Professionals as role models

Something I saw last week on Instagram bothered me a little. Lainey Ashker posted a pic of her before dressage at the Carolina CIC3* and she was wearing a top hat. Normally when I see this I just roll my eyes and think the person is an idiot (natural selection at it’s finest!), but I guess this one bothered me a little more because so many of LA’s almost 5,000 Instagram followers, and fans in general, are kids. You don’t see William Fox-Pitt with a super active Insta and Facebook, creating a bit of a “relationship” with us commoners, even though his wearing of a top hat does trigger the same eye rolling from me. But Lainey is a social media butterfly, and as such her following has the demographic that you’d expect: young and impressionable. There’s a lot of worship going on in the comments of most of her Instagram photos. I think that’s what bothers me slightly more about this one than WFP.

instalaney

I’m all for people having the right to do what they choose, even if that choice is stupid. But I guess at some point that line is blurred for me when the person in question is what could be considered a role model and public figure. At what point do you think the pros/upper level riders should care more about setting a good example than their own personal fashion sense?

I personally think she looked so much better, and so much smarter, in this picture from showing dressage in Wellington:

instalaney2

When USEventing posted a pic of LA at Carolina on their Instagram account someone made a remark about the top hat. LA’s mom was quick to jump to her defense with this comment:

instavalash

I have to admit, here’s where my eye rolling intensified to such a grandiose level my eyeballs almost fell out. You’re joking, right? Woo, go ‘Murica! Woo, head injuries are my god-given right! If you make me put a helmet on, you’re anti-America! Everybody wave your American flags!

Be cool and wave it like Beezie

I’m a little torn here, because LA and her mom are not wrong. It IS totally legal to wear a top hat, and it IS her right to do so. In general I’m a flaming liberal and am all about people being able to make choices for themselves. But I guess the word for how I feel about it is disappointed. I’m disappointed that there are some pro’s out there who, despite having lots of people that look up to them and even borderline worship them, opt for the selfish choice. I’m disappointed that Lainey is only one of many. I’m disappointed that in this day and age where we have seen so many people taken down by head injuries, most of which happen in the “dumbest” of ways, people still choose to go unprotected. I’m disappointed that anyone would choose fashion over safety. I’m disappointed that people are too selfish to protect themselves as much as possible, because if you end up with a TBI you aren’t the only one whose life is forever changed. I’m disappointed that helmets are not mandatory for FEI competition… and yet I’m also disappointed that it’s necessary to force people to wear a helmet. We are smarter than this, aren’t we?

mind your melon t-shirt, available at shophuntclub.com

How do you feel about it? Should everyone be free to wear whatever they choose without scrutiny? Should pro’s be considered role models and therefore held to higher expectations? What do you think when you see someone come down centerline in a top hat instead of a helmet?

53 thoughts on “Professionals as role models

  1. I think you bring up really valid points. I personally think you are an idiot if you ride without a helmet, but I guess that’s your choice. Normally I don’t care because as adults if you make a stupid choice that is your own fault, but I recently saw a maybe 7 year old riding a ~17hh QH in hunter under saddle with nothing on her head. WHERE THE HELL ARE HER PARENTS?

    Like

      1. I can definitely agree with that! Especially when she shows in a cowboy hat for western. Why would she wear a helmet for english, then? So frustrating and disappointing that trainers AND parents don’t speak up about it.

        Like

  2. Sure she’s got the right to do what she wants, but you are right, she is a role model, and needs to take that into consideration. Young kids look up to her, the next generation wants to be her. She put herself out there as a role model, along with that goes responsibility and leadership.
    This always reminds of the days when people were appalled that they would be forced to wear a seat belt. Wow, so sorry the law tried to safe your life!
    Oh BTW, I love your blog!! 🙂

    Like

  3. I absolutely agree that pro riders, famous or not, are role models. I also think the role model title applies to trainers.

