University of Vermont AAHS


February 2000, Vol. XI, Number 1

 Table of Contents

New York's Riding Helmet Legislation
Equestrian Helmet Fact Sheet
Update: The Aurora, Ontario Horse Riding Establishment By-law
AMEA Comments
Nature vs. Nurture
What Is Good Riding?
Questions and Answers
Attributions for Equestrian Accidents
AMEA News Items

Return to AMEA Page

New York Equestrian Helmet Legislation

Bradley M. Pinsky, J.D./M.H.A.

On September 7, 1999, Governor Pataki signed a bill into law, which is intended to reduce the severity of injuries to some riders of horses. While the amendments themselves are not complicated, each of them creates interesting questions which will need to be answered by a court of law. The first of the two amendments adds a new section 1265 to Article 34-B ("Riding Horses") of the Vehicle & Traffic Law and the second adds a new Section 396-DD to the General Business Law.

Article 34-B begins by stating that "These regulations applicable to horses shall apply whenever a horse is ridden or led upon any highway and upon private roads open to public motor vehicle traffic." When this law was passed in 1988, the Senate stated:

The legislature hereby finds that the riding and leading of horses upon the public highways of this state are a common occurrence. As such, both motorists and equestrians are entitled to drive and ride, respectively, in safety and each should respect the others rights to their portion of the road. Motorists must recognize that horses are animals which may become easily frightened and therefore, they should approach horses cautiously. Likewise, equestrians must ride cautiously and avoid unnecessarily obstructing traffic.

Thus, it is clear that the statute only applies to riding horses upon highways and public roads open to public motor vehicle traffic and would not apply to "off road" events such as rodeos or horse shows in arenas.

The new section 1265 provides that:

Part I. No person less than fourteen years of age shall ride a horse unless such person is wearing a helmet meeting or exceeding ASTM FI 163 Equestrian Standard For purposes of this section, "certified" shall mean that the helmet's manufacturer agrees to the rules and provisions of a system that includes independent testing and quality control audits. and that each helmet manufactured by such manufacturer is permanently marked with the certifying body's registered mark or logo before such helmet is sold or offered for sale. For the purposes of this section. wearing a helmet means having a helmet fastened securely upon the head using the manufacturer's fitting guidelines for the particular model used.

Part 2 of section 1265 provides that a person violating this section shall pay a fine up to fifty dollars. However, it restricts a police officer from issuing a summons for a violation of this section to anyone except the parent or the guardian of the rider, and even-then, only if the violation occurs in the presence of the rider's parent or guardian and if that parent or guardian is eighteen years of age or older, in no event, however, shall the summons be issued to the rider.

The law, however, in an attempt to persuade a rider to wear a helmet, states that the court shall waive a fine for a violation of this section if proof is supplied to the court that a helmet was purchased for the rider between the date of the violation and the appearance date in court. The law also provides a court with the option of waiving a fine for the violation if the rider, and presumably his or her parents, can prove that economic hardship prevented the purchasing of a helmet. Note that the first waiver discussed is mandatory but that the second waiver is at the court's option.

Although the law has yet to be subject to a court's interpretation, it will be interesting to learn whether a parent will be subject to a fine when it is aware that the child is not wearing a helmet that the child owns. A strict reading of the statute would deem the fine impermissible since the parent was not physically present when a police officer discovered the violation, but it is nonetheless hard to imagine that the legislature intended to let a parent off the hook who knew that the child was not wearing a helmet but where the officer found the rider outside the presence of the parent. The legal issue is how the words "if the violation by such person occurs in the presence of such person's parent or guardian". Arguably, the violation occurred when the person left the presence of the parent until the person was found by the police without the helmet. One might suggest that the law should reflect that a parent has a responsibility to ensure that the child wears a helmet, whether or not the parent is present when the child is physically riding the horse.

It should also be noted that the law provides that a potential plaintiffs personal failure to comply with these provisions "shall not bar, preclude or foreclose an action for personal injury or wrongful death".

The second part of the amendment imposes a significant burden upon those who rent or provide horses for a fee. This part, which amends the General Obligation Law, provides that

any person, firm, corporation or other legal entity hiring or renting out horses for riding or providing training in the riding of horses for consideration ... shall provide protective helmets to beginning riders and to riders less than fourteen years of age at no cost beyond the rental fee.

The law further requires that all riders shall be offered the use of such protective helmets regardless of their age or experience and should provide appropriate helmet safety information to all riders. The helmets required are those described in section 1265 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law.

