Many 4-H equine clubs throughout the province already have a mandatory helmet policy in place at the club level. As of October 1, 2011, a mandatory helmet requirement will be implemented for young and inexperienced members of all clubs province- wide.
We wanted to be more progressive in the areas of risk management and injury prevention for our equine 4-H members, says Stacy Price, president of the Alberta 4-H Council about the new policy. It is important young riders become comfortable with a helmet requirement at 4-H events so they will also choose to wear a helmet when they are riding at home or on their own. We hope equestrian helmets will just become part of the proper clothing 4-H members don before mounting a horse, regardless of where they are riding.
Under the new policy, 4-H members in Horsemanship Levels I, II, and III, or those born after December 31, 2000 will be required to wear a helmet while mounted. Parents, guardians, 4-H leaders and 4-H members all need to be on board for the new policy implementation this fall to be successful, says Price.
Even with experience and a docile animal, horseback riding has the potential to be dangerous, says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety co-ordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD). The most skilled horseperson on a well-trained horse can t possibly predict every move, especially on an animal that is hard-wired to flee from danger. There is actually a higher rate of injury per hour of exposure in horseback riding than in other notably high-risk sports like downhill skiing, motor-cycle racing, and hang-gliding.
Head injuries are one of the most difficult injuries to recover from, notes Lubeck. Studies have shown that wearing a helmet while riding can reduce the potential for head injury by up to 80 per cent.
However, not just any helmet will do. Equestrian helmets are designed to specifically protect riders from head injuries caused from horseback riding scenarios; bicycle and ATV helmets are not. An equestrian helmet covers more of the head than either a bicycle or ATV helmet and has been tested and approved for the proper crush rate to provide riders with the optimum protection.