Riding hat manufacturers and distributors joined representatives from the British Equestrian Trade Association, British Eventing, British Horseracing Authority, Point-to-Point Authority and University College Dublin for the first BETA Helmet Bounty Scheme research meeting last month (April). They discussed feedback on the rider safety initiative introduced in 2016.
PhD student Michio Clark, of University College Dublin, and Professor Michael Gilchrist, the university’s head of mechanical and materials engineering, reported on research being conducted into hats collected under the scheme.
Michio is one of 13 PhD students working on a Madame Curie project specialising in accident reconstruction modelling – looking into the mechanics relating to falls and the types of injury sustained.
He spoke of the initiative and its collaboration between six partners – three helmet manufacturers and universities in Sweden, Belgium and Ireland – which fund the students’ work on head protection, materials and design.
Michio also highlighted University College Dublin’s research into energy absorption materials and the mechanical properties found in areas of the head, from scalp to cranial bones, which will aid the construction of computer models to act as surrogate human heads for more realistic safety standards testing.
“We are really excited by the work at University College Dublin,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams. “It was extremely interesting to hear some of the initial findings, which, although not made public at present, will be published later this year.
“For the research, it is essential that Michio and his university colleagues can access damaged riding hats with a known provenance. That’s where the BETA Helmet Bounty Scheme helps, as it delivers hats with details of the fall, rider and injury sustained – and that’s something you don’t necessarily get when someone falls off their horse and hands over the damaged hat.”
The BETA Helmet Bounty Scheme is effectively a hat amnesty designed to highlight the importance of replacing a hat when it has been involved in an incident. Under the scheme, a rider concussed during the cross-country phase of a British Eventing competition receives a £100 voucher, while an £80 voucher is given to jockeys concussed during a race.
Concussion must be diagnosed by an event’s medical officer and hats involved in the incidents must be returned to BETA and the vouchers endorsed and claimed through BETA retailers. In the scheme’s first year, 29 riding hats were received via British Eventing and seven from racing, mostly point-to-point.
In addition to its partnership with the BETA Helmet Bounty Scheme, University College Dublin is working alongside British Eventing and Ireland’s Turf Club to gather crucial data that will aid understanding of impact parameters involved in accidents and associated head and brain injuries – ultimately, helping to increase rider safety.