Additionally, the law states that a knowing violation of this section shall be subject to a penalty not to exceed fifty dollars for each such violation. Presumably, the fine is imposed on the horse provider and not upon the rider.

Unfortunately, the subtle but dramatic effect of the law is that it imposes a legal duty upon the horse provider to provide a helmet. If one is not provided or if it is not worn properly, and if the rider sustains injuries which would have been presented by the proper use of a helmet, the horse provider could be found liable for the resulting injuries due to a breach of this duty.

Therefore, in an effort to prevent liability for such a breach, horse providers should strongly consider having a preprinted waiver for experienced riders and riders fourteen and older to sign if they do not wish to use a helmet. The provider should also have a policy that no rider under fourteen years of age and no inexperienced rider shall ride a horse without a helmet and without having recited proper instruction as to the use of that helmet. The horse provider should also have a standard form for all riders to read and sign which describes the "appropriate helmet safety information". This practice should help to prevent any doubt as to whether or not the riders were offered a helmet or property instructed regarding the use of a helmet. Riders should also sign a form stating that they have read and understand these instructions. Of course, the law presumes that such horse providers know what the "appropriate" helmet safety information should contain.

This new section does not attempt to regulate the typical horse show or rodeo, unless of course, the horses are rented or provided for a fee. The section likely appears to apply to camps which provide horseback riding and, interestingly enough, to pony rides at fairs and carnivals. It will be interesting to see whether such pony ride attendant instructs all the new riders on the use of helmets and provides qualifying helmets. Schools which provide horses should, at least once before anyone rides a horse, provide safety instruction and obtain an appropriate waiver from all riders, regardless of age. Such waivers should be carefully drafted.

Both new laws attempt to restrict the severity of accidents involving falls from horses. In order for the laws to be effective, those affected by these laws will have to bear the burden of compliance or face the possibility of a penalty for non-compliance.

Mr. Pinsky is an associate with the law firm of Pinsky & Skandalis in Syracuse, New York. He is also an adjunct professor teaching Sports Law at Cazenonvia College.


Equestrian Helmet Fact Sheet

Fact #1: Between 12 to 15 million persons in the United States ride a horse or pony every year.

Fact # 2. Approximately 20 percent of horse related injuries occur on the ground and not riding.

Fact # 3 Most riding injuries occur during pleasure riding.

Fact # 4. The most common reason among riders for admission to hospital and death. are head injuries.

Fact # 5: A fall from two feet (60 cm) can cause permanent brain damage. A horse elevates a rider eight feet (three meters) or more above ground.

Fact # 6: A human skull can be shattered by an impact of 7-10 kph. Horses can gallop at 65 kph.

Fact # 7: According to the National Electronic Surveillance System 1998 the most likely ages for injury is at 5-14, and 25-44 years with each decade having about 20 percent of the injuries.

Fact # 8: A rider who has one head injury has a 40 percent chance of suffering a second head injury. Children, teens and young adults are most vulnerable to sudden death from second impact syndrome: severe brain swelling as a result of suffering a second head injury before recovery from the first head injury.

Fact # 9: Death is not the only serious outcome of unprotected head injuries. Those who survive with brain injury may suffer epilepsy, intellectual and memory impairment, and personality changes.

Fact # 10. Hospital costs for an acute head injury can be in the range of $25000 per day. Lifetime extended care costs may easily exceed $3 million. There is no funding for rehabilitation outside the medical setting.

Fact # 11: Helmets work. Most deaths from head injury can be prevented by wearing ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials), SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) approved helmets that fit correctly and have the chin strap firmly applied. Other types of helmets, including bike helmets, are inadequate.

Fact # 12: Racing organizations require helmets and as a result jockeys now suffer less head injuries than pleasure riders. The US Pony Club lowered their head injury rate 29 percent with mandatory helmet use. Britain’s hospital admission rate for equestrians fell 46 percent after helmet design improved and they became in routine use.

Fact # 13: The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Medical Association through the Committee on Sports Medicine, Canadian Medical Association, and the American Medical Equestrian Association recommend that approved, fitted and secured helmets be worn on all rides by all horseback riders.


Update: The Aurora, Ontario, Horse Riding Establishment By-law

Reported September 1999, AMEA News

The Town is moving forward with its promotion of the Horse Riding Establishment by-laws for all jurisdictions in Ontario The Town has received over a dozen requests from towns and cities alike about the By-law.

A meeting is scheduled for March 2, 2000 with representatives in the municipalities of the York Region to meet with provincial officials to discuss how to make the safety reputations a province-wide requirement.

After meeting with the Province early next month. 1will update you on the future of this very important initiative.

