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Say Cheese!--Equestrian Helmet Use In Publication Photos of Horse Organizations

Monday, October 22, 2012
Versailles Ballroom (Hilton Riverside)
Charles A. Jennissen, MD, FACEP, Suleimaan Waheed, Karisa K. Harland and Gerene M. C. Denning, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Iowa Children's Hospital and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA

Purpose: Equestrian helmets are effective in preventing head injuries during horse-related activities. However, rates of protective head gear use while riding or working around horses is still low. The media can have a great impact on injury prevention both positively and negatively by their portrayal of protective safety equipment or lack thereof. The purpose of this study was to determine the equestrian helmet use by individuals pictured in horse organization promotional materials.

Methods: Literature was requested from horse organizations through email and/or mail, with the inquiring investigator posing as a horse enthusiast. Organizations contacted included national horse agencies, breed registries and all state equine councils. Photographs in materials received were reviewed for equestrian helmet use along with the age and activity of individuals depicted in the photographs.

Results: 113 of 335 organizations responded and 95 sent publications. A total of 2,004 photos with 2,738 people were evaluated. The highest equestrian helmet use was by children, and teen helmet use was generally portrayed more frequently than in adults. The lowest rate was in the elderly (14.6%). Helmet use was highest in photos that depicted competition-jumping (87.9%). Competition-riding and pleasure-riding helmet use was only 30.0% and 34.5%, respectively. Equestrian helmet use was low in all portrait categories--photos where pictured individuals were formally posing for the camera. No one who was pictured while working on, with, or while on a horse was shown with an equestrian helmet; nor was anyone in a parade. Adults riding with children did have a higher rate of wearing an equestrian helmet than adults who were pleasure-riding in general (44.2% vs. 23.2%).

Conclusion: Photographs in horse organization literature often show people not wearing helmets during equine-related activities. Horse organizations have the ability to define equestrian helmet use as normative behavior by always portraying people with helmets in their published materials. Developing an equestrian safety culture of routine helmet use should decrease the number of serious head injuries experienced by horse enthusiasts.