Monday, September 18, 2017

A $40 Helmet can Save your Life

I enjoy reading posts from my horse folk friends, new and old, on Facebook. Images abound of people enjoying their horses: trail riding, showing, driving and caring for their equine partners. But, it worries me to see many of them riding without a helmet. Safety helmets are not just for kids – although I’ve seen pictures and videos of children riding without helmets, too.

The American Medical Equestrian Association (AMEA) and the Safe Riders Foundation reports that sixty percent of deaths due to riding accidents are a result of head injury. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI) has set the standard for the modern riding helmet. It is well documented that wearing an ASTM/SEI approved riding helmet saves lives and protects riders from brain damage in falls from a horse. But sometimes it’s not until a loved one is left paralyzed, or loses their life, that we are really struck by the reality that horseback riding is a high-risk activity. The risk can be minimized by the simple act of putting on a helmet every time we ride and keeping it on even while dismounted, but handling the horse.

The US Pony Club reports their head injury rate has been reduced by 29% since they have made wearing helmets mandatory, and head injuries are fewer among jockeys than recreational riders since the American Jockey Club began requiring they wear safety-approved helmets. In Great Britain the hospital admission rate for riders dropped 46% after helmets became routine gear for English equestrians.

Most equestrian associations now have rules requiring safety helmets be worn. In Ontario, Canada it’s the law that individuals under 18 years old must wear helmets while riding. Parents, trainers or instructors can be fined up to $5000 if a minor is found not complying with this law.

In the United States is the use of helmets is self-regulated. The USA Equestrian Federation requires that all junior competitors in hunter, jumper and hunt seat equitation must wear ASTM-SEI approved helmets while mounted anywhere on the show grounds. USEF added a rule in article 1713 for eventing that requires protective headgear at all levels of competition. The rule states a hardhat must be worn when riding on the flat. When jumping an ASTM/SEI approved helmet with harness secure and properly fitted must be worn.

4-H rules vary from state to state. In Kentucky, all 4-Hers when at a 4-H event are required to wear ASTM-SEI approved helmets that are secure and properly fitted anytime they are riding or driving horses. In North Carolina ASTM/SEI helmets are required in hunt seat, short stirrup, and games when mounted on the show grounds. In all other divisions approved helmets are strongly encouraged and approved as optional use.

A helmet should be examined by x-ray after a fall to be sure the integrity of the helmet is intact. Many helmet companies will examine a helmet and replace it for a small fee. Dropping a helmet on a hard surface can also damage it. Any signs of damage like cracks, dents or holes inside or outside the helmet are reasons enough to replace it with a new one. Even without obvious bumps and bangs the lifespan of a helmet is a maximum of five years. A manufacturer’s date is printed inside the helmet. It is not advisable to buy used helmets since the integrity of the helmet cannot be guaranteed.

This brings us to the questions: should we require riders wear helmets when riding on our property? Are we liable if a rider falls and is hurt or killed while riding at our facility? Should instructors require their students to wear helmets?

Helmets Come in a Variety of styles and Colors
The dangers of riding without a helmet is well known, yet people are not using them. The most commonly heard excuse — especially among young people— for not wearing a helmet is that they look funny. But equestrian safety helmets have come a long way since the mushroom styles of the early models. Today they are safer, lighter, cooler, and more fashionable. By using improved technology manufacturers can produce helmets with a lower profile and improved fit, thus making them more attractive as well as more efficient. Helmets also come in a wide range of colors and styles for every riding discipline.

When all is said and done the price, around forty dollars, of an ASTM/SEI helmet is cheap insurance when you weigh it against the consequences of riding without one.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Is Your Horse Dehydrated?

Hot weather can be fatal to horses if they become dehydrated. Sweating due to work, lack of palatable water, even clover slobbers can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration is the result of more fluid being lost than is taken in. It can be caused by increased sweating or urination, fever, diarrhea, and hemorrhage (bleeding).

Signs of dehydration:
            Slightly higher temperature
            Increased respiration
            Skin appears dry and wrinkled, loses pliability (pinch test)
            Weight loss
            Poor appetite
            Muscle weakness
            Increased thirst
In severe dehydration depression, coma, circulatory collapse, muscle tremors and death can occur.

Prevention – Provide clean, cool, fresh water available at all times. Make sure buckets are clean.

Do not overwork during heat, have horse in good condition.  Ride early in the morning or in late evenings when it is cooler. Hose your horse down after working to cool him/her off.

Have salt available free choice and shade for the horse.

Treatment - If dehydration is due to lack of water allow your horse to drink in small, frequent amounts. When dehydration is due to excessive fluid loss or horse does not respond after drinking water, or won’t drink, call the vet.

In hot weather monitor your horse’s vital signs:

Normal Temperature (adult horse) – 99.5 – 101.5 degrees

Normal Pulse at rest – 30-40 pulses per minute

Normal Respiration at rest – 8-16 breaths per minute

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Four Days at the 2017 NC State 4-H Show

I spent four grueling, hot and dusty days last week at the North Carolina State 4-H Championship Horse Show. I had it easy – I was a vendor. I was inside the main arena and I had a fan and a chair. A couple of hundred 4-Her, their leaders and family were working hard showing their horses and sweating!

My daughter 1980 and Granddaughter 1997
Last week brought back fond memories of all the years I was a 4-H Horse Club leader, show mom and then grand-mom. My daughter’s first 4-H horse show was about 1980, in Dorton Arena since it before the Hunt Horse Complex was built. In 1997 my granddaughter rode in her first State 4-H horse show. As a 4-H leader I brought a lot of kids and horses to the NC 4-H Championship horse show. We sweated, slept in tack stalls, and worked sunup till sundown caring for the horses, schooling and showing the horses. We complained about the heat, but it didn’t stop us. And sometimes were brought home ribbons – and once or twice someone from our group even won a division championship.

I’m retired from working with horses and riders. Now I write about horses. I must be honest, I am not missing the work involved, so much as I miss the children. Having kids stop by my booth on their way from one place to another all day was lots of fun for me. Many stopped to look at my books and sign my email list – and to take a free treat back to their horses. Several had already read some of my books.

“Oh, I read this in fourth grade!” one teenager exclaimed. She was from the western part of the state. It was nice to know Pale as the Moon had found its way into a school library that far from home. Some others said they’d used my non-fiction books to study for horse quiz bowl. Through my books I am still involved in the 4-H Horse Program in a small way.

I am proud of the North Carolina 4-H Horse Program. It is top notch! And if you have a child that loves horses please call your county extension agent to find out how he or she can join a 4-H Horse Club. Kids don’t have to own a horse to join. There are many ways they can learn and participate without being a horse owner. Go to this website to learn all about the NC 4-H Horse Program.

Thank you everyone who stopped to speak to me at my “Books by Donna Campbell Smith” booth – an extra thanks to those who bought books! Check my website from time to time to seen what I am doing or find me on Facebook Congratulations on your success. It was a big deal just qualifying to be at the State Championships. Kudos if you brought home a ribbon, and most of all kudos for putting your horses first and for being kind to one another. The world needs more of you!

I spent some time practicing action shots

That's me!

Two young friends pose in front of my poster