Chris Alexander
By-law Services Coordinator
Town of Aurora, Ontario, Canada


AMEA Comments

The board of directors of AMEA continues to look after the interest of the horse industry, particularly safety and injury prevention, and as such has prepared comments and/or replies to several entities within the horse industry as pertains to actions taken in the past quarter. Following are three of these:

To New York Horse Council

The Board of Directors of the American Medical Equestrian Association, whose mission is accident and injury prevention of persons in the horse activities and reduction of the severity of injury if one occurs, endorses the medical statements prepared by the New York Horse Council. We commend your concern for the people in the horse activities and the steps you have taken to mandate ASTM SEI helmets for children and youth under the age of 14 years.

Doris Bixby Hammett, MD.
Member, Board of Directors
American Medical Equestrian Association


To Canadian Equestrian Federation

Dear Ms. Ward,

The American Medical Equestrian Association Board of Directors voted to commend the Canadian Equestrian Federation for your leadership and concern for safety in equestrian activities by your awareness of drugs in sport, emphasizing approved protective helmets, and other safety measures for horseback riders. We ask that you forward our commendation to the members of your governing body. The American Medical Equestrian Association thanks the Canadian Equestrian Federation for their influence to encourage safety among equestrians in providing a blue print for their possible consideration.

The members of the American Medical Equestrian Association know that this Risk Management Committee will help prevent deaths and reduce the severity of injury if one occurs in equestrian activities. On behalf of those riders, we thank you.

Respectfully yours,
Dr. Janet M. Sorli


To Federation Equestere Internationale

The Board of Directors of the American Medical Equestrian Association is concerned, as are you, regarding the recent number of deaths in eventing.

1. The highest level of pre-hospital care is needed but will not save the massively injured. The USCTA has developed a Safety Manual to assist the Safety Coordinators in developing a plan for medical care at USCTA events. Although the emergency medical systems vary from country to country we encourage individual areas to develop these types of specific guidelines in order to help the organizers,

2. The Federation Equestere Internationale needs to determine the pattern and mechanism of injury by reviewing the existing studies of equestrian accidents, injuries and deaths. In addition, comments of judges/observers after all fatal and "serious" accidents should be documented and evaluated. It will benefit future studies to establish a means to collect independent observations immediately after such an incident and before these observations can be "contaminated" by group discussion. The AMEA and its members will be glad to provide information from its recorded studies of equestrian activities

3. We commend the FEI for the new provisions requiring a level of certification for horse, rider and combination for International Events and its return to pre 1999 scoring

4. Immediate assessment of injured riders to ascertain that the rider is fit to continue after an accident is difficult and unreliable. Any rider suffering a head impact should be barred from competition even if there was no loss of consciousness. A medical release must be obtained prior to riding in the next day of the event or at the next competition.

5. The AMEA commends the FEI and the BHTA for their decision to study safety standards for spacing, heights, turns, construction of jumps, water, et al on the cross country courses as well as safety equipment and its effectiveness. The improvements in protective headgear, especially ASTM/SEI, have resulted in fewer and less severe brain injuries. We commend their use and recommend their increased use in all phases.

6. We recommend that the FEI consider seriously the event riders call for increasing the time allowed on the cross-county courses and the penalties given in relation to time.

7. We feel that an event should have parity in medical personnel for the horses (veterinarians) and the riders both in number, use, importance and recognition of their service.

American Medical Equestrian Association
William Lee, MD
Doris Bixby Hammett, MD


Nature vs. Nurture: Beyond "Helmets Are Uncomfortable"


Approved equestrian protective headgear, or that which meets the American Society for Testing and Materials' (ASTM) Standard F1163, is a subject of much controversy and contention among equestrians. Despite the fact that the sport's danger of serious injury is considered similar to that of sports such as motorcycling, mountain climbing and automobile racing (Landro 1976; Lindsay et al., 1980; Firth, 1985; Whitlock et al., 1987; Avery et al., 1990), and that head injuries account for an average 20% (ranging from 11% to 80%) of equestrian injuries (Barber, 1975: Mahaley and Seaber, 1976; Gierup et al. 1976; Grossman et al., 1978; Whitlock et al., 1987: Mehult and Erikkson, 1989: Hamilton and Tranmer, 1993: Nelson et al,, 1994b; Kriss and Kriss, 1997) many equestrians fail to wear protective headgear.

