Virginia Tech Helmet Lab turns attention to equestrian helmets, starts crowdfunding campaign

Written by Eleanor Nelsen  |  Virginia Tech

Since the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab launched in 2011, their staff has fielded a steady stream of calls from players and parents who need to buy a helmet and want to know which models are most effective. Some of those calls are about traditional contact sports — football, hockey. But a lot of them are about a topic you might not expect.

“Since we started the Helmet Lab, I’ve gotten more phone calls about equestrian helmets than I have about any other sport except football,” said Stefan Duma, who founded the lab and today directs the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science.

“So we know there’s interest. And when you look at the injury numbers, they are staggering.”

Current estimates put the annual U.S. tally of injuries associated with equestrian sports around 50,000; head impacts account for the largest portion of that total.

Duma explains that the basic physics of riding a horse ratchet up the risk of head injury.

“When you’re on a horse, that puts your head about 8 to 10 feet off the ground. If you come off the horse for any reason, whether you’re thrown or you just fall, you end up with a much higher impact injury than people might expect,” he said.

The Helmet Lab is currently raising money through Virginia Tech’s JUMP crowdfunding platform to fund testing for the gear designed to protect riders from those impacts.

Most serious riders wear specialized equestrian helmets. But as for many sports, equestrian helmets are certified through a simple standard pegged to a very high impact-energy — the kind associated with catastrophic, and potentially life-threatening, head injuries. The pass-fail standard doesn’t provide consumers with any information about a helmet’s ability to protect a rider against milder — but still serious — injuries like concussion, and it doesn’t distinguish between a helmet that passes with flying colors and one that barely squeaks by.

“Equestrian sports have an unusually high risk of head injury, and I don’t think that’s widely recognized. Per exposure, there’s a higher risk of head injury than playing football or hockey or racing cars.”

Two helmets can pass the same standard and perform very differently, and consumers currently have no way of knowing that information.

“There is tremendous room for improvement not only in how helