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[RC] - Smith, Dave

Sheila/Barbara:  After being tossed off my mustang, Hermano, at least 10 times, I can't imagine riding him or any other horse without a helmet.

My latest unscheduled dismount was several weeks ago during the Western States Trail Foundation's "Education Ride" on the Tevis trail. Hermano and I had negotiated the California Street trail in good order, having gone about half the 30-mile ride when we were crossing a boulder strewn dried stream bed leading into the American River.  All I can remember is that while we were picking our way through the large boulders, he made one of his patented lighting-fast sidesteps and then darkness.  The next thing I remember were the two ladies following us standing over me loosening my protective vest (yes, because I'm not a very good rider yet, I also wear an "eventing" vest).  They said I was out for about two minutes. I surmise that Hemano had wedged one of his hoof boots between two boulders and that freaked him out.  But I will never know for certain.  This was the first time in my life I was knocked unconscious.

My helmet was fractured and I had a bruise on my skull where my helmet hit one of the boulders.  I know without the helmet I would have cracked my skull and quite possibly would have been killed or seriously injured.

As it was, I had a massive headache and a badly bruised back near my spine (thank God for the vest and the water "camel" I wear on my back.) Before taking up horse-back riding, I was hang gliding about every weekend for about 10 years.  I can tell you that I have been more often and more seriously injured (twice with broken ribs) in the two years I've been riding my horse than I was ever injured in the decade of jumping off cliffs and landing in strange obstacle-strewn fields.  In my view, you've got to be crazy to ride a horse without a helmet.