Reasons for Helmet Choices

Despite the likelihood of head injury in riding accidents, few have studied helmet wearing patterns among equestrians. However, the available studies report that equestrians fail to wear helmets because of a perceived lack of comfort. They also cite that equestrians simply do not see a need for helmets, especially if the rider/horse combination is "experienced" (Condie et al., 1993; Nelson et al., 1994b; Neal, 1999). Yet, many have studied helmet wearing patterns among bicyclists. And the available bicycle helmet research concludes that rider experience or a perceived lack of comfort have little influence on whether a bicyclist chooses to wear a helmet. Many bicycle studies have touted the effect of companionship: one is more likely to wear a helmet if one's bicycling companions also wear helmets (DiGuiseppeet al. 1990 Dannenberg et al., 1993; Gielen et al., 1994; Coron et al., 1996; Martens, 1997; Liller et al., 1998). So why don't many equestrians wear approved helmets, "every time... every ride..."? Is it the nature of helmets: they're too hot, too heavy, uncomfortable, don't fit right? Or is it the way a rider is nurtured: the rider's family, friends, and/or instructor don't wear approved helmets7

Internet Survey

This study used a unique 32 question internet survey instrument to respondents about their demographic status, helmet wearing habits, horse ownership and riding habits, and self-reported helmet influences. The survey contained both closed- (yes/no; category choice; multiple category choice) and open-ended (fill-in-the-blank) questions, and allowed space at the end for comments.

This survey was strictly Web-based; it was posted on a Web page and could only be answered from that page. Notices regarding the existence of the survey, and asking for adult volunteer respondents were posted to the Usenet newsgroup, rec.equestrian, during the month of September 1996. Each notice contained a request for respondents, the purpose of the survey, an iteration of the anonymity of respondents, and a hyperlink to the survey's website. Respondents (186) were separated into two groups. Group 1 (Wearers) consisted of those 125 respondents who stated that they owned ASTM/SEI helmets and wore them for all mounted activity. Group 2 (Non-wearers) consisted of those 61 respondents who either did not own approved headgear or did not wear it for all mounted activity

Due to the impossibility of determining the number of readers who saw the newsgroup posting, there is no means of calculating a response rate for this survey. It is estimated that there were approximately 20 million North American adults who used the internet and email at least weekly in 1996 (Weible and Wallace, 1998). However, there is no data on how many people read the newsgroup, rec.equestrian. Also, a few respondents were not from North America.

Nature vs. Nurture

There was no significant difference between the groups on the basis of respondent age, sex, citizenship, employment status, employment type, or horse ownership. Surprisingly, there was also no difference based upon the respondent's level of education, although the differences did approach significance (P<0.09). Those respondents (Group 2; Non-wearers) who stated that they either did not own approved equestrian headgear or did not wear it for all mounted activity reported a variety of reasons for this choice. The most commonly cited reason for failure to wear an approved helmet for all mounted activity was helmet discomfort; this was both the most frequently cited reason (36%) overall. and the most frequently cited "most important" reason (28%). Also, when asked to choose which factor would most influence the respondent to wear a helmet, the most frequently cited influence (97%) was helmet comfort; if helmets were more comfortable, respondents stated that they would be more likely to wear them. Possibly the most interesting results of this study are those that deal with the effect of companionship and/or peer pressure. Overall, there were very few differences between the groups which approached statistical significance. However, Wearers respondents were more likely to have riding companions who also wore helmets (P<0.005). And, if other family members were also equestrians, Wearers were far more likely to report that those family members wore helmets (P<0.001).

Beyond "Helmets Are Uncomfortable"

Despite the fact that equestrians, and other equestrian surveys (Condie et al., 1993; Nelson et al., 1994a: Neal, 1999) cite poor design and a lack of comfort as factors limiting helmet use, the most significant differences between this study's groups of respondents were those relating to the effect of companionship. If a rider's friends and family members wore approved helmets for all mounted activity that rider was also more likely to wear approved protective headgear for all mounted activity. This finding suggests that use of protective headgear among equestrians is similar to use of bicycle helmets among bicyclists and child protection seats among parents: once enough people include them as a vital part of riding attire for all mounted activity, the continued increase of use will "snowball" under its own momentum.

Toward the Future

As the results of this study demonstrate, peer and family influences may be the most important factors in the decision to wear protective headgear for all mounted activity. However, as with many safety adjuncts, such as seat belts, bicycle helmets, and child safety seats, widespread use of equestrian helmets is likely to occur only after their use becomes accepted as a part of normal equestrian behavior.

