Miles & Minutes, VIII

ah-helmet-300x235Editor’s Note: NickerNews and BestHorsePractices started working with Troxel Helmets last year in offering a series we call “Ah-Helmet Moments!”

The series was spurred by the popular response to Dr. Steve Peters’ article on why he swapped his cowboy hat for a helmet. Read it here.

Ah-Helmet Moments have featured scores of stories in which readers share their Ah-Helmet moments, when they thought, “I need to protect my noggin!”

As Raechel Nelson approaches the time for her first ride aboard her 4-year old mustang, Alita, she’s having her own moment of pause.

Read more Miles & Minutes.

By Raechel Nelson

My mom wanted a ballerina. She got a cowgirl. She embraced it, but said, “can’t you at least wear a helmet?”

‘But Mom,’ I remember answering. ‘Cowgirls don’t wear helmets!’

The compromise: I wore a helmet on the motorcycle and on the bicycle…because THOSE are dangerous! Thus, went the first 20+ years of my life as a non-helmet-wearing “cowgirl.”  College and dental school happened. Now, I’m 32 years old with a professional career and a husband who cares deeply for me. He has dutifully taken up the “Why don’t you wear a helmet?” torch.

The new lid!

The new lid!

I concede (not aloud) that he makes a few good points in his argument: I don’t want to leave him with a huge financial burden or with the emotional pain of watching a loved one suffer a brain injury.

I think to myself:

If we had kids, I’d make them wear helmets. But for myself? Here’s my list of excuses:

  • I’ve been doing things my way for too long to change now.
  • It’ll do more harm than good.
  • How can I focus with some big blob on my head distracting me from my work?”

Meanwhile, I’ve watched friends and family members receive serious brain injuries on horses.  But I’m a cowgirl.  Cowgirls don’t wear helmets.  

Then, I signed myself up for something I’ve never done before, a grand adventure like I’ve never imagined: I adopted a beautiful four year old mustang mare. The intensity of the experience and the depths of the bond forming have been amazing. I want to be the first person on the back of this horse.  Second or third ride isn’t acceptable.

She’s MY horse. And I need to be alive to tell about it.  ‘Swallow that cowgirl pride, Raechel,’ I say to myself.

Ali awaits

Ali awaits

So I made a plan, worked with BestHorsePractices and their Ah-Helmet Moment series to receive a beautiful new Troxel Cheyenne helmet. It came with recommendations of good friends as well as good reviews. I believe I am worthy of being the first person up there. My plan is to be a lighter, leaner, stronger, stretchier,  and safer Raechel.

The Cheyenne is a good choice. Its patterned leather so it looks like something a cowgirl might wear. Still a bit skeptical, I took this cumbersome beast (the helmet) for a trial ride knowing my brain likely would be so squashed with its weight that I wouldn’t be able to think about what I was doing with my horse. But, wow, it was almost more comfortable than my winter beanie! It’s lightweight, cool, and barely noticeable. I can do this –  Cowgirl Up!

As I’m striving to fulfill the rest of “the plan,” I’m wearing my helmet, staying safe, and earning the right to partner with this lovely mare.  As my parents told me, I can be passionate about what I do without letting the culture of it define me.

Sometimes even cowgirls break the mold for the humans and horses they love.

Read more Miles & Minutes.


  1. Wow! I love this! The maturity of getting out of the pre-defined mold. Our brains (head) are more a part of us than almost anything else. Why would we not want to preserve that? Kudos Raechel. P.S. I love that Dennis 🙂

  2. Awesome making a decision for wearing a helmet. I’ve worn a helmet all my riding life and I’ve heard all the excuses for others not wearing them. The risk just isn’t worth the excuses. I encourage folks to try different helmets on, some will fit much better than others. A great fitting helmet will feel like you have nothing on your head, no tightness…no headache. I applaud you Raechel for your decision!

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