Re: the helmet thing. Sorry guys, but helmets are NOT safety equipment, NOR do they make you any safer when riding. A helmet will not prevent a spook, a fall, or a bad fall into something. A helmet will only work to protect your head if you fall AND if you hit your head. And on that note, in talking to nurses I know that have worked in ER, they see markedly more neck and back injuries in riders than head injuries. So to those of you harping, where are your body protectors and neck braces?? A helmet doesn't even protect your whole head!! And most of them leave the most venerable part of your spine and head exposed, right where the head and neck meet!!!
In order to ride safely, we need to use our heads, not just protect them and hope sh*t never hits the fan. Proper riding attire (boots, breeches, gloves, etc..), riding a horse within your skill level, bombproofing or de spooking work, riding within your limits, learning how to ride AND fall off, etc.. are all going to make you safer when riding. Helmets are just a risk mitigation measure, PPE or Personal Protective Equipment. They will protect you if you fall. For some of us, we feel the risk of falling is not high enough to warrant wearing a helmet, that's our prerogative. In most countries if you run available stats for dressage riders (or those that do flatwork, no trails, no jumping, no speed events, etc..) and head injuries (any thing ranging from a bump on the noggin to full on coma/death) and compare them to driving fatalities, you should find similar results. If I'm willing to drive to/from the barn for an hour a day and have the same chance of DYING in a motor vehicle as I do sustaining anything from a bump on the noggin to death from falling off my horse, I'll take my chances with the horse!
If you want to tell me to ride a helmet, that's awesome, but then expect me to ask you about your fall training, riding training, safety measures taken when riding, de spooking procedures and where your body protector and neck brace are. Based on the amounts of rides I've had on my horse I have a 0.07% chance of falling off while jumping and an even lower chance of falling during flatwork/dressage work, especially considering the increased age, training and de spook work done on the horse and assuming even 50% of falls involve the head, a 0.004% chance of sustaining a head injury while riding my own horse. This compared to a 0.009% traffic fatality rate in my area, and a 0.5% injury collision rate, I'll take my chance with the horse, regardless of if I'm wearing a helmet or not the risk, to me, is too small to matter.
They say money doesn't buy happiness -- well happiness doesn't buy horses!