Despite the fact that helmets are well designed, fit a variety of head shapes, are lightweight, well ventilated, come in a variety of colors and styles, and are relatively inexpensive, many equestrians continue to complain about their price, fit, and comfort, or allege that they somehow obstruct hearing and/or vision. In addition, many riders purport that approved helmets are less attractive than "for apparel only" hunt caps. This last complaint whether valid or not, is given weight by the admission of horse show judges that, while they prefer to see younger, less experienced riders in approved headgear, they are likely to penalize older, more experienced riders for wearing the same equipment (Neal, 1999). The following are a few suggestions for attaining the critical mass necessary to effect a shift in the perception of approved protective headgear for equestrians.

Encourage equestrian suppliers to offer for sale only approved equestrian headgear.

Encourage equestrian niche publications to adopt and enforce a policy of refusing to publish photos of any riders who are not wearing approved headgear.

Encourage professional riders and trainers nor only to wear approved headgear for all mounted activity (including shows) but to require their students, regardless of age, to do likewise. A change in the perception of equestrian helmets, and the attendant likelihood of their increased use, will truly gain momentum when professionals such as John Lyons, Robert Miller, Monty Roberts, George Morris, Katie Monahan-Prudent, Margie Goldstein, and Lendon Grey are never seen on horseback without a securely fastened ASTM/SEI approved helmet.

Exert pressure on the larger equestrian sanctioning organizations (AHSA, AQHA, USDF etc.) to adopt not only mandates for approved helmets, but prohibitions against penalizing competitors for wearing such. Unfortunately, these last two may be the most difficult of all. Professional riders often wear hunt caps because they prefer their appearance over that of an approved helmet. And some or many of them may echo statements promulgating the ideas that approved helmets are only for kids, inexperienced riders, or green horses. Many professional riders are also judges; they may be among those who penalize riders for wearing approved helmets. Although some riders may continue to cite discomfort and poor design as the reasons behind their failure to wear approved headgear, today's approved helmets have answered many of these complaints. And some people will never be satisfied; 6% of Non-Wearers respondents stated that they would never wear helmets, no matter what. But, as with bicycle helmets, child safety seats, seat belts, and quartz watches, once enough people wear approved helmets for all mounted activity, such behavior is more likely to become the norm rather than the exception. Given the effect of companionship on human behavior, once helmets have become the norm for equestrian activity, most riders will wear them with little or no protest regardless of perceived discomfort or design flaws.


Lorree Probert
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Directorate of Compliance Programs
200 Constitution Ave. NW
Room N3603
Wahington, DC 20210


What Is Good Riding?

As a 50 year instructor of many styles of riding, and a 30 year judge/coach of various disciplines, I can't remain silent about this one.

In my opinion, GREAT RIDING is sensitive and supportive of the horse; we are always "teaching or unteaching" every horse we ride, and the great riders are "teaching" the horse about 70% of the time if they are really, really lucky, including in competition.

GOOD RIDING in any discipline reminds me of the physician's charge, "DO NO HARM". Of course that includes no harm to oneself by poor judgment as well as no harm to the horse's good training, which may have been provided by someone else.

I see licensing as no panacea. There are grossly incompetent licensed riders, coaches, instructors, and officials at every level, including in Eventing; no country is turning out 100% reliable licensees. Some of these who were unsuccessful in their own countries are coming here to "practice". As for "hunter/jumpers having a progression on being judged on a standard" I don't see how this differs from Eventing. HJ judging is hideously political at the lower levels in particular, and you can see as much ugly riding there as anywhere. What is touted as "style" may be posed, ineffective, and unsupportive of the horse, as well as superficially pretty to the eye. It has even been known to be abusive.

I am one organizer who would prefer to have Stadium before XC to sort out the few kamikaze riders my events have had; probably 2 or 3 a year out of 300 at Novice through Intermediate. Our courses are considered difficult because of the terrain, and have been praised for their excellent design and building. Unfortunately not every Licensed CT Judge has the guts to deny the eliminated Stadium rider the chance to ride XC; the good ones do. Since the CT Judge became the automatic head of the Ground Jury, with the real power of the TD being removed when the competition starts, we have seen some judges who are heavily Dressage oriented making XC course changes and begging the TD to sit with them in Stadium because they are unsure of the niceties of the rules.

If a rider is "all over the tack and people cringe" at a stadium round, but they get around without penalties (this happens a lot) does a dressage-oriented judge actually know what the rider will look like on XC well enough to justify denying the right to ride XC based on appearances but not actual performance?

