New Zealand equestrian safety campaigner Elizabeth Charleston has been recognised for her work with an international award from US organisation riders4helmets.
Charleston, a former international model and keen equestrian, is the National Spokesperson for ‘THINK! The Head Injury Network for Kiwis’. The US award comes after after several years of promoting prevention and awareness of the ongoing head injury epidemic in New Zealand.
She is one of five individuals from around the world to be awarded the Craig Ferrell MD Equestrian Safety Award for the campaigning of equestrian safety during 2012. Other notable award winners in different categories were 2012 Olympic dressage gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin from the UK (who wore a safety helmet when she won gold in London) and Lucinda Green MBE, a six-time winner of the Badminton Horse Trials and World Equestrian Games.
The awards, named after the late USET Physician and Chair of the FEI Medical Council Craig Ferrell MD who died in May 2012, recognize individuals who are exceptional role models for helmet wearing, or equestrian safety. Winners were selected on the basis of number of nominations received and supporting reasons for nomination.
Mrs. Lorraine Ferrell was in attendance at the 4th Riders4Helmets Safety Symposium, on February 4 in Lexington, Kentucky, at which several of the winners were presented with their silver platter award, by International Event Rider Allison Springer.
“We were delighted to name the 2012 Equestrian Safety Awards after Dr. Ferrell who worked with us on the Riders4Helmets campaign for over two years,” said Lyndsey White of Riders4Helmets. “Dr Ferrell not only worked tirelessly with the United States Equestrian Federation and the FEI in order to make equestrian sport safer, he was also well respected by many equestrians whose lives he touched when he had their personal safety interests at heart.”
Lorraine Ferrell said: “Craig would be so excited at the number of nominations received and proud of the many global role models that continue to inspire other equestrians to become role models themselves. We already have plans to expand the 2013 awards based on the massive number of nominations received in 2012.”
Charleston said every year head injuries in New Zealand cost the government millions of dollars with the occurrence of a new head or brain injury happening every 15 minutes in the country.
From Morrinsville, Charleston has worked tirelessly since 2010 to raise awareness of head injury in New Zealand through THINK! She suffered a life changing head injury in January 2005 from a horse riding accident. Despite wearing a safety riding helmet at the time of her accident she was knocked unconscious. The ongoing health problems for Charleston brought her life to a standstill which still affects her to this day.
The international award comes only days after Charleston returned home to the Waikato after being involved with the BDO Wellington to Auckland Cycle Challenge in her capacity as National Spokesperson for THINK!. The cycle challenge raised thousands of dollars during the event in which 150 cyclists rode up the centre of the North Island over seven days. THINK! was the chosen charity for the event that was sponsored by BDO New Zealand and organised by Dynamo Events (Hamilton).
THINK! The Head Injury Network for Kiwis is a charitable organization that provides support and information to people who are head injured, their families and caregivers throughout New Zealand.
Other award winners are:
Charlotte Dujardin (UK/Dressage)
Charlotte Dujardin made history at the London 2012 Olympics by not only setting a new World Record for the Olympic Grand Prix Special but also for winning double gold medals; all while wearing a helmet.
A few years ago, Charlotte fractured her skull in a fall when she wasn’t wearing a helmet. In an interview with the BBC Charlotte said, “I feel unsafe without my hat on. People say you don’t always need it but for me, especially in this kind of atmosphere, you never know what can happen.”
While luck was on Charlotte’s side the day of her accident and she recovered fully, the same might not be true for the next aspiring rider who falls while not wearing a helmet. When Charlotte won her Olympic Gold Medals while wearing a Charles Owen helmet – the first ever to do so – she didn’t just win medals, she won the status of role model. Charlotte’s influence as a role model might someday convince another rider to wear her helmet and as a result possible save her life.
Charlotte is at the top of the equestrian world right now, and she earned that right while wearing a helmet for every ride.
Allison Springer (USA/Eventing)
Robert K. Merton first coined the term ‘role model’ in 1957 and since then countless people have been labeled role models. A role model is generally known as a person who serves as an example and whose behavior others emulate. In the equestrian world, riders might be labeled role models due to their tenacity, perseverance, riding skills, and accomplishments. Allison Springer possesses all of those traits, but she also has the honor of being called a role model for her stand on safety.
In 2010, Allison became the first rider at the Rolex Kentucky CCI4*, to wear a helmet in the dressage phase. A year later 15 other pairs followed her lead and wore helmets. The trend has continued thanks to Allison having the courage to break the helmet barrier. Leading the charge to wear helmets in dressage makes Allison a great role model for the next generation of riders.
