May 22, 2018
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Safety equipment key for riding, jumping

By Cassie Astle, Special to the BDN

Recently a friend expressed her concern about my jumping adventures with Dundee. “It sounds so dangerous!” she wrote in a message. She is right. It is dangerous, as is riding any horse at any time.

Riding a bicycle can be dangerous. Driving a car can be dangerous. Anything that any person does can, in some way, become dangerous. Another friend once told me about a game that her brothers played as youngsters, called Name Anything In The Room And I Bet I Can Hurt You With It. Then one brother would assault the other, say, by using a sock as a tourniquet.

Life is just like that, there is danger lurking around every corner and the key is to minimize the risk of running smack into it.

Whenever I ride, on any horse no matter how well trained or how old or how gentle, I put on a riding helmet. It’s not a big deal: the helmet is lightweight, it’s my favorite color, it has just one snap to fasten it and it’s ventilated. It doesn’t distract me when I’m riding or alter how I ride so there’s no reason not to wear it, and if I were to fall, it could save my life.

There are risks I’m willing to take when riding to either improve my fitness or skill or that of my horses, but riding without a helmet isn’t one of them. An accident can happen at any time to anyone. My cousin famously fell of a horse that was standing still.

Of course adding speed and leaping over things can increase the odds of an accident, so when riding a horse over jumps, I also wear a protective vest. The vest and helmet don’t prevent accidents, just severity of injuries. If they prevented accidents, I’d wear them all the time. I’ve managed to crash into more things in my own house than I ever have with a horse. Maybe I should start riding a horse in the house.

Risk differs in definition by each person who experiences it. I found Disneyworld’s Space Mountain to be life­-threatening, but my 10-year-old son had a different reaction.

“That was awesome! That was so cool! Can we go again?” he shouted upon exiting the ride while I tried to unclench my fingers from the safety bar so that I could get off the ride and never return.

Maine is a state that has abundant opportunities for adventure both inside and out — although with no Space Mountain roller coasters, thank goodness. And to completely hide from that adventure, whether it be hiking a mountain, fishing on a lake or galloping a horse over jumps, would be a waste of natural resources and of life.

Adventure comes with risk, even if someone’s idea of adventure is reading a novel at the beach. Sunburn, papercuts, rogue seagulls … see what I mean? Sometimes risk with an activity is high (dancing on a tin roof during a thunderstorm) and sometimes it is low (sleeping) but a certain amount of challenge makes life interesting.So go ride a bike, or ride a horse, but wear a helmet. And look out for seagulls.


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