As a USPC examiner, I have seen 30 years of testing from Unrateds to A level. Stadium is always first on tests. In my own Region there is a club whose riders mostly foxhunt from the age of 6. They are often pitiful in their flatwork, and sometimes horrible in stadium. Yet they may be as solid as you would ever want to see when tested on XC. These kids grow up galloping their ponies safely in flat racing at the local steeplechases, win the junior jump races there, and in many cases go on to become professionals in the horse business. Their dressage and stadium seldom improve much, at least partly because they bring their failed or slow racers to events, and it's downright impossible to maintain a "pretty and classic" position, despite the fact that they are as effective as the horse allows, and manage to ride safe and steady XC rounds. I have the advantage at small local events over an outside judge; I know who the riders are and have probably seen the horses at our twilight (cheap schooling!) shows and combined tests several times before they try a XC course at a low level. And if I think their lives are in actual jeopardy, I can go over to them and suggest that I am worried about their going on that particular day; but under the rules, I can't eliminate them unless the rules provide for that.

Don't get me wrong. I am familiar with the curricula and practices of most of the certifying organizations in the U.S., and have friends who are BHSAI, BHSI, German and French Licensed. I am also familiar with literally hundreds of people with inferior knowledge, experience and safety practices to those of a good 12 year old Pony Clubber. Given the overall choice of the two groups, I would still prefer the former, who have, at least, had to prove something to someone, no matter how cursory or flawed the system under which they have done it has been.

Drusilla Malavase
Chairman, Subcommittee ASTM Equestrian Helmets
2270 County Road, #39
RR2, Bloomfield, NY 14469


Questions and Answers

I am the Medical Advisor for the Pacific Riding for the Disabled in British Columbia. Recently they asked my opinion on participation of HIV positive riders in Therapeutic Riding.

I addressed this question to St. Paul's Hospital Center for Excellence in HIV and HIV related Disease. Their answer was to remind workers in this area to treat all secretions and blood as though the person were Hepatitis or HIV positive with proper gloving and cleaning techniques. They also stated that most HIV patients that are well enough to consider riding have a very low viral load and, therefore, are not very contagious except for deep needle pokes. Patients with high viral loads are very ill. Occasionally, some drugs used in the treatment ofA1DS may cause thrombocytopenia. These people are carefully monitored with frequent blood tests and would be informed by their specialist if they were at risk of bleeding. Of course hemophiliacs with HIV would not be riding.

Janet Sorli, MD


A doctor asked relative to his advice to patients RE Equestrian Vests and prevention of clavicle fractures.

Clavicle fractures are most commonly attributed to one of two mechanisms. First is a fall on the outstretched arm with the force transferred across T he shoulder joint to the clavicle. The second (and I suspect more common) is a direct blow to the shoulder, again transferring the force to the clavicle. The gentle S-shaped curvature of the clavicle makes it vulnerable to fracture from this type of axial loading from indirect force. It is actually uncommon to fracture the clavicle as a consequence of a direct blow to the clavicle itself.

There may be some minor merit to the concept of shoulder pads incorporated into a protective vest that might reduce the force generated. It is hard to know exactly how much this might help and then you always need to consider the unexpected or unanticipated consequences such as how any reduced mobility, because of the cumbersome effect of the shoulder pads, might make the rider more at risk for some other type of injury (?).

As an anecdotal report, a few years ago, our leading amateur steeplechase jockey's career was ended by a clavicle fracture. Actually, he had several fractures resulting in a non-union and subsequently underwent surgical fixation with a plate and screws and then broke loose the plate and screws. All of this occurred while wearing his protective vest which he was very proud of because of the fact that it had shoulder pads designed to reduce such an injury.

Also as an anecdotal note, I know several jockeys with chronic clavicular non-unions that are asymptomatic and continue to function unrestricted. Perhaps this particular jockey's career was not so much ended by his clavicular non-union as his surgery (?).

Most sincerely,

J. W. Thomas Byrd, M.D.
Southern Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center
2021 Church Street, 2nd Floor
Nashville, TN 37203

 Attributions For Equestrian Accidents: A Proposal

Susan Anthony-Tolbert, Ph D
Gallaudet University
Washington. D.C.

Typically, research on equestrian accidents has focused on many of the same variables as research on other sports related accidents: rates of occurrence, injury profiles, degree of risk and contributing factors. What has not received as much attention in the sports literature in general and what seems to be missing entirely from the literature on equestrian injuries is a profile of how a participant attributes or assigns causes for the accident/injury. This assignment of causes for riding accidents as well as for any sports related accident is an extremely important part of the post-accident puzzle It could provide clues as to whether the rider will be amenable to improved safety procedures. and/or as to whether the rider will re-evaluate trainers/teachers, horse(s). stabling situation. and type or style of riding Perhaps, most importantly, it could provide clues as to whether the rider will re-think riding goals or even return to the sport at all.

