Ines Van den Bosch: “The last place you want to end up right now, is the hospital”

When I’m scrolling through Instagram stories and when I look on Facebook, I see that us riders are all very busy with our horses, enjoying the nice weather. How lucky are we with the sun and temperatures since quarantine ?! It’s just wonderful how all those top riders want to share their training tips with us and show us what kind of gymnastics exercises they do keep their horses and themselves in shape. Look at Kent Farrington; what a guy! He brings the entire community closer together and everyone can learn from everyone. Magnificent! Most of these riders – professionals, amateurs, children, hobby riders, … – neatly wear their helmet (and other protection) while riding, walking and jumping. Great job!

BUT … I see young parents, youth, self-employed, … walking, riding and even jumping without a helmet. I wonder if those people think about the following: what will happen to your kids if you (God forbid) end up in intensive care for two weeks? What goes through your loved ones mind when you get into a coma? What will happen to your horse business if you become incapacitated for work, paralyzed or worst case, die? What happens to your horses when no more money comes in? Please realize that you are going to affect your family, family and team. They will go through hell because nothing is so precious as your brain. And let’s be honest: the hospital is really the last place you want to end up right now.

Why do some riders continue to ride without a helmet? I already lost count of the serious accidents of friends and acquaintances by falling of a horse. Riders riding without a helmet always come up with a different excuse. Apologies that I can now refute piece by piece while I used to be one of those ‘non-helmet-people’:

– “I have just washed my hair, it gets greasy too quickly if I wear my helmet“: buy hairnets. They’re very cheap and your hair really gets oily 75% less quickly. Trust me, I know! And another golden tip: dry shampoo!
“Oops, forgot my helmet“: Make a habit out of it to put it in your car, in the stable, in your truck (or anywhere else), along with your riding boots. Both are a standard item of your outfit (or they should be;))
“I know my horse, he’s good and doesn’t spook“: I also thought I knew Donato well. Until after ten days I became aware that I had woken up at the intensive care department with a fracture of the skull, cerebral hemorrhage, bruising, concussion and broken bone. Not a walk in the park.
“I only put my helmet on when I go to jump”: My accident happened when I just went for a walk with Donato. Nothing crazy at all!
“Bad habit of me”: Then make it a good habit to put it on. First your helmet, then your riding boots. After you saddle your horse. Really, after 2-3 times this already becomes a habit
“I only have one helmet and I keep it for competitions”: I understand that it can be expensive to own two helmets. But do you really want to save on your safety? Trust me, it is definitely worth the investment!
“I’m a good rider, nothing will happen to me !”: I think I’m a good rider as well, but see what happened to me. And again: I went for a walk…
“You want to show off how ‘cool’ you are“: 10/20 years ago this was the case, yes … Times have changed. You don’t know who or of what age looks up to you and dreams of becoming as good as you. Make sure you set a good example and put your helmet on first thing you do when entering the stable

Can we all put safety in the spotlight? Especially now that our sport is being portrayed as a ‘bad sport’ in times of Corona because of the high risk level, we must do everything we can to show the outside world that we are really concerned with our safety. Make safe riding the standard.

Life with a brain injury is not all roses and moonshine … I myself suffer from headaches every day, I forget things: appointments, words, … I say hand when I mean foot, I have been working part-time since the beginning of this year because my concentration level has fallen by 30-40%, I have set up a daily schedule for myself with a fixed time to get up, a fixed time to go to sleep, … If I have a party or something like that in the weekend, I have to plan it in my schedule starting from Wednesday to make sure I have had enough rest, …

The difficult thing about a brain injury is the fact that no one sees anything on the outside: I have no bruises, no plaster, no brace. Nothing about me shows that something bad has happened to me and people quickly forget (not always consciously) that I still carry a permanent injury with me for the rest of my life. A lot can happen during the first year after a brain injury, it can get better or it can get worse. I am now two years and a little further and after the visit to the neurologist in December it is 95% sure that everything will stay the way it is right now.

So please: wear your helmet.