Sunday, 17 July 2011

Helmets on Children - Optional or Not?

The owner of a Facebook group I follow posted a photo of her son (no more than 3 years old I think, however I am bad with aging children) sitting in a pony. He was in an adult sized aussie stock saddle, was barefoot, could not reach the stirrups, and had no helmet on. The pony was a rescue, and to be fair there was someone standing out of frame holding the pony.

I would usually shake my head in silence at this, as I am not one for Facebook drama (plus I have no children and this seems to be a point raised when I question parenting practices). But I had to pipe up this time, asking where were his boots, where was his helmet? The response from the mother (I assume mother, could have been the father) was that the kid has a problem with helmets. I then stated that if he had a problem with helmets, then maybe he should not be on a pony. The mother stated that she could let him do what he wanted, he was her kid.

I said one last thing to the effect of "That's your prerogative I suppose, but when he falls off and your heart is in your throat wondering if his scull is cracked or not, remember that you knew better. I hope that never happens for his sake".

Of course, there was a barrage of people saying I should mind my own business, etc etc. One person liked my comments. Five minutes later, the picture was taken down.

I may have been harsh, I may have been out of line, but if the next time that kid asks for a pony ride and the mother remembers my comment and puts at least a helmet on him, then I honestly think my comment is worth it.

In my opinion, helmets on children (especially young children) are not negotiable. If you are an adult and don't wear a helmet, that is 100% your choice, you have the right to risk your life if you want. However kids must always wear proper safety gear. I even advocate helmets on kids when handling horses, and when my niece was littler (about 4?) and she came to ride my sister's old retired pony, she had a helmet and boots even for just being around the horses, and when riding she had short stirrups she could reach, a leader for the pony and a walker to hold her leg in case anything happened. She is now 7, and doesn't handle my young horses, ever. Not even to go in the paddock to pat them (over the fence or stable door is ok).  It is not worth the risk.

I believe that a child has almost no sense of mortality. Sure they know that if they fall off it will hurt, but death is not something young kids can comprehend. The parent or guardian needs to enforce the safety rules of riding and handling horses, same as you teach them to look both ways before crossing the street and not to talk to strangers. There is enough danger in this world for kids to get messed up in, they don't need the possibility of a direct hoof to the skull too.

Anyone's opinions differ?


Anonymous said...

I agree COMPLETELY with you on this one. As a mother of a young child myself who owns horses I am absolutely shocked that she is so blind to the risks she is taking with her child. Horses are unpredictable animals with their first reaction being "flight", they don't hang around to see what will happen and whether someone is holding the pony or not is completely irrelevant as if the pony did spook they would take that person with them anyway. Young children do not have the capacity to connect risk and consequence like adults do and that is what parents or guardians are for, to keep the child safe. You had every right to say what you did, I know I bloody well would have!

Funder said...

You're right; kids aren't competent to consent to the inherent risks (in American legal terms). You're living your truth better than me - I never call my redneck FB friends on it when they put up pics of tiny kids barefoot around horses, riding without helmets, etc. I am a noninterference person at heart. :) But my future rugrats will definitely have boots & helmets if they want to go NEAR my horse!

Dom said...

I've always been of the mind set that adults can make their own decisions re:safety, but parents are responsible for their kids and helmets should be required if you're under 18. Parents who don't protect their kids should have them taken away. This makes me sick and I don't even like kids.

Kelly said...

I think of my helmet the same as putting on my seat belt in the car - wouldn't think Not to put it on!

My 17 yr old is the same - I know a helmet has saved her pretty head many times :)