After Rolex in 2010 Allison wrote on her website, “I drew a lot of attention by my decision to wear a helmet in the dressage arena. It is obviously something I feel strongly about and the decision was very personal. I lost my brother to head trauma and my best friend was in the hospital and rehabilitation for a long time due to head trauma. If you have had to spend any time in the ICU with a loved one due to head trauma, it will change you profoundly. I remember a time when I did not wear my helmet regularly — I did this because my trainers and the people around me were not wearing helmets. I was not trying to make a statement by wearing my helmet, but if my decision to wear it influences others to wear theirs, then I think that this will always be one of my biggest accomplishments.”
Since Allison first wore her helmet at Rolex, her navy blue Charles Owen has been worn in dressage rings all over the world including her 6th place finish at the Burghley CCI4*, 12th place finish at the Barbury Castle CIC3* in the United Kingdom and at the Luhmuhlen CCI4* in Germany. As helmets slowly become more common in the dressage arena, Allison will always have the distinction of being the first to wear one as others took notice– a true role model.
Isabell Werth (Germany/Dressage)
Isabell Werth is used to being in the media spotlight, but in December 2011 at the CDI-W Frankfort, she made headlines due to her donning a Gold Uvex helmet.
Werth explained her reason for choosing to wear a helmet “As an athlete in the public eye and with my responsibility as a mother and as an employer, I see accident prevention as one of my obligations. In dressage, in particular, helmet wearing is still almost a taboo, even on the competition circuit, and there is a clear need for action.”
In 2012, Isabell competed in numerous competitions alternating between her eye catching Gold helmet and a still stunning, yet slightly more understated, Black Uvex helmet. Isabell won the World Dressage Masters Grand Prix in Munich, Germany and placed 2nd in the Grand Prix Freestyle in May 2012, with a helmet.
In July 2012, Isabell won the World Dressage Masters Grand Prix in Falsterbo, Sweden and placed 2nd in the Grand Prix Freestyle, again while wearing a helmet.
Reed Kessler (USA/Jumping)
At only 18 years old, US Show Jumper Reed Kessler became the youngest person in showjumping history to compete at the Olympics when she rode as a member of the US Team at London 2012. Reed received numerous nominations for a Craig Ferrell M.D Equestrian Safety Award from her many adoring fans.
“Reed always sets a positive example, particularly to the future equestrian superstars of tomorrow,” said one. While another commented, “I have never seen Reed ride a horse without a properly fitted and secured helmet. She should be applauded for being an exemplary role model.”
We applaud Reed for not only her career achievements but also for being such a great role model. While helmets may be required inside the show jumping ring, accidents can and still do happen during prize ceremonies and outside of the ring, when riders least expect it. Reed leading by example will hopefully ensure that those who emulate her, will be safer when they are in the saddle.
Adelinde Cornelissen (Netherlands/Dressage)
In 2012, Dutch Dressage rider Adelinde Cornelissen wore a helmet when she won the FEI World Cup Qualifier in Lyon (November); placed 2nd in the World Dressage Masters Grand Prix and won the World Dressage Masters Grand Prix Freestyle in Mechelen (December).
We applaud Adelinde for being a global role model for helmet wearing in a discipline wear at the upper echelons, a top hat has traditionally been the norm. It appears the winds of change are definitely blowing and besides, Adelinde looks absolutely stunning in a helmet.
Jacqueline Brooks (Canada/Dressage)
Back in June 2010, Canadian Jacqueline Brooks, emailed us the following message of support: “I would like my name to be added to the list of FEI riders and Olympians who support your cause. I have been wearing my helmet in international dressage competitions since March 2010. In the Palm Beach Derby in Florida I was the only one to compete in a helmet. Seven CDI’s later there were seven FEI riders in helmets & four of the top six had left their top hats at home! Keep up the good work, change is on its way.” Change was indeed on its way.
Jacqueline went on to make history at the 2012 London Olympics by being the first competitor to wear a helmet instead of the usual top hat historically worn by dressage competitors. “I am very proud to be the first Olympic dressage rider to compete in a helmet,” said Brooks of her decision to choose safety over tradition. “It’s the way the sport is going.”
Not only does Jacqueline always wear a helmet when she’s in the saddle for a competition, she also always wears a helmet at home as well.
