Top Trail: The Day My Helmet Saved My Brain

By Troy Lynn Norris of Top Trail Horse

The thought has crossed my mind… my horse falling and launching or landing on me as we’re cruising down on the trail. Every time a horse I’m riding stumbles and catches themselves I thank God for the nimble, athletic equine under me. It doesn’t happen very often but when it does a deep impression is certainly made in my mind. Despite the risks involved when working around my herd and living the “horse life” I can say that 99% of the time I am focused on the positive, fun, enjoyment, the relationship and partnership, and learning along with being aware of their strength and prey animal instincts.

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

Fellow Top Trail member Robin and her friend Kimberly (now wonderful new friends — a benefit of being part of the Top Trail community) came to visit us from all the way up in Minnesota. They were looking at real estate and also wanted to ride so they brought Robin’s horses. We hit the trail Monday morning so they could get back in time to check out some properties for sale that afternoon.

We were wrapping up a super nice ride less than a half mile from home when my steady eddy-rock star-baby boy-love of my life trail partner for the past 11 years, Leonardo, stumbled in a rut on the right of way and fell down—landing on parts of me.

The perfect storm on a beautiful day

Now, Leonardo was being a horse, and an Arabian horse at that. It’s not like he was being a perfect little gentleman—I’m not going to make any excuses for neither Leonardo or myself. But there we were — on our way home, bringing up the rear, with long deep ruts on the right of way where we were traveling, and to top it all off, a large lumber truck from the hardware store was coming toward us pretty fast.

Troy Lynn Norris

When I saw the truck approaching I remember thinking, “I’m going to nudge him over a little closer to the tree line away from the street.” That’s when he stumbled, tumbled, and fell. Of course I came off and landed on my back with my head snapping backward violently two times. I remember hearing my friends freaking out. Can’t remember everything they were saying but do remember something like this, “Oh no is your leg broke?” as Leo rolled a couple times trying to get to his feet and in the process stepped on my lower leg.

Amazingly, I was able to stand up once Leo was up and out of the way. My head started pounding — the headache was instant. Even in that state, I understood how very fortunate I was and how much worse this could have turned out.

Here’s the miracle. I wore my helmet that day. It’s a miracle because I don’t typically wear my helmet when I ride Leonardo. We’ve been together so long and if he gets goofy… well, I’ve read and studied his playbook. I am in the habit of wearing my helmet, though, when I ride other horses. This accident has taught me that no matter which horse I’m riding, my helmet is going to be strapped to my head.

Fortunately my injuries were few and relatively minor. I did go to the doctor to get an X-ray of my back after 4 days of pain and sleepless nights. No broken bones there but it sure did feel like something was broken! My hip bone was pretty sore and bruised and the outside of my calf, where he stepped on me, was still sore, bruised, and swollen for more than two weeks.

Looking ahead

My husband and I took a good look at the helmet that saved my noggin and it looks like it’s okay but I went out and bought another one. The exact same helmet! I love it— it’s a Tipperary Sportage Helmet that I purchased about two years ago. It fits my head nicely, has great cushioning, it’s lightweight, and most importantly I don’t feel like I look like an alien while it’s protecting my precious gray matter.

Another item that I have purchased is a Hit Air LV Equestrian Light Weight Vest. If I had been wearing one of these vests at the time of my accident I probably wouldn’t have lost two weeks of conditioning for a half marathon I’ve been preparing for these past five months.

Get back on that horse

Now back to the scene of the accident… with Leonardo and myself back on our feet, I decided to mount back up and ride home. Didn’t feel like riding home at all at the time but I did—and I’m glad I did because I have vowed to not ride again until my foot race is over (October 19). I also want to have all my safety equipment from here on out and that includes my Hit Air Vest. So Monday after my race, I’ll gear up, swing my leg over, and trot down the trail again. I’m not expecting any trouble but you never know when the unexpected is going to ruin your day.

You’re worth It

I won’t take safety for granted again.

If you have decided that wear a helmet is not for you or you don’t need one, please reconsider. Any horse can fall, things happen beyond our control. Good days can become bad days very quickly. If I had not been wearing my helmet I very well could in a coma right now or even dead. It hit that hard. Think about it. Please. You’re worth it.


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