Through the collaborative and generous commitments of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA), the U.S. Eventing Association (USEA), and a major matching grant from Jacqueline Mars, more than $425,000 has been committed in just a few short months to further the safety of equestrian athletes across all breeds and disciplines. The USET Foundation has provided their enthusiastic endorsement of the program via education and awareness with their constituents as well. These critical funds will support further research into U.S. helmet safety standards and the creation of an equestrian-specific rating system, providing riders insight into how helmet models compare when looking at safety and protection. One hundred percent of funds raised will support independent research at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab to develop this important sport-specific rating system. In addition to the financial fundraising component of the program, USEF has shared important data on falls and injuries from USEF competitions, which will be used in the research and development of the Equestrian STAR rating project at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab.
"Fundraising and awareness efforts accelerated quickly for the project following a presentation I gave one year ago at the USHJA Annual Meeting on the VT Helmet Lab STAR Ratings," said Dr. Barry Miller, Director of Outreach and Business Development for the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. "We were asked what it would take to develop the system for equestrian sport: $450,000 to have the system available in 18-24 months. The USHJA jumped on board immediately with a generous commitment, then Jacqueline Mars stepped up with her own matching donation, which the USEF Board of Directors and USEA Board of Governors matched dollar for dollar. We are ready now to get the initiative underway.
"It was great to work with the leaders from all the organizations, together with Jacqueline Mars, to quickly and collectively pull this together on behalf of all members across all breeds and disciplines to benefit improved safety for all.”
To date, the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab has developed STAR helmet ratings for sports including football, youth football, soccer, flag football, cycling, and hockey. Since 2011, Virginia Tech researchers have been providing unbiased helmet ratings that allow consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing helmets. The helmet ratings are the culmination of over 10 years of injury biomechanics research with special attention to concussions and which helmets best reduce concussion risk (www.vt.edu/helmet).
With $425,000 committed, work will begin on the rating system, but the fund will remain open for donations. Any additional money raised will go towards accelerating the development timeline. Your tax-deductible donation can be made directly to the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, with 100% of all funds going directly to this research.