#TheNakedChallenge bares even more for equestrian well-being


Horse folks have proven they’re happy to take one for the team and bare all to raise safety awareness regarding brain injury, but this year’s Naked Challenge is going a step further.

The Naked Challenge began with horse riders going without clothes in a tasteful manner with the tagline “I would rather go naked than not wear a helmet”.  The concept was created by New Zealand equestrian identity Elizabeth Charleston as an attention-grabbing way to get a serious message across.

Other sports soon jumped on the bandwagon, as did workplaces, with thousands of images shared around the world. It has drawn great attention to the topic of concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI), a subject that Charleston knows only too well, having sustained a serious head injury in a riding accident in 2005. Her recovery continues.

As well as a new, fully clothed challenge for young equestrians, this year an extra, important aspect has been added to the challenge to get people talking about can be an uncomfortable subject — organ donation.

“I realise organ donation is not a subject many people are comfortable with and it’s not something that is talked about around the dinner table, but it needs to be discussed with family and friends,” Charleston says.

“All too often at the time of death a potential organ donor does not get to follow through with their wishes because their family is in a state of extreme distress and can’t handle the concept and refuse the donation. We are all going to die, that is a simple fact, so instead of asking for a financial donation to help continue with this brain injury awareness campaign I’m asking you to consider giving the last and final donation you will ever make by becoming an organ donor. You will potentially be giving life to another person and there is no greater gift than that.”

Canterbury dressage rider Maddie Collins, who has had two kidney transplants.

An equestrian family who knows only too well the importance of organ donation is the Collins family, from West Melton near Christchurch.

Sarah Collins, whose daughter, keen dressage rider Maddie, has had two kidney transplants, in a battle against nephrotic syndrome and end-stage renal failure. That is the last stage (stage five) of chronic kidney disease. What strikes Sarah the most about the whole issue is the lack of knowledge around organ donation and transplants.

Maddie, now 16, first received a kidney from her father, Adam, in 2012 when she was just eight. Before that, she had been on dialysis for two years.

“Most people only know what they see on TV soaps as to how a person needing a transplant lives. It is so far removed from reality it is scary,” Sarah says.

Unfortunately, this kidney failed because of donor-specific antibodies from repeated urine infections, and Maddie waited 18 months in the slim hope of another kidney. Miraculously, a match was found from a deceased donor and she received the second kidney on January 17, 2018. But it was not all smooth sailing for the youngster, with the new kidney having to be removed that night and put on ice while doctors tried to get it working. They then transplanted it back into Maddie.

“Maddie has often been discharged from hospital just the day before a competition and gone on to win,” says her mum, Sarah.

“Organ donation not only changes the person who receives the organ, but their wider family – it’s really a true life saver,” Sarah says.

Maddie started pleasure riding about four years ago, and quickly showed a natural talent. Although she pops over some small jumps now and then, Maddie agreed with her nephrology team that competitive showjumping wasn’t a good idea because of the risk of damaging her kidney. This led to Maddie discovering a passion for dressage. In recent months she has consistently placed in all her competitions, and has big goals; It is in her four-year plan to get to the 2024 Olympic Games. She’s also aiming to be New Zealand’s first international equestrian who has had a kidney transplant.

“Maddie has often been discharged from hospital just the day before a competition and gone on to win – she has a determination to be competitive regardless of being in end-stage renal failure. She is determined that her kidney disease isn’t going to prevent her riding successfully and being competitive – she has a ‘red ribbon or go home’ philosophy!” Sarah says.

Maddie Collins supporting #TheHelmetChallenge

Maddie is thrilled to be able to help raise awareness about organ donation, and grateful that she has the opportunity to work to fulfill her equestrian goals. “Being given an organ is life-changing. I hope to be able to achieve so much more, and inspire people to realise that even when life is tough it is worth fighting for.”

Maddie is thought to be the first young rider with a kidney transplant who is competing in New Zealand. She is well on the way to achieving her goals, and has a new pony to take her even further in the sport.

Share your pictures with the hashtag #thenakedchallenge

Maddie Collins shows great form while getting in some practice for the Helmet Challenge.
Helmets on – hands down

This year Charleston decided that young riders need not miss out on showing their support for the Naked Challenge, and has created the Helmet Challenge. The young and not so young are asked to stay fully clothed and do a handstand – while wearing their helmet. Those unable to do a handstand are able to do the ‘Reverse Handstand’ as in the images below. A bit of creative editing is not a problem.

Share your pictures with the hashtags #thehelmetchallenge and #braininjuryawareness.

Below: Riders at the weekend’s Helensville Show took on The Helmet Challenge – click each image to view a larger version.

Those wanting to try something a bit different to gain attention doing The Helmet Challenge can supply a video or photograph doing some type of trick — but it must all be conducted in a safe way.

“It won’t do anyone any good if people get injured taking part in The Helmet Challenge,” Charleston says.

A video of the longest handstand could see that person rewarded – regardless if they live in Pukekohe or Poland.

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