Injured Riders Can't Help Horses

Why doesn't every rider wear an approved safety helmet, and wear it correctly, every ride? Statistics show that most people who are severely hurt in riding-related incidents suffer from head injuries. I guess it's a lot like the debate concerning seat belts -- personal freedom. But I, for one, would support a state, or national, law (such as the seat belt law) that would require an approved helmet when aboard a horse on public property. (I wish it could be true for every ride, but this would be a starting point.) I especially support this "helmet law" for the sake of the next generation of horse owners -- our children.

I know this "helmet law" isn't going to happen any time soon. It probably never will happen. But if we can become as concerned about our own well-being as we are about the health and welfare of our horses, then we probably will be around a lot longer, keeping our mounts alive and well.

The ways I see that concerned horse owners can help promote this small safety item are as follows:

1) Require anyone riding on your property, or on your horses, to use approved headgear properly and post a sign stating that (good tip for insurance purposes, too).

2) Use approved headgear yourself every ride you ride to set a professional example.

3) Insist that every horse show you promote, judge, or attend requires helmets for competitors.

4) Promote headgear use in your local/state/national organizations.

5) Talk to local 4-H, FFA, or other youth groups about safety around horses, including wearing helmets.

I have to admit that I have ridden often without a helmet, and I've got a few bumps to prove it. I'm not preaching, just reminding myself along with every other professional that we are supposed to help others know the best way to care for our horses, and ourselves. I guess the reason this is so important now is that we have a new equine addition to our family named Mason, who is doing a lot toward teaching my two daughters the ins and outs of having their own horse (albeit a leased one). My rule -- no helmet, no riding. They forget it, and they are on foot. Just like seat belts -- the car doesn't go unless they are buckled in.

Statistically, it only makes sense.

Healthy Horses; Healthy Humans

Along the same lines of human/equine safety, Eastern equine encephalomyelitis has been diagnosed in Texas and Mississippi in horses (see Up Front page 6), and there is a scare in the Orlando, Fla., area because of sleeping sickness in humans. It's the same problem.

Chickens and horses are sentinels for sleeping sickness (EEE). For horses, there is a vaccine that can help attenuate if not eliminate the chances for illness. For horse and rider, this is the time of year to use insect repellents, especially if you are going into the woods or around wet areas where mosquitoes live and breed.

Mosquitoes that carry the encephalitis cannot get the disease from horses and pass it to humans, but the bugs can bite and possibly infect either.

So, the few ounces of spray you use on your horse, and yourself, can save your life, or the life of your equine companion.

(For more information on this and other diseases that can affect both horses and humans, make sure to watch for an article on this topic in the December 1997 issue of The Horse.)

VS And You

It has affected us all, even if you don't recognize it. The current vesicular stomatitis outbreak in Colorado and New Mexico (it started in Arizona) has caused 34 states to institute health, trade, and travel restrictions from the affected states and states that boarder them.

While you might wonder what that has to do with you, it could be plenty.

Kentucky, for example, was host of Equitana. If you came to Equitana, you didn't get to see some of the horses which were scheduled to be in Louisville because of Kentucky law that prohibits horses from entering the state from states affected with VS. That law also is keeping a few mounted police units away from Lexington for the annual Police Horse Colloquium.

Restrictions from Canada, the European Union, and states within this country are making life hard on people who travel to and from shows, or across the country.

The Horse Interactive has the only complete list of restrictions in place by states and other countries as put forth by the USDA. To access this information, connect to If you have questions about VS, contact Tim Cordes, DVM, Senior Staff Veterinarian, Equine Programs, USDA, APHIS, 4700 River Road, Unit 43, Riverdale, Md. 20737; 301/734-3279; FAX 301/ 734-7964, E-mail

There is a lot going on out there that can affect the health of our horses, and our health, too. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed.

Spanning The Globe

By the time you receive this publication, I'll be in Italy at the World Equine Veterinary Conference (WEVA), then on to England for the British Equine Veterinary Association meeting. The scientific programs of these conferences remind me how small our equine world really is in this day and age, and how many problems we share.

The WEVA conference has sections on infectious diseases, horse transport, reproduction, sports medicine, internal medicine, surgery and orthopedics, and veterinary computing. Besides the overall discussions of how problems affect international trade and travel, specific problems to be discussed include equine viral arteritis, rotavirus, piroplasmosis, and parasite control. In reproduction there is everything from an embryo transfer update to the latest on fertility in stallions and mares. A sports medicine session wouldn't be complete without information on respiratory problems and exercise testing studies.

Look for these and many other topics in my report. Truly, it is a small world where our horses are concerned.

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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