Your missing one very important piece of information bsms:
Your helmet can possibly prevent your skull from cracking against a rock, in the event your skull hits a rock. Your soft ball cap cannot. Neither will a cowboy hat.
Plain and simple FACT to reduce risk, that cannot be disputed...
I've not disputed it. However, how much you have reduced your risk depends on how likely you are to fall. From the statistics I've seen, it is likely a helmet reduces the chance of injury in a fall by 50-80%. However, if you do something that increases the chance of falling by more than 5 fold - such as jumping - then you are accepting a greater risk of head injury while wearing a helmet than you have on the flat without one.
I like the idea of a 50-80% reduction, even if my risk of falling in the first place is very low. So I wear a helmet. But some people do not like wearing a helmet. If they are a western rider riding the flats, their risk of head injury is already less than that of a jumper wearing a helmet - so who is "an idiot"?
I'd say neither. I think it is normal to accept some level of risk in return for a certain amount of pleasure. I also think it is normal for different people to be willing to accept different levels of risk, and to take pleasure from different aspects of things. I can have fun riding without jumping. I don't feel a need to barrel race to have fun either. I usually ride alone, so I have no social needs to be met. I get no pleasure out of riding without a helmet - but others do. I may not identify with them, but I can respect them.
The people who avoided serious injury and a hospital visit because they were wearing a helmet don't appear on statistic lists therefore they are unreliable...
Actually, the statistics come from reductions in injuries in things like Pony Clubs, or in sports like eventing. If you have the same number participating, but you have 50% fewer injuries when wearing helmets, then it is reasonable to guess helmets had a big part in that reduction.
Surveys have been taken to find out what people were doing at the time they were injured, and that gives us a pretty good idea of relative risk. Folks who study riding accidents are drawn to jumping events like buzzards to carrion. In eventing, falls at the fence accounted for 96% of injuries between 2004-2008, vs 4% on the flats. That is a 24:1 ratio.
A profile of horse riding injuries in South Africa:
The conclusion to Sorli’s (2000) five-year study was that head injuries and other serious traumatic injuries occur with equestrian activities and the use of appropriate safety equipment, including helmets should be promoted. Abu-Zidan andRao (2003)found that those with a helmet had significantly less incidence of intracranial injuries than those not wearing one and Fantus and Fildes (2007) found a fourfold greater mortality for the non-helmeted rider compared to those wearing a helmet.http://ir.dut.ac.za/bitstream/handle...pdf?sequence=1
Of all the horse riding activities, according to Silver (2002) and Paix (1999) jumping is most likely to produce an injury, and according to Paix (1999), the cross country phase of eventing is more than 70 times as dangerous as horse riding in general, with an overall injury rate of one per 14 hours of cross country riding...
...Table 4.9 shows that most injuries occurred whilst jumping (63.8%) and the least occurred during flatwork (10.3%). ["Hacking" was 25.9%]...
...Helmet use was negatively associated with head injuries. Showing that helmet use is effective in preventing head injuries. This could be due to improved helmet protective design, compulsory wearing of helmets that meet safety standards at competitions and the majority of riders wearing helmets when jumping, which is where the most severe injuries occur (Section 220.127.116.11.4). Moss, Wan and Whitlock (2002) review of findings between 1971 and 1991 found that helmet use is assisting in reducing the incidence of skull fractures and severity of the injury.
Fantus and Fildes (2007) found a fourfold greater mortality for the non-helmeted rider and Abu-Zidan and Rao (2003) comparatively found that those with a helmet had significantly less incidence of intracranial injuries than those who did not...
One cannot precisely quantify risks using statistics, but one can reasonably conclude both that a helmet helps protect your noggin if you fall, and that jumping is associated with a much higher risk of falling.
Of course, most folks don't read studies. They base their risk assessment on the experiences of folks they know. I've met plenty of riders who have ridden for decades without a head injury, and who haven't known anyone who had a serious head injury. I know folks who haven't had an serious head injuries in generations of riding. So someone like myself might rate the risk of head injury as low. Frankly, I'd rather ride an Australian saddle without a helmet than an English saddle with one. That is based on my experience and the people I know. That doesn't make me stupid. And because I am actually very safety conscious, I normally ride western or Australian WITH a helmet.
I have never encouraged anyone to stop wearing a helmet. I have argued that calling people names is not a good way to advance a cause, and that some people will cheerfully take risks that I will not.