So there I was, schooling a big trakehner 2 weekends ago and I wrecked, like a boss. “Wait, I don’t remember you having a Trakehner, I thought you had thoroughbreds.” Oh, not that kind of trakehner, it’s a cross country jump, usually a log over top of a ditch. My sweet little Lilykins decided that the boogieman was living in the ditch, she jumped it twice but never nice, the third time, she said NOPE. I can’t blame her, we had a long school already, hindsight is 20/20, we should have quit the after she went the first time but we were trying to get it right.
“So, what broke, what engineering lesson are we supposed to learn here? Where are we going with this?” Well my impatient friend, what does one do after a fall? “Oh, I know this, I saw the George Morris meme, ‘Either go to the hospital or get back on!’ right?” Yes, so I got right back on, after being drug on the end of my reins about 30ft. If you hold on to your horse, you don’t have to chase it all over the cross country course.
To be honest, Lily probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere, but after years of riding Emma who would have used the opportunity to take a trip to the next county, I am trained to use my body as a drag anchor. I probably scared Lily more than anything but again, it is what it is, I did give her a massage the next day and had a chiro session 2 days after.
“Seriously, you have gone on a tangent again. Without me you would never get to the point.” Yes, that is true.
So, we have already discussed helmet safety, and vest safety in previous posts. My helmet is less than a year old and so is my vest and these are the first crash they have been through. For a helmet, in theory, it’s time to get a new one… For the vest, it’s time to inspect.
Starting with the vest (this includes air vests):
- Check the fabric for rips and tears: Mine just has some dirt, which will need to be cleaned per the manufacturer, usually just surface clean
- Check the foam for dents or compressed spots: If the foam doesn’t return to it’s original shape, it is time to replace the vest. Some manufacturers say within 5 minutes of impact but most of the time, they don’t get inspected at all so when you get a chance, look it over.
- Ensure all fasteners are still in working order. If you damaged any velcro, zippers, or buckles, the vest needs to be replaced. Mine were all fine in this case.
- For air vests: replace the air cartridge and inspect the airbag for holes, rips, or rubs. Any damage to the airbag will require consulting with the manufacturer and possibly replacement.
As for the helmet, in theory any crash means replacement, and this is not something you should “test”. This is also why I don’t have a $1000 helmet, I don’t want to spend $1000 every time I fall. However, if you do a thorough check of the helmet, then you may not have to replace it. First attempt to figure out if your head touched the ground:
- Is there a dirt mark on the helmet?
- Are there any scratches on the shell?
- Is there a crack in the shell?
- Take the liner out, are there any cracks in the interior of the helmet?
- Is the brim loose or cracked?
- Was the helmet cover pulled off, ripped, or have dirt on it?
- Is the harness torn, broken, bent, maimed in any way?
If you can answer yes to any one of the questions above, replace the helmet.
If the answers are no, then it is up to you to use your judgement. If you have video of the fall, you can review it to see if your head hit something. And yes, if you head hits a jump, fence, wall, other horse, really anything at all, it needs to be replaced. In this case, I didn’t hit anything with my helmet, although in the video it looks like I might have hit the log, but I didn’t. I still inspected my helmet.
If you need to replace your helmet, most helmet manufacturers have a helmet replacement policy, which will allow you to replace your helmet for a reduced price.
Usually you have to have a copy of your receipt, so when you buy your helmet, take a picture of the receipt so you have a copy on your phone. Most replacement policies are only good for 2-3 years.
What you may not realize is that if you send your helmet in after a crash, they can analyze it in a lab an use the information to make a safer helmet in the future, so this benefits everyone.
On a tack note, it’s a good time to check your tack too. Stirrup leathers, reins, and martingales/breastplates tend to be likely culprits for damage. Check for cracks and stretched spots. They may not have broken this time but they may decide to break during your ride at the next show. I checked my stirrups just because, and my bridle, mainly my reins. Since I hung on to them after the fall, they could have gotten stretched or weakened, especially where they attach to the bit. I got lucky this time, everything seemed to be in good shape.
Disclaimer: I am not a safety specialist, I do not work for a helmet or vest company. I am not a fall specialist, just an innocent fall-offer.