Helmet Safety and Concussion Awareness

Concussions, or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), are an unfortunate risk of equestrian activities. According to a 2016 study (Winkler et al. 2016), equestrian sports were the leading cause of sports-related traumatic brain injuries.

To minimize the potential consequences of a fall or injury, you can educate yourself and others about helmet safety, concussion detection, and safe horse handling and riding.


  1. Events (all 4-H events at which riding or driving occurs)
    • Helmet policy (effective immediately):
      • All youth must wear helmets while mounted, driving, or in the show ring with an equine (e.g. showmanship at halter).
      • Any adults riding at 4-H events must wear helmets while mounted.
    • Concussion policy (effective October 1, 2019):
      • All 4-H events, including state-level events, that include equine driving or mounted riding will have a written concussion protocol on hand and must have at least one staff member or volunteer present who has successfully completed the Heads Up Online Training (CDC). Information about and the link to the Heads Up Online Training course offered by the CDC can be found below.
      • Jessica Tyson will keep a record of all adults who have completed the online training.
  2. Education
    • Encourage all local clubs to have at least one safety and concussion awareness-oriented meeting per year.
    • Make educational materials regarding helmet use and concussion awareness available to all youth involved in 4-H.


If you would like to provide educational resources to your club leaders, here are a few suggestions:

Saddle Up Safely Program

  • The University of Kentucky has developed a rider safety awareness program with many helpful resources
  • Saddle Up Safely app
    • Injury and Concussion Assessment
    • Return to Riding Protocol
    • Checklists
    • In Case of Emergency Cards

CDC: Heads Up Training

  • Prepare yourself to handle accidents and falls at the barn or competitions
  • Complete the online concussion training to receive a certificate; from their website:
    • "Understand a concussion and the potential consequences of this injury,
    • Recognize concussion signs and symptoms and how to respond,
    • Learn about steps for returning to activity (play and school) after a concussion, and
    • Focus on prevention and preparedness to help keep athletes safe season-to-season."

“Every Time, Every Ride” DVD

  • This informative DVD features interviews and footage of horses and riders in multiple disciplines
  • The NYS 4-H Horse Program has purchased a library of these DVDs
    • Contact us to check out a DVD
    • Encourage club leaders to show this video at their club meetings

For more information

Contact Brieanna Hughes at bh548 [at] cornell.edu (bh548[at]cornell[dot]edu) or Jessica Tyson at jms943 [at] cornell.edu (jms943[at]cornell[dot]edu).