Helmet Safety and Concussion Awareness

New Policies for NYS 4-H Horse Programs

Jessica Spaulding, NYS 4-H Horse Program Events Coordinator (Madison County) and Lindsay Goodale, DVM, CCE Equine Specialist (Cornell University)

Download this information poster- Helmet Safety and Concussion Awareness- Policy Changes and Education


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.

Requirements and Timelines

  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, 2018):
      • All state-level events with driving or mounted riding must have at least one staff member or volunteer present who has successfully completed the Heads Up Online Training (CDC).
      • All 4-H events that include equine driving or mounted riding will have a written concussion protocol on hand.
    • Concussion policy (effective October 1, 2019):
      • All 4-H events with driving or mounted riding must have at least one staff member or volunteer present who has successfully completed the Heads Up Online Training (CDC).
  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 (cdc.gov/headsup)
    • 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 Barbara Jones (bjj6) or Jessica Spaulding (jms943) to check out a DVD
      • Encourage club leaders to show this video at their club meetings

For more information, contact:

Jessica Spaulding, NYS 4-H Horse Events Coordinator  jms943@cornell.edu

Lindsay Goodale, DVM, CCE Equine Specialist  lfg28@cornell.edu

Barbara Jones, NYS 4-H Horse Program Assistant  bjj6@cornell.edu