Tag Archive: safety

  1. Riding safety: how to stay safe in winter

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    As autumn turns to winter a naturally hazardous hobby can quickly become especially dangerous if the rider fails to take a few steps to stay safe. According to the BHS, there are more than eight horse-related traffic accidents every day and more than half of these occur on minor roads.

    Riding safety basics

    Most safety rules apply whether it is winter or summer: always wear protective headgear to the required standard, familiarise yourself with the Highway Code, be polite and acknowledge careful motorists, only take your horse on the road if you can control it, and ensure that you can ride to a certain standard before you venture out in traffic. If possible ride with a companion, and always take a mobile phone with you.

    However, winter days are short and you should take extra precautions: horses can be difficult to spot by a passing motorist or the horse, in turn, can be spooked by a vehicle’s lights — so avoid riding early in the morning or as dusk approaches and always ensure that you are home well before dark.

    Road safety in winter

    A bay or a black horse in particular can blend in with the surrounding hedgerows, so if you have no option but to ride on the roads in winter you should never go out without fluorescent clothing. There are myriad luminous items on the market today, from gilets to full jackets for the rider to rugs and boots and bandages for the horse, and one or more of them is an essential bit of kit — it could save your life. Wearing hi-viz actually gives a driver travelling at 30mph up to three seconds more time to react.

    Ensure that your horse is wearing a good set of well fitting shoes before you set out — winter roads, not to mention certain types of tarmac, can be particularly slippery. If your mount has a tendency to slip ask your farrier about road studs or nails. These can make a huge difference. Some horses may be able to go barefoot, but this is a major decision to make and one that you should always discuss with your farrier or trainer first.

    Off-road hazards

    If you plan to ride ‘off road’ during the winter, bear in mind that after rain fields and tracks can be particularly slippery, so adjust your speed accordingly.

    Riding fast in very deep going puts considerable strain on your horse’s legs too — just as much, in fact, as riding on hard or rutted going during the summer — and so beware of tendon injuries. Ride carefully and cut your speed, too, if you have to go out on frozen fields. If possible delay your ride until the temperatures have risen.

    You should never ride on snow-covered roads, because a thin covering of snow can conceal sheet ice underneath, which will cause both your horse and oncoming cars to slip. However, some riders love riding across snow-covered fields — it can seem like a magical winter wonderland and there is no reason not to do this as long as you exercise caution.

    Bear in mind that trot is probably a fast enough pace and be aware that being exercised in snow is harder work for your horse than being ridden over normal ground.

    In snow always stick to fields and paths that you are familiar with, so that you don’t end up riding over dangerous ground containing potholes or worse.

    If your horse is shod, the snow can ‘ball up’ within his foot, which can be dangerous. Some riders apply Vaseline or lard to the underneath of the hoof, but this doesn’t always work. Ensure that you take a hoof pick with you and dismount and clean out his feet if the snow does collect. If your horse is already barefoot then you won’t encounter this problem.

    Provided you wrap up warm — several layers of clothing are best — winter riding can be fantastic fun, but always think safe to stay safe.

  2. New “crash sensor” polo helmet could save lives

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    Rider safety is always paramount in all aspects of equestrian – so the work of 23-year-old Northamptonshire undergraduate Robin Spicer does not deserve to go unnoticed.

    Visitors to the Loughborough University Design School Show in Leicestershire (June 12-15) would have had an opportunity for detailed assessment of Robin’s prototype – the ARMIS Polo Helmet.

    His design for a safer polo helmet – complete with a built-in crash sensor – could save lives by alerting emergency responders to impacts and falls that may cause head injuries.

    Robin Spicer - Design School Show - ARMIS

    Robin, a final year industrial design and technology undergraduate and regular polo player, has already attracted the attention of leading market retailers and manufacturers with his polo helmet redesign, an idea that could revolutionise helmet safety

    The unique design contains a ‘crash sensor’ which Robin plans to link to a smartphone app via long-range bluetooth.

    His overall aim is to develop the technology to alert emergency responders to falls and impacts that may require medical attention due to unseen, non-tangible concussions, as well as sending GPS co-ordinates of where the incident has occurred when the rider is training alone.

    The prototype was created using a 3D printer and developed for production, comprising a crumple zone made of expanded polystyrene, a flexible peak, and a multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS) that moves inside the helmet, mimicking the brain’s own protection system.

    The low friction layer reduces the amount of rotational acceleration to the head and minimises the risk of suffering a serious brain injury.

    Robin has played polo since the age of six, and he said the helmet has been designed with the British Standards in mind, incorporating safety clips, streamlined air vents and a double layered carbon fibre shell to prevent penetrations.

    He was awarded a £350 bursary from the James Dyson Foundation to help bring his project to fruition as part of his end-of-year degree show.

    “I’ve fallen off countless times while playing polo and have been knocked unconscious three times, with the most recent incident lasting for over 20 minutes. But I was straight back up on to the horse and playing polo again in a couple of days, which I really shouldn’t have been,” he says.

    “With my polo helmet design, I hope to change attitudes and behaviour towards safety in the sport and encourage polo players to seek proper medical attention when suffering a dangerous head impact.

    “Even though the rate of injury in polo is low, the severity rate is extremely high. If I can influence other manufacturers and companies to have a re-think about the design of their polo helmets and look at making them safer, then I have achieved my goal.”

    Helmet and App

    Professor Tracy Bhamra, Dean of Loughborough Design School, added: “Robin’s ARMIS™ Polo Helmet is a fantastic design which has really caught the eye of staff, students and business people.

    “The fact that Robin was able to go from a sketch to such a well-developed, high quality prototype in just eight months, shows how dedicated and committed he has been to the course and his future success.”