    Personally, I think it’s totally stupid to not wear a helmet whenever you ride a horse, whether it’s for a minute just to get a photo, or for a full-fledged lesson in an arena: horses are just too unpredictable NOT to wear a helmet. I get that top hats are completely legal in dressage, that they are tradition (or at least have been tradition) and wearing helmets in dressage hasn’t always been the case. But once you become a pro rider and/or a trainer, I think you become a role model as well. Hundreds of thousands of riders look at famous pro riders like Beezie and WFP and probably want to emulate their every move, and I think people in that kind of spotlight should always try to set the best example. And whether you train with GM or your local yokel trainer, trainer are role models too…isn’t that why we ride with trainers in the first place? People in the horse world, famous or not, are probably role models to someone, and those people should always keep the safety of the rider AND horse in mind at all times. MIND YOUR MELON.

    /soapbox dismount.

    Like

    1. Not only is a trainer a role model; he or she wields a great deal of influence on some students eager to please. When it’s pushing the sellier sponsor, the worst that can happen is a saddle which may not be ideal for the student.

      When it’s failing to demonstrate safe riding practices? No. Just unforgivable.

      Agree with your other comments as well.

      Like

  4. Just because something is your legal right does not mean you should not exercise that right thoughtfully. If you choose to exercise your right not to wear a helmet, I will in return exercise my own right to free speech and call you a fucking idiot.

    No one is “taking away Lainey’s choice” to wear a helmet. They’re simply pointing out that her choice is endangering the health and safety of others. If she wants to be a top rider, and a role model, and someone to look up to, then not wearing a helmet is a selfish, childish, and hazardous choice.

    Like

  5. Oh man. HUGE eye roll at Laine’s mom. Wow. Honestly, role-model or not, I don’t usually get in anyone’s business about top hat v. helmet or schooling w/o a helmet. It’s their choice, and I just can’t seem to muster up more care for their head than they have. I do judge them, though. Oh man. So much judgement.

    I do really love being able to cheer for and advocate those riders wearing helmets at all levels like Charlotte Dujardin, Silva Martin, and my trainer’s trainer Luis Denizard. I know that for many of those big name riders, the change in their headwear came about the hard way — they lost or nearly lost someone close to them or had an injury themselves. That’s too hard of a price to pay, in my opinion.

    Honestly, I have had my share of terrifying accidents and concussions from my time with horses. I wear my helmet 99% of the time, even when the horse I’m on is super steady. Anything can happen.

    Like

  6. I don’t think top hats should be legal in dressage. I think the sport will eventually move that way *fingers crossed*. It frustrates me that role models don’t set a better example for young people. When I was in pony club we had a mandatory helmet we had to watch every year, it really stuck with me and now I am a helmet nerd. Teenage me was a bit rebellious and didn’t always wear a helmet, I’m lucky I didn’t pay for that stupidity.

    Like

    1. I didn’t always wear a helmet as a kid either (in fact, I usually only wore one to jump, and it was a hunt cap not a helmet) mainly because that’s what all my trainers and everyone else did. If everyone else had a worn a helmet, I probably would have too. That’s what you do at that age. I also feel like I was really lucky and think that helmet safety is a big deal… something that every young rider needs to understand.

      Like

  7. Another example of tradition gone awry… 😉

    Isn’t she the only one who wore a helmet at Rolex a few years back? Maybe I have her confused with someone else. Sinead? I dunno. I get the up and comers confused.

    Anyways. 100% agree. She’s a role model for kids and she needs to do better.

    Like

    1. That was Allison Springer on Arthur – I think Lainey is one of the last of the top hat holdouts from the younger generation. I’ve never seen her in a helmet in dressage unless required.

      Like

  8. The response from about ‘murica and top hat choice is laughable in my opinion. Way to represent yourself (as an idiot) through social media! Honestly I don’t get too up in flames about top hats with professionals. I wish they would wear them, but it bothers me less when an adult professional wears a top hat than when a 10 y/o barrel racer runs around at 30mph without one. I wish our western “heroes” would start setting a better example… english is pretty well covered in my opinion.

