Many 4-H equine clubs throughout the province already have a mandatory helmet policy in place at the club level. As of Oct. 1, 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. “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 Dec. 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 horse-back riding than in other notably high-risk sports like downhill skiing, motor-cycle racing, and hang-gliding.”
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.
When buying an equestrian helmet, make sure to look for helmets that have been approved by at least one of the following standard-setting organizations: the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM), the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) or, the British Standards Institute (BSI).