It is the purpose of the present research to consider the attribution profile of equestrians involved in riding accidents serious enough to require medical treatment In addition, since specific rates of occurrence for "home" riding accidents were not found in the literature. this study will concentrate its analyses on those accidents that occur "at home". For purposes of this research, "at home" is defined as where the rider keeps or boards his/her horse(s).

In practically every aspect of our lives. we seek to know the causes behind the behavior of others as well as our own. We seek to explain behavior We assign causes for behavior. Riding accidents and injuries are no different When a riding accident occurs, both the victim (actor in attribution terminology) and observers attempt to explain what caused the accident: the hows and the whys. The process by which we assign causes for outcomes or behavior is called attribution. These attempts to explain why riding accidents happen (attributional analyses) may involve factors internal to the actor(rider) or factors external to the actor (rider). Internal attributions would include riding ability, effort, motivation, attitudes and personality of the injured equestrian. External attributions would include good or bad luck, opportunity, circumstance, a knowledgeable teacher or an unskilled one. In addition to varying on externality-internality, attributions may be specific or global and stable or unstable.

The attributions that both observers and actors make can be wrong. I may attribute your riding accident to your lack of skill, when, in fact, your horse tripped. Attributions can also serve a protective function. As the victim of a riding accident. I may believe that I fell over Fence #2 because it was poorly designed. In reality. the fence may be perfectly OK but my riding skills may need more work.

In analyzing the possible attributions for an accident while participating in at "home" riding activities, the ability, effort, personality, motives. attitudes and situations-specific (bad luck, faulty equipment, improper coaching) factors, from the achievement paradigms so often studied by social psychologists, are easily applicable. Sable versus unstable factors in the attribution process can also be considered within the context of a horse riding/handling accident. Furthermore, the tendency of the actor (rider) to explain his/her own behavior by referring to situational variables as opposed to internal dispositions or states can be observed in attributions for equestrian related injuries.

There are individual differences in attributional styles. Some may typically assign causality in a pessimistic manner. Others may consistently engage in an optimistic attributional style. In the Western culture, gender differences have been observed in achievement attributions. Women seem to attribute success to external factors (such as luck) and failures to internal factors such as ability). Men seem to attribute success to internal factors and failures to external ones. Since many styles of attributional analyses seem to be learned. They can be unlearned and replaced with more productive, self enhancing, self protecting attributions. Techniques have been developed to change inaccurate, harmful attributions to more accurate helpful ones. If sports participants are given information to help them attribute their difficulties (failures, fall, injuries) to temporary,(unstable) factors amenable to change, performance can be improved and psychological distress can be reduced or perhaps, even eliminated. If sports participants are given information to help them change their attributions concerning the potential benefits of safety precautions in reducing injuries, their safety behaviors may also be improved.

The proposed research consists of a 28 item questionnaire which requires about 30 minutes to answer. This questionnaire measures the respondent's attributions concerning the role of his/her ability level, effort, knowledge etc. and the role of external factors in a riding accident that occurred at home and that required medical treatment within the last three years. All responses will be completely anonymous. There will be no way that the researcher can or will connect names to responses. A participant may answer the questionnaire as the actor {victim of a riding accident) or as an observer of someone else's riding accident. The collected data will he used to answer such questions as:

(1) how are attributions to internal factors (ability, effort, disposition etc.) and to external factors (luck, circumstance etc.) influenced by gender, riding styles, years of riding, level of riding, amount of involvement in the sport, injury, cost. education level? This question will be analyzed from the victims' perspectives and from the observers' perspectives.

(2) are there age and gender differences in internal versus external attributions for riding accidents?

(3) what is/are the best predictors of the injured equestrian following better safety precautions, of receiving further training and of engaging in more practice after a sports related injury?

In addition, victims will be asked to recollect their attributions both immediately after a riding accident and at varying intervals post accident. This will enable us to see how attributions change over time after a riding injury.

In the future, the questionnaire will he posted on a Website. Until that time, participants may get a copy of the questionnaire with return postage by writing to Susan Anthony, Ph.D. Gallaudet University, Psychology Department HMB 312 C. Washington, D.C. 20002 or calling 202-651-5540.


AMEA News Items

CHA and AMEA—A Winning Combination

On January 1 AMEA entered into an agreement with Certified Horsemanship Association. AMEA moved its operations to Tyler TX and is now under the administrative direction of Certified Horsemanship Association. Many may ask what exactly this means for members of AMEA, for CHA and the industry in general.

AMEA will continue to honor its mission of education, Research and Resources to the horse industry. The move to CHA will bring with it more opportunity for AMEA to send the message of safety and prevention in riding.

