Equestrian safety helmet research fund reaches $425,000

File image. © Mike Bain

More than $425,000 has been raised in the US for research into helmet safety standards for horse riders, and the creation of an equestrian-specific rating system.

Commitments of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), the US Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA), the US Eventing Association (USEA), and a major matching grant from Jacqueline Mars, mean the fundraising toward independent research at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab is just $25,000 short of its $450,000 goal.

All of the funds raised will support the research to develop a sport-specific rating system. The US Equestrian Team Foundation (USET) has also shared important data on falls and injuries from USEF competitions, which will be used in the research.

The USET Foundation has provided its endorsement of the program via education and awareness with their constituents as well. These critical funds will support further research into US helmet safety standards and the creation of an equestrian-specific rating system, providing riders insight into how helmet models compare when looking at safety and protection.

Dr Barry Miller, Director of Outreach and Business Development for the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, said that fundraising and awareness efforts accelerated quickly following a presentation he gave at last year’s USHJA Annual Meeting.

Equestrian helmet testing at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab.
Equestrian helmet testing at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. © Virginia Tech

“We were asked what it would take to develop the system for equestrian sport: $450,000 to have the system available in 18-24 months. The USHJA jumped on board immediately with a generous commitment, then Jacqueline Mars stepped up with her own matching donation, which the USEF Board of Directors and USEA Board of Governors matched dollar for dollar. We are ready now to get the initiative under way.”

To date, the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab has developed STAR helmet ratings for sports including football, youth football, soccer, flag football, cycling, and hockey. The helmet ratings are the culmination of over 10 years of injury biomechanics research with special attention to concussions and which helmets best reduce concussion risk.

With $425,000 committed, work will begin on the rating system, but the fund will remain open for donations. Any additional money raised will go towards accelerating the development timeline.

Tax-deductible donations can be made directly to the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, with 100% of all funds going directly to this research.


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