June 15, 1995 in Washington Voices

Wear Helmets On Horseback Rides

Debbie Lenius

On Oct. 28, 1988, my three daughters left with a group of other kids from the Northeast Community Center for horseback riding at a local stable.

As a caring, protecting mom, I hoped and assumed my girls would have fun and return home safe, excited and full of new memories.

But that’s not the way it turned out.

At the end of the ride, my daughter Pollie’s horse took off in a full, dead run toward the stable. Pollie could not hold on.

She fell off her horse on her head. She had a severe head injury and was declared brain dead the next day. The love of my life was gone.

My older daughters, Pattie and Pennie, were devastated, and her younger brother, Jeremy, was only 4 years old. I didn’t know what to say.

How could I explain? I didn’t have the answers. I didn’t know how to help their pain or my own.

I finally decided to try to make a difference. My prayer was to help save a life, to prevent another parent from going through the pain we have.

We donated Pollie’s organs, and I became a guest speaker for Sacred Heart Medical Center and the Organ Procurement Agency. Even through death, Pollie continues to give.

Last October I heard about a Spokane Valley woman who was making a horseback-riding helmet-safety video. I was thrilled. She was doing something I would have liked to do but did not have the knowledge or strength for.

Her name is Jean Gulden, a 4-H leader and mother of three. She has dedicated the past year of her life to this video, “Every Time … Every Ride.”

It is a powerful video with a very important message. In my heart, I am sure a helmet would have made the difference between life and death for Pollie.

Helmets were available at the stable but were not offered.

Had I only known.

If I’d known the dangers (height and speed), maybe our story would have a different ending.

Helmet-safety awareness needs to be told. I assumed a ride on a beautiful horse would be fun and the kids would be safe.

I’ve learned, never assume. Wear a safety helmet every time, every ride, every horse.

Our life has been forever changed. There’s a hole in my life and in my heart.

Maybe with the video someone’s child will live.

The video was to be completed in June. It was to be narrated by actor Christopher Reeve. As you may have read, Mr. Reeve was critically injured in a fall from a horse.

Hopefully, someone else will complete the video soon. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Reeve.


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