    Like

    1. For me I’m equally bothered. Mostly because if you look at the accidents that have caused some of the worst TBI’s lately, it’s silly things like a horse tripping and falling or spooking. That can happen to anyone, even at a walk. IMO as soon as you swing your leg over a horse the risk is there, and very real. To me there is no difference.

      Like

    2. Sometimes the libertarians forget who pays for serious injuries when the result is lifelong and the care is expensive. Back when many riders went uninsured, savings easily was wiped out. Both bankruptcy and Medicaid are structured to keep the recipient from leading a terrible life, but the debt gets spread out amongst the rest of society.

      Just a thought for those who still think Top Hat = Free Dumb.

      Like

  9. I went through a period of time in my younger years where I didn’t wear a helmet unless I was jumping. I felt like I was safe because I knew my horse 100%. The next horse I had was a baby warmblood that was very *ahem* athletic and very convinced that if she tried hard enough to be naughty she wouldn’t have to work. I wore a helmet every time I rode that mare and have been wearing a helmet every ride ever since.

    I can remember back in the day where I would watch trainers jump horses over sizeable fences not wearing a helmet. I do think helmets should be required for all equestrian activities. Why wouldn’t you want to protect yourself?

    Like

    1. I still see it quite a bit – professionals schooling horses o/f without a helmet. I guess it takes a long time (or a traumatic event) to change peoples habits and perceptions.

      Like

  10. Different discipline (and even arguably one where helmets are less common), but HN did a nice spotlight on barrel racer Fallon Taylor’s decision to wear a helmet: http://www.horsenation.com/2014/12/09/fallon-taylor-is-taking-las-vegas-in-a-helmet/

    I think she’s been keeping it up, and has a cute hashtag to boot #WhatTheHelmet. She’s somewhat of a fashion icon in her arena, so her decision really makes a statement to followers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is awesome. I tried to show at quarter horse shows when I was very young. My horse was a QH, and my mom had lots of friends do it. Now, we didn’t fit in anyway (no headset, only ones who really did hunter hack and jumping courses with their flat classes, etc) but as a kid, I looked around at everyone in the schooling, no one wearing helmets.. And I was so perplexed! Nice to see more helmet work in those disciplines and areas.

      Like

  11. FEI could solve this so easily by just requiring it. I’m not a hardliner either way about helmets (totally would never get on my horse without one at this point), but I do think that athletes that say they can do whatever they want, regardless of whether children idolize them, are assholes. And as an aside, quoting de Tocqueville and understanding de Tocqueville are not the same thing, crazy horse show mom demonstrates.

    Like

  12. If I were her and had been in at least one serious accident, I’d absolutely wear a helmet. I do think Pro riders should be help to some sort of standard, particularly as a role model. After two concussions I won’t ride without a helmet and I was wearing a helmet both of those times.

    Like

  13. Pretty sure LA was in a coma after a fall xc where her horse died. Um, she should be STRONGLY advocating wearing helmets!
    And I believe in our rights as Americans, but think common sense should prevail!
    Well done, well written!

    Like

    1. Yes she was, which is another reason why it’s so baffling to me. I would truly like to understand why, because I just don’t get it, and the tradition or “this is america” arguments just don’t work.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I honestly wish helmets were mandatory in every competition regardless of the level or the discipline. It would stop all this nonsense. On a personal note, my boyfriend competes in Paso Fino competitions which are now recognized by the USEF, and they all wear these little straw hats. You can’t imagine how happy I would be if they all had no choice but to wear helmets! Until that day, there is no way any of them will. I can however insist that my bf to wear a helmet whenever he trail rides with me. So at least I don’t have to drag his carcass back to the barn when he cracks his scull open. 🙂 I joke, but seriously, it’s a start.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. It is such a shame we have to force people to wear helmets. Just the other day I was with a horse who wasn’t mine and after riding it I proceeded to handwalk her. It was raining and I chose to wear my helmet to keep the rain out of my face. The horse proceeded to bolt out of nowhere and I was almost run over. I was so thankful for my helmet (and gloves!). Imo her and her parents are morons for supporting tophats.