How? Certified Horsemanship Association is the largest and oldest certifying body in the US. with over 4,000 members compiled of riding instructors, trail guides, camps, stables and youth organizations, its international scope reaches out to thousands of persons each year. Not only do the members of CHA benefit from its services, but also so do hose members students and clients. It is not unusual for a riding instructor to teach lessons to fifty students in a single week. Multiply that number by the over 700 active instructors that CHA has in its rolls and that is a lot of exposure for the AMEA mission! AMEA is now aligned with an organization that has the power of communication in its control. That communication is directed specifically at the market that AMEA wish to reach.

Internally AMEA benefits as the skills of an experienced staff that will oversee the daily operations of the association and allow the many dedicated volunteer continue to conduct and support important research and advise on the prevention and treatment of horseback related injuries. The staff will be able to contribute to marketing, public relations and membership recruitment and assist the association growth in the next year.

As you can easily see, AMEA has acquired a wealth of assets in this agreement. But what about CHA? What will CHA get from this alliance? CHA is safety oriented. The very reason that CHA was formed more than thirty years ago was to ensure that people were receiving the best, safest and most effective experience possible in riding- whether this entailed a one hour, one time trail ride or a full curriculum of handling, riding and horsemanship management.

By working closely with the medical experts within AMEA and by providing needed administrative and clerical tasks to the association, the industry is safer. Therefore, CHA is also honoring its mission.

AMEA conducts the research, provides the statistics and educates the public on the importance of safety and injury prevention while riding. CHA educates the riding instructor on the safest most effective teaching for the rider. CHA can assimilate and carry this message to the riders and operators. CHA and AMEA truly are a winning combination.

LaJuan Skiver
Executive Director, CHA


Dr. Janet Sorli Honored

Dr. Janet Sorli was honored with an award from the American Medical Equestrian Association recently. The award was presented in appreciation for her superb effort in chairing the 1999 annual meeting in Vancouver BC and her continuing dedication to promoting safety and preventing injuries in the sport of horseback riding.


North American Horseman’s Association Awards Grant to AMEA

Once again AMEA has been awarded an annual sponsorship grant of $2,000 by North American Horseman's Association. A special thank you goes out to Linda Liestman, President and all the others who made this grant possible. The support of NAHA and others in the horsemanship industry is greatly appreciated. The AMEA board of Directors has not yet determined how this gift will be applied in supporting the mission of the organization.


Dr. John Stremple named AMEA News Medical Editor

John Stremple, a founding member of American Medical Equestrian-Association, has accepted the task of Senior Medical Editor for the AMEA News. He will review all medical articles as submitted for publication by the organization. Dr. Stremple has enjoyed a long and prestigious career and has recently retired from full time practice. In addition to a career as a surgeon, Dr. Stremple has authored or co-authored more than 58 medical articles for publication and contributed chapters for two books: Digests Disease and Sciences and Archives of Surgery. He has served as consultant, researcher and teacher for many years. Teaching Gross Anatomy & Human Body Course, Elective Gross Anatomy, Surgical Clerkship, Assistant Internship in Surgery, Elective Surgical Anatomy and Medical Gastroenterology. His research experience includes research projects dating 1972-1996 respectively where he served as Principal Investigator.

Earlier in his career he served in the US Army and was awarded the Bronze Star for service during the Vietnam War. He currently holds membership in the Association of Veteran Administration Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Surgical Association, Association of Military surgeons in the US, American Trauma Society (founding member) Fellow, American College of Surgeons Pancreas Club, Pittsburgh Cut Club, Allegheny County Medical Society, World Association of Emergency and Disaster Medicine and numerous others.

Dr. Stremple has been honored on more than 25 occasions for outstanding service to the medical community. AMEA is honored to welcome him to the editorial staff of the AMEA News.

Dr. John F Stremple M.S., M.D.,M.S.,F.A.C.S.
160 Monks Road
Saxonburg, Pa 16056


Rider Safety Video Available

Safety, an all important factor in riding is discussed by several international leaders of the horse community in the 56 minute Neil Ayer Rider Safety Video (produced in 1997). The video is divided into three areas. One- the statistics, which cover the number of injuries and discusses rider safety. Part two addresses rider skills: mounting, rope injury, heat, alcohol, the "five deadly sins", warm ups and trail riding. The video concludes with a discussion of safe horse handling and selecting a horse.

This video is available through the AMEA office for$17.95 plus $4 shipping and handling.

AMEA Video
5318 Old Bullard Rd.
Tylcr, TX 75703

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