- “I Can Control Risk”;
- “It Does Not Feel Right”;
- “Accidents Happen”.
3.1. The Impact of Social Relations on Helmet Use
- One rider openly claimed to be inconsistent with helmets, asserted this as a personal choice, but justified their actions with the claim that: “I know people that don’t even own one”.
- A decision to not wear a helmet was stated as supported by family.
- The influence of experienced riding peers altered the helmet use of one rider, who noted that “I spent a few months training with a well-known showjumper in NSW, basically nobody wears a helmet there and I just got used to it”. This same rider made an exception and noted that they would wear a helmet “If kids are watching”.
- One rider justified their helmet use by suggesting that non-helmeted riders “are being a bit selfish. Not because they are doing a sport where there are safety measures that may limit the damage done but because they aren’t considering their families”.
- Another rider stated that being injured while not wearing a helmet “is not fair to those left behind”.
- Helmet use was positioned as something you do for “those who love you”.
- One rider linked their helmet use to being raised in a family involved in racing (Racing Australia  mandates helmet use at any competition).
3.2. Attitudes Influencing Helmet Use
3.2.1. “I Can Control Risk”
- One rider noted: I very rarely ride without one. In fact the only time I ride without one, is when I bring them up from the paddock or I ride (my own horse-name removed) tackless (without a saddle and bridle) for a few minutes’.
- Another discussed riding helmetless on a few occasions while bringing the horse they trust “110%” up from their own paddock. This rider also noted that they would only ever walk their horse up (travelling at a slower and safer pace) and would not risk it if their horse were having a “hyper” day.
- Another suggested that the “1%” of the time they would not ride with a helmet would only be when “jumping on” their old horse to bring them up to their gate.
- The attitude that “safer” situations could potentially negate the need to wear a helmet was even held by one member who claimed quite strongly that riding without a helmet “made zero sense”, as it was later noted that the reason why they did not ride without a helmet was they knew their horse to be “unpredictable”.
- One rider explained that, “I don’t usually ride with a helmet at home doing flat work but if I go out, ride an un-educated horse or new horse or do any jumping at all I’ll pop one on”. Only situations self-categorized as unsafe and unpredictable required a helmet, and this rider later noted that they saw helmet use as dependent on knowing a horse and the level of rider experience.
- Similarly, another rider noted that they usually rode without a helmet, unless riding a “new or young” horse.
- One rider stated that they did not wear a helmet while training for dressage but would do so if they were riding a young horse, jumping or riding on the roads.
- While listing a number of situations in which they did wear a helmet, one rider mentioned being a “culprit for not wearing a helmet when schooling dressage at home”, but only while riding their or their mothers “very experienced” horses as they “know damn well they won’t do anything”.
- Surprisingly, one rider attributed their head injury not to failure to wear a helmet, but a failure to correctly interpret the horse’s behavior.
- An openly helmet resistant rider stated that horse riding is “dangerous as hell” but that they were not consistent in wearing a helmet. Despite this, they stressed that “I will however, always wear one on the road!”
3.2.2. “It Does Not Feel Right…”
- Justifying their general lack of helmet use, one rider noted “My usual place of residence is in the tropics and I prefer to wear something that shades my face etc. and allows for airflow”.
- Similarly, another exclaimed “All I can say is once you try riding without a helmet it is really hard to go back!” After training in an environment that non-wearing was encouraged they stated to “much more able to concentrate without that heat, sweat and constriction”.
- One rider commented that they did not grow up wearing helmets, “hates” them as they are hot and uncomfortable, but started to wear once their kids started riding as you “can’t really expect them to wear one if your not”. For this rider, being a positive role model for their family was valued more than the perceived negative sensation of helmet use.
- Another rider stated simply that they “always have and always will wear a helmet” despite hating the red lines they leave on their forehead.
- Despite the negative sensation associated with helmet use, another associated the decision to wear with wanting to be around to see their grandchildren.
- Another stated that they never wore a helmet when younger but had got used to wearing one after the rules changed at their agistment/livery to mandate helmet use and despite still hating them they would feel odd getting onto their horse without one. Though, they noted that they would still wear an Akubra (an iconic Australian cowboy style hat) on long rides for sun protection.
- Wearing a helmet was likened on a number of occasions to putting on clothes everyday, with one rider stating they would feel “naked” without their helmet, and another noting that “not wearing a helmet to me feels like not wearing a bra”.
- For three riders, wearing a helmet was such a habit that they joked they felt weird not wearing it in other “risky” situations such as driving a car.
- One rider noted wearing their helmet added to their comfort levels as it warmed their head on cold days.
- Three riders simply stated that wearing a helmet was “second nature” and not wearing feels “odd”.
3.2.3. “Accidents Happen”
- One rider noted that in their experience, the only injury incidents they had experienced were from “accidents” such as the horse tripping.
- Another stated that wearing a helmet is a “very basic” precaution that could change the severity of injury in an accident event.
- Another noted wearing a helmet on their “quiet horse” during equestrian sports as it meant they could focus on their/their horse’s performance instead of worrying that the “unexpected” might happen.
- One stressed that they always wore a helmet, as “even ‘bomb proof’ horses can trip. A friend of mine broke her neck riding a bomb proof school horse that tripped in the paddock at home (she is a professional rider)”.
- The view that even quiet and trusted horses can fault and experienced riders can have accidents was also held by another rider who noted a few occasions where a helmet had saved them in an accident with a quiet, known and trusted horse.
- One rider told the story of a professional dressage rider who had sustained an injury to stress that “ANYONE can come off, no one is invincible”.
- Another shared a similar story of a fatal accident in which a very experienced rider fell off, stating, “experienced people do fall off too”.
- While admitting not liking helmets when younger one rider stated that they would never “dream of getting on a horse without one these days”, sharing the story of being involved in an accident where they had luckily decided to wear a helmet which had lessened the severity of injury.
- Similarly, another highlighted that after witnessing a horrific accident of a non-helmeted rider, they “would not consider wearing a helmet these days” despite previously being a bit “hit and miss”.
- Another equestrian wrote that they have never ridden without a helmet since being in an accident as “I shudder when I think back that I had tossed up whether I should wear the helmet before I got on him that fateful day”.
|Attitude||Encourages Helmet Use When||Discourages Helmet Use When|
|“I Can Control Risk”||Helmet use seen as part of risk control||Helmet use seen as extemporaneous to other controls such as being a good rider, having a good horse, and having a good relationship with that horse|
|“It Does Not Feel Right…”||Wearing a helmet becomes a habitual sensation of riding, even if that sensation is discomfort||Wearing a helmet is considered intolerable|
|Accidents Happen||Accidents accepted as beyond control, and unrelated to rider skill, horse temperament or the quality of their human–horse relationship||The rider has a fatalistic risk perception|
5. Limitations and Further Research
Conflicts of Interest
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