I had a conversation with some other riders the other day about helmets. We were talking about how in the western world its not really something that is pushed on riders, except for under 18. However, generally, once they turn 18, that helmet comes off.
I generally don't ride with a helmet western (unless I don't know or feel uncomfortable on a horse), but I always wear a helmet when I'm english, or when I'm planning on doing more than walking bareback.
We were talking about how if a helmet gives you a false sense of confidence, then theres no reason to take it off! I feel the opposite way. When I put a helmet on when I'm riding western, it makes me feel uneasy, as if I am expecting to be endangered (unless I'm on a horse I don't feel comfortable on).
I know, its dangerous. I've heard alllll of the statistics, I get it. What is funny is that I have fallen more times western off of pony than I have english or bareback. So obviously I don't have my helmet rules based on experience!
Anyways, I grew up doing gymnastics, and if theres one thing I can do, it is fall. I have never been close to even hitting my head. I simply KNOW how to fall. My instincts take over, I keep my body in a neutral position, I let my body absorb my fall, not an arm or a leg (hellllo it took me a dislocated elbow to figure that one out.) Anyways, they focus a lot on proper falling in gymnastics, so I've got falling covered.
Anyways, my point of this post was about confidence, and how much it can change your riding.
Me and pony have been having loping bareback problems. It's the transition, not the gait that I have a problem with. I think that I had been asking her differently since I was bareback and slightly nervous. I was asking, and then releasing pressure, so she would pick it up for a step and then come back down to a trot, since I wasn't following through, and then she would give me a terrible trot, I'd get thrown on my crotch, it would hurt and I'd have to stop and regroup.
So we worked a lot on transitions yesterday, and today I jumped on her bareback. However, I put a fleece pad and a bareback pad on her, which I NEVER do. I figured it would give me a little sense of security, no matter how false that 'secure' feeling is. Because lets be honest, that little bit of fabric isn't going to hold you on.
However, it made the WORLD of difference in our riding!
I was more comfortable, and therefor more confident. Even though my secure feeling was completely false, and I knew it, it made me more confident, and in turn I was able to ask her for a transition the same way I can ask for it in a saddle, therefor giving her proper direction. It was so great!
She was able to pick up her lope in the direction I asked (another one of our problems before was I was too strong with cue leg, and had no inside leg on, so she would just trot in a tight circle) and hold it until I asked her to stop.
Also I think the extra padding helped me not be uncomfortable and stay relaxed when she gave me a less than slow jog trot. (Helllo broken tailbone! Always uncomfortable!)
I just think that confidence goes SO FAR in our riding, in whatever form that comes in! If it means wearing a helmet, if it means having a pad underneath you, having a neck strap, whatever it is, if it gives you confidence, use it! (As long as you don't rely on an unsafe object!)