    Like

  16. The flip side of rights is responsibilities…

    Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should

    I seem to remember that a while back LA was involved in a controversial rotational fall on cc,
    where she lost her horse as well as sustained a very serious head injury, so this misdirected rant about America and freedom from her mother is puzzling…

    Like

  17. I honestly don’t think anyone should be riding without a helmet. Even the argument that “you’re an adult, it’s your choice” isn’t really true. It’s your choice, but it’s my tax dollars that will pay for your medicare/disability for the rest of your life if you’re severely injured and not independently wealthy. It’s also a choice you’re making that effects the people in your life directly. Who will care for you when you can no longer feed yourself? Probably your family. Who will be punished by grief if you die? Again, your family. And in that case, probably also your horse. Horses that kill people are a liability to sell. Unless you have a will set up that has your horse living at a retirement home in case of injury/death, “your choice” to ride without a helmet may be taking away your horse’s choice to not be euthanized.

    Like

  18. Good topic. In my opinion, today’s modern helmets give us little excuse to not wear one. I used to be really bad about wearing a helmet. I only put one on if I was playing a polo game or jumping big jumps. I would seriously take horses out to GALLOP around the track and just wear a baseball cap… STUPID, I know. I didn’t have a life changing accident or anything, I just bought a new helmet… Once I started wearing my Samshield, I sort of run out of excuses, because honestly, it was just as comfortable and cool as a baseball cap. Long gone are the days of hot, smelly, heavy, velvet helmets.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m pretty much 100% in agreement with you here. As soon as you become a role model, you have to live up to that title.
    My worst was one riding facility where I was told that “safety is in the head, not on the head” and judged for wearing a helmet. I was one of 40-60 kids on a riding camp, some as young as seven or eight years old, riding for up to six hours a day on the trails, and I was one of maybe three kids with protected heads. Stuff of nightmares.
    I also recently read a news article about a young girl that had been killed falling off onto her head on the trails (unclear whether she had a helmet or not – even helmets aren’t a guarantee). Her mare waited beside her until the ambulance came… waited for a rider that would never wake up. So that’s why I always ride with a helmet – not for me, but for the people who love me and for the horses that would wait beside me.

    Like

  20. i honestly tend to be pretty laissez faire about the choices individuals make for themselves. my general limit is when one person’s decisions/actions can potentially impact others.

    but i also think it’s foolish for people in a position of power or influence to not consider that others (especially children!!!!) are emulating them or using them to justify risky behavior

    Like

  21. You know my thoughts. LA should know better after the backlash from Frodo Baggins. She has a history of making poor choices, and is probably why she is never selected to the team.

    “If you think your hair is more important than your brain, you are probably right. Wear a helmet”.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Having lost the person I loved to a TBI, even though it wasn’t horse-related, I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again, IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU, IT’S ABOUT EVERYONE WHO CARES ABOUT YOU. So nope, I have no mercy — strap it on, because it’s just plain selfish not to.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I always always wear a helmet when I ride, a) because my horse is a mental patient and b) because I like my brain intact thankyouverymuch. Helmets should be worn at all times but it’s not right to force people and it’s not right that people have to be forced. I personally think that a helmet looks much better than a top hat, as long as it’s not a gross fuchsia troxel.

    Like

  24. After breaking her neck twice, perhaps she is aiming for a 3rd time?? Mom seems to be in full support of more hospital trips…

    Laine notoriously makes poor choices and would not, by any means, represent America well or to the fullest here or abroad. I think the USEF knows what it is doing when leaving her out of the selection pool and I know a whole lot of us out here that are grateful for that.

    LA’s fans are extremely young, most of them too young to be aware of her tumultuous eventing past and I am afraid for their emulation of her. Parents – please be careful who you choose as a trainer for your child!!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s