Kathy Slack (USA/Western)
Kathy Slack is a former trauma nurse who knows only too well the damage that not wearing a helmet can do. Eight years ago Kathy was the only professional competitor to wear a helmet within the United States Team Penning Association and persisted through the comments, the stares, and the nickname “helmet head” to become one of the most successful riders in the organization. Kathy has continued to wear a helmet ever since. Kathy started the Western Helmet Project in order to educate competitors at major western competitions on the benefits of helmets and has purchased helmets out of her own pocket in order to ensure that youth western riders protect their brains.
In 2013 Kathy plans to again partner with Tipperary helmets to continue her Western Helmet Project and giveaway more helmets throughout the year. “I hope that I can use my visibility and trusted position within the USTPA to heighten awareness of the need for protecting all riders and to make our sport safer. Plans are in the works for the San Antonio, Houston, and Austin rodeos where I will be setting up my booth with helmets to giveaway. I am a rider who sees my helmet as part of my “gear” and I hope to be a strong influence in the gentle persuasion of bringing more riders to this choice.”
Megan Sparks (USA/Barrel Racing)
14 year-old barrel racer Megan Sparks from Ohio started riding at the age of three. Sparks rode English/Hunter Jumper then switched disciplines to running barrels at the age of 8. She is currently in 8th grade training with Ty Mitchell and the team at the Josey Ranch. In 2012 alone, Megan racked up an impressive list of accomplishments including: 2012 IBRA National Finals, 7th in 1D Open 2nd Go out of 500+ entries; 2012 IBRA National Finals, 2nd in 1D Youth Long Go out of 250 entries; 2012 Josey Jr. World Top 5 1D Finalist; 2012 Josey Jr. World 1D, First Go Champion out of 540 entries; and 2012 AQHA Youth World Qualifier (placed 6th in qualifying round). What was perhaps even more impressive was that Megan wore a helmet to compete at every single event.
“I have the Cheyenne Rowdy Troxel helmet and I love the feel, the fit, and especially the look!” she say. “I like to wear helmets when barrel racing because I feel safer going at fast speeds. I always get asked what kind of helmet I wear. I’ve always worn a Troxel since I was riding English at the age of 3. People tell me they like to see someone barrel racing wearing a helmet because almost everyone else is wearing cowgirl hats. Lastly, my favorite and only color that I run barrels in is orange, and my Cheyenne Rowdy goes perfectly with it.”
Tammy Sronce (USA/Mounted Shooting)
World and National Mounted Cowgirl Shooting Champion, Tammy Sronce, attended the third Riders4Helmets Safety Symposium in 2011, at which she made a life changing decision to always wear a helmet after watching 2008 Olympian Courtney King-Dye’s presentation.
The week following Tammy’s return from the Safety Symposium, she was involved in an automobile accident involving a drunk driver. Tammy suffered a head injury and has not been unable to show in mounted shooting since then. Tammy has been permitted to ride lightly on only a few occasions since the accident and so took the opportunity while being out of the saddle to initiate a helmet rule change for youth within the American Competitive Trail Horse Association. Tammy attended the 4th Riders4Helmets Safety Symposium at which she gave an emotional speech regarding how deeply touched she had been a year earlier when she saw the effects of Courtney King-Dye’s traumatic brain injury. Tammy has been an ambassador for helmet education for the past twelve months, particularly educating the youth.
Adrienne Lyle (USA/Dressage)
American Dressage Rider Adrienne Lyle wore a helmet to compete when she placed 4th in the Grand Prix and won the Grand Prix Special at the World Dressage Masters Palm Beach in January 2012. While Adrienne may not have finished in the medals at the 2012 London Olympics she continued to be a global role model for safety by competing in a helmet. Said Joanne Lord in her nomination of Adrienne, “I am nominating Adrienne as she was the only US dressage rider in the Olympics wearing a helmet. There are many young dressage riders out there who look up to riders such as Adrienne and to see her wearing a helmet all the time is such an inspiration for those riders. I hope more people recognize Adrienne for being a US Olympian wearing a helmet all the time and not just some of the time.”
Adrienne is undoubtedly a great example for all of the young riders out there who look up to the professionals.
Elisa Wallace (USA/Extreme Mustang Makeover)
Elisa Wallace was the first Event rider to compete in an Extreme Mustang Makeover and gained national attention in 2012 for her efforts with her Mustang Fledge. Not only that, but she was the only competitor to ride with a helmet in a western dominated arena and won the North Carolina Extreme Mustang Makeover in October 2012 while proudly donning her helmet.
