall off of my green horse a couple years ago gave me a nasty concussion, with a constant headache for about a month, when it slowly diminished (I did have a CT scan, nothing visible). Thank God I had a good, never-damaged helmet on that day. I seriously think I would have fractured my skull. I've had plenty of falls, but never had a month long headache before!

  18. I too am a helmet convert. I never used to wear one except at shows, even when I was jumping.

    I had a fall one day off of the nutbar horse I was riding for a friend of mine. My head landed about 3 inches from a jump pole. It was a come to Jesus type of moment for me.

    I have worn one when mounted ever since.

  19. Why do people always have to have a near-death experience to make them wear a helmet?

    Just.... wear it.


  20. CP- Amen to that! And going with the driving equipment listed for sale- Driving can be incredibly dangerous and you should wear a helmet for that too!

    Helmets saved the heads of myself, my daughter and my best friend when we had our driving accident, years ago behind my daughters pony.

    It all went south in a flash, the cart was destroyed and the pony could never be hitched again. Yes we all had helmets on- Thankfully! nobody was hurt. It could have turned out terribly different.

  21. To- The koala is lovable

    谢谢讀書。 如此,谢谢投稿!

  22. I heard about this when it first happened. I sure hope she's still making progress.

    I live with a child with brain trauma. It is difficult for her. Sometimes more than others.

  23. ARGH.

    At the barn today, I was adjusting my 4-year-old's helmet when the barn owner's 10-year-old daughter casually told me that she doesn't wear one anymore, cuz she's ten.

    I gave her a WTF look and said, "You should. Everyone should. *I* do."

    Wish I could afford to upgrade out of a WP barn.