alt*UPDATE* - Following the distribution of a press release containing the following information, Alberta 4-H reconsidered their decision and pulled their new helmet policy. Helmets will continue to be "recommended".

Alberta 4-H has taken a big step forward in an effort to make their equine programs safer for 4-H youth. Effective October 1, 2010, it will be a requirement that a properly fitted ASTM/SEI (American Society for Testing and Materials Safety Equipment Institute) or BSI (British Standards Institution) approved equestrian helmet be worn for all mounted 4-H events. This policy was put in place to reduce the risk of horseback riding injuries at 4-H events.

Statistics for head trauma due to horseback riding incidents are alarming. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 20 per cent of injuries in young riders are to the central nervous system. The majority of these injuries are cerebral contusions, concussions, or skull fractures. It has been shown that the use of approved helmets has been associated with a decline in the occurrence of severe head injuries.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information states that all degrees of head trauma severity can have important and long-term implications, but moderate to severe traumatic head injuries can significantly impair physical, cognitive, emotional and social functioning. A mandatory helmet policy is a proactive way to reduce the risk of head trauma – a serious and often irreversible injury – associated with horseback riding.

The new helment policy has not been welcomed with open arms by all 4-H participants and parents. Following are some of their comments along with the responses from 4-H.

"It’s my head (my child’s head) and it should be my choice to take that risk." - At an organized event where liability is involved, safety is everyone’s business.

"A helmet is an added cost, especially when I have more than one child in 4-H." - The cost of a helmet is minimal compared to many other aspects of horse ownership and much less than the health care costs associated with a serious head injury. The price of an approved helmet is around $60.

"A helmet looks ugly and it doesn’t follow traditional western riding attire." - Most western gear and equipment is designed for safety, comfort and work. Even the traditional cowboy hat was designed to protect the rider from the elements. Approved helmets come in a variety of designs from traditional western styling with stitched leather finish to conventional English hunt cap styling to helmets with an assortment of colours and decals to suit the event or wearer. They have become progressively more popular in all disciplines of riding, including western and stock horse events.  altaltaltaltalt

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Helmets are uncomfortable and hot." - Helmets have evolved to focus on comfort as well as safety. They come in a wide range of sizes and shapes to fit all heads including some models with varying degrees of adjustability. Some helmets have removable sweat-wicking liners while others have soft foam padding. Newer technology has allowed for decreased weight and increased ventilation without compromising the safety structure.

"My child is an experienced rider and has a very safe horse. She or he does not need to wear a helmet." - A study conducted by a team of Alberta researchers found that the highest incidents of injury occurred among the more experienced riders. Riders who reported an injury had an average of 27 years of riding experience. Source, Equestrian Injury Study: Injuries Common Among Experienced Riders, http://horses.about.com/od/choosingandusingtack/tp/Why-People-Don-t-Wear-Helmets.htm

"My child will be penalized for wearing a helmet in the show ring." - No 4-H member will be allowed to ride without a helmet in the show ring. All judges used by the 4-H program understand and appreciate the value of wearing a helmet.

"I already have a (bicycle, ATV, hockey) helmet that I wear." - ASTM/SEI and BSI approved helmets are the only head protection equipment tested for the various scenarios of horseback riding. They take into consideration the height of a potential fall, speed and terrain (they are designed to skid on the ground, and less likely to catch trees while riding in the bush etc.) and absorb impact by sharp objects (hooves). They are lightweight, so as not to interfere with balance of the rider, and protect all around the skull without impairing vision. For these reasons, bicycle, ATV, snowmobile, skiing and other extreme sports helmets are not adequate.

It is common for riders who have experienced a head injury to begin wearing a helmet after the accident. The new 4-H policy responds to the question, "Why wait?", putting helmets on heads before they are injured. This forward thinking new 4-H policy will protect the riders as well as the programs they participate in.

 

2018

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