Brain Injury Awareness Month: Mind Your Melon

Brain Injury Awareness Month continues.  Fellow rider Dominique Gonzalez shares her own #mindyourmelon tale.

I’m no stranger on having to “Mind My Melon.” Within the last two years, I have experienced three concussions. Two of these concussions were within a few weeks of one another. 

Photo by Equestrian Australia.

I’ve personally tried to stay out of the constant debate of helmet vs. no helmet, as it can spark hours of constant back and forth.  You can fall into the big abyss of online discussion forums that contain heated debates of just about anything. In debates like these, you can state your opinion, but it doesn’t mean it will change anyone else’s. 

Studies by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that horseback riding is the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries among sports-related recreational activities. Even with this in mind, helmets are still up for debate. 

For the most part, I have always been on the “wearing helmets” side.  However, during hot, summer Florida days, I used to flat my horses without helmets since I was already past the age of 18 and knew these horses were safe. I would occasionally question my antics but ushered them aside with the excuse that it was extremely hot and sticky out, and feeling the wind in my hair cooled me off. 

Photo by Stockholm Horse Show.

The following winter season, I had a fall in the jumper ring that came from a freak accident. I was jumping into a triple combination, and my foot slipped out of the stirrup on the B option.  My horse jumped me out on C. The next thing I knew, I had slammed onto the ground and momentarily blacked out. I was disorientated, and when a jump crew member came to aid me as I got up, I couldn’t hear his words over the ringing in my ears. My dad came to check on me as I was walking my horse back out of the ring and went through the usual questions:

“Are you okay?”

“Does anything hurt?”

I said I was fine, but my head did hurt a little. 

You never think it will be you who will endure these types of injuries. When you strap on your helmet and hop into the saddle, you don’t think you’ll be the next person to get injured. I always put off injuries like they were nothing and in this case thought I was tough to move on. 

I put my symptoms and pain aside and continued to show the rest of the day, because it was my job; I couldn’t just stop in the middle of the day. I have gotten this mentality from the horse show world where taking a break or having to step back makes you lose the momentum you had been gaining. I didn’t tell my parents about the headaches I had been getting till a week after the incident, when I was becoming concerned. A few weeks after that, I endured my second concussion due to another freak accident. 

Most of these freak accidents turn out to be the worst falls that you endure. I told my parents about my symptoms growing, and my mom pushed me to get my head scanned. Without my helmet, I would have been left in a far worse condition. A few bruises will never compare to the permanent damage you could do to yourself without a helmet.  At any time online, you can see several posts from top riders who have praised their helmet from keeping them from severe injuries. I won’t tell you to wear one, but it can help prevent the worst.

Photo by

If you believe you have a concussion, watch out for these symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Physical signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:

    • Headache
    • Ringing in the ears
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Fatigue or drowsiness
    • Blurry vision

Other signs and symptoms of a concussion include:

    • Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
    • Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
    • Dizziness or “seeing stars”

Helmets can prevent incredible damage from happening to your melon, and I am sure to continue wearing mine after my concussions.

#mindyourmelon and Go Jumping!