Following her win, Elisa was invited to participate in the Million Dollar Mustang Makeover, to be held September 2013, at which I am sure we will yet again see her in a helmet.
Laura Backus (USA/Eventing)
Laura Backus has been in the “horse business” for 30 years as a professional instructor, trainer and competitor. It’s a tough business and while some have fallen to the temptation of cutting corners where they can, including in the area of safety, Laura has never succumbed to that. In fact she has always held to strict safety procedures, always insisting on her riders wearing a helmet many years before it was “fashionable” or required and she was the first trainer in her area to embrace and encourage air vests. Laura takes seriously the responsibility of the safety of her students and their horses and strives to be an exemplary representative of ARIA, Pony Club, the eventing and dressage communities and her barn. Laura’s safety standards, which are the very same that were adopted by the U.S. Eventing Association in 2006, have been a part of her program since 1998. Laura is honored for her excellent safety record for three decades.
Mary Miller Jordan (USA/Barrel Racing & Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover)
Some would say a cowgirl simply isn’t a cowgirl without her hat, but one cowgirl has discovered there’s something even more near and dear to her heart. Despite competing at the National level in Western competitions where a cowboy hat is the norm, Mary Miller Jordan made the decision to start wearing a helmet, following the birth of her daughter Filleigh Kay two years ago.
Mary was crowned Reserve Champion at the 2012 Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover while wearing a specially designed cowboy hat/helmet. Not only has Mary worked tirelessly to promote the Riders4Helmets Incentive at the Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover for the past two years, she also promotes helmet education year round and is an ambassador for the Riders4Helmets campaign at the many events she attends throughout the country.
Exceptional role model for equestrian safety in 2012 (non-helmet related): Lucinda Green (UK)
Lucinda Green MBE is the only rider to have won Badminton Horse Trials six times on six different horses and was World and twice European Champion as well as an Olympic silver medalist. Lucinda’s ‘XC the Safe Way’ clinics, aim to give riders a refresher and concentrate on safe riding techniques. The clinics are designed to develop mutual confidence between horse and rider and encourage the horse to think for himself. Well-planned exercises teach a horse to fine-tune their footwork and help a rider to improve their reactions. ‘It doesn’t matter that you do not look perfect every time,” said Lucinda. ‘You’ve got to be ready for anything, for your horse to stop, to hit a fence, to land and crumple. These kind of things will happen no matter how well you ride.’
Lucinda provides expert advice on riding across country, sharing techniques and skills that have brought her so much success in the tough sport of eventing. “The important message that I try to impart in the clinics is that cross country riding isn’t about sitting on a horse, going flat out,” explains Lucinda. “There is a science to it, and as a rider your job is to do three things – keep the horses’ engine going, keep a good line into a fence and keep both your and your horse’s balance. A horse that thinks for himself and, in equal measure, listens to his rider is going to be a safe cross country horse.”
There is no doubt that Lucinda’s clinics aim for a safer eventing experience for both horse and rider.
Campaigned for any aspect of equestrian safety in 2012: Courtney King-Dye (USA)
In March 2013, Olympian Courtney King-Dye will be three years down the road from the riding accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury. Courtney still continues to undergo rehabilitation, although insurance company restrictions and finances limit this. In 2011, Courtney made the decision to not let her accident be labeled a tragedy and formed a partnership with riders4helmets in order to educate equestrians on helmets. To date, Courtney’s first video produced for the riders4helmets campaign has received over 60,000 views on YouTube.
In 2012, Courtney attended the 3rd riders4helmets safety symposium and when she stood up to share the story of her daily struggles, there was barely a dry eye in the room. In July 2012, Courtney produced another video for Riders4Helmets in order to promote International Helmet Awareness Day and participated in countless interviews in order to ensure that her story continued to be heard. In November 2012, Courtney was awarded the FEI Against All Odds Award. Courtney continues to be an ambassador for the global education of the benefits of wearing a properly fitting and secured, certified helmet.
Scot Hansen (USA)
Scot Hansen is a retired mounted police officer who trained officers and horses, purchased remounts, and worked the streets. During this time, he had the opportunity to ride horses in and around obstacles that the average person never encounters. He has ridden horses through difficult spots like railroad yards, tunnels, freeways, bars, crowd control, stadiums, fireworks, and under hovering helicopters. Besides his street work, Scot has ridden horses from the beaches and ocean shores of California to the mountains in Montana. He has learned his trade through numerous schools and clinics and most of all by “living it.”
Scot created a clinic and later produced an award winning video “Self Defense for Trail Riders.” Based on questions from his clients about safety on the trails, he developed the clinic and video for trail riders who wanted to know how they could use their horse to defend against a human predator on the trail. Numerous articles about his work have been published in regional and national newspapers and magazines, and he has made guest appearances on radio shows. He now performs his “Self Defense for Trail Riders” demonstrations at Horse Expos throughout the nation.
Meg Wade (Australia)
Meg Wade is the only person to have won, four times, the Southern Hemisphere’s premier 100-mile (160 km) endurance race, the Tom Quilty Gold Cup. On Easter Sunday, 2009, while competing in a 100 kilometer ride at Tumbarumba she was thrown from her horse and was critically injured with a fractured skull. She was subsequently airlifted to Canberra Hospital in a coma. Although she eventually regained consciousness, she spent nine months in Epworth Hospital in Melbourne recovering from Acquired Brain Injury. In 2011, Meg was the recipient of the FEI “Against All Odds” award.
Since her accident Meg has been an advocate for equestrian safety and has shared her experience with equestrians, in an attempt to get others to understand the financial ramifications of a TBI. “My time in Epworth cost well over $200,000 and in Swibbers so far, $110,000. It’s a lot of money,” she said. “Most of us do not have adequate insurance. It is something to really look at and be aware of: what they cover and for how long. Recovering from a brain injury is like a never-ending endurance ride. It is with you for life. There is still a long way to go with my recovery. It will never finish. It’s an unfinished job. A work in progress.”
Meg has also highlighted that helmets are just part of the much bigger picture of rider safety practices that need to be researched and documented and taught–and followed. She has stressed the need for helmet manufacturers to examine new technologies in order to produce helmets that provide maximum protection to a rider.
Elizabeth Charleston (New Zealand)
Elizabeth Charleston is proof that one small voice can make a difference in society to help other people. Throughout 2012 Elizabeth has pushed for acceptance of safety riding helmets in every way that she could amongst the equestrian codes with her various roles and jobs that she does including being an organizer at the NZ Horse of the Year Show where she created a new ruling that all adults competing in the Debutante Horse titles had to wear a 3 point harness safety helmet. No safety helmet – no start. Simple as that.
A couple of years ago Elizabeth came up with the concept of awarding a prize to the highest placed competitor in a formal equitation turnout event that was wearing a 3 harness safety helmet. Traditionally a bowler hat is required for ladies in this type of showing event that is judged on the rider’s formal (hunting) turnout, riding ability, conformation of the horse and the performance in the work out. To challenge tradition was a big call as this went against the norm but thankfully some brave competitors took up the challenge at the various shows that held the awards. As a result of Elizabeth’s work in the past few years we now see a big increase in the amount of showing riders wearing safety riding helmets instead of bowler and top hats in the show ring as well as in dressage competitions where it is now becoming the ‘norm’ to wear proper protective head gear.
During 2012 Elizabeth donated ‘THINK! Head Injury Awareness Awards’ at the following equestrian events in New Zealand: NZ Horse of the Year Show (March 2012); Royal New Zealand Show (October 2012); and the South Island Premier Showing Championships (December 2012).
At the beginning of 2012 Elizabeth also put forward the proposed rule change that riders competing in formal equitation turnout events would be judged on ‘equal terms’ (for their points score in Costume and Overall Appeal) if they wore a 3 point harness safety helmet instead of the traditional bowler hat. This new rule change was successfully instated into the NZ Royal Agriculture Society rulebook during the NZ winter of 2012.
Jon Pitts (UK)
Multiple nominations were received for Jon Pitts. One of the most endearing was as follows: “The first step towards safety is being smart enough to take responsibility for each action, both deliberate and not, and preparing for the worst outcome. Training the body and mind to such an end complements the wearing of Helmets and Body Protectors and helps them last longer, by preventing impacts at a rudimentary stage! The name of the individual I want to nominate is Jon Pitts. Jon is British and is leading the way as a neuroscientist to help understand Riders reactions to situations, and to help them manage their own safety, by learning to fall, and how to prevent falls. At all times during training he insists on the correct safety wear. He is also doing an enormous amount of work with the British Racing School with the simulator to help make the sport safer along with the fall training, which is part of the FitToRide safety program. Jon’s belief is that it is better to understand how to prevent and manage a fall rather than rely on the safety gear alone. Prevention and pre-prevention is better than no cure. I hope that you consider this nomination carefully and appreciate that Jon is taking the safety measures a stage further than purely wearing a sponsored item of headgear.”