You may not realize that when you're sitting on a horse you sit at least 8 feet (2.4 meters) off the ground. A fall from that height could send you to the emergency room with fractures and contusions, if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, you could be facing permanent brain damage.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) may cause mild to severe symptoms depending on how much damage the has brain suffered, including loss of consciousness, headaches, blurred vision and confusion, as well as changes in behavior, mood, memory, sleep patterns and thinking -- among other serious problems such as skull fractures, subdural hematomas and brain hemorrhages.
Injuries from equestrian accidents caused more TBIs between 2001 and 2005 in the U.S. than any other sport [source: AANS]. Head injuries account for 18 percent of all riding injuries, and cause nearly 60 percent of riding-related deaths [sources: AANS, EMSA].
For the most protection while horseback riding, wear a helmet (with harness) designed for equestrians and approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)/Safety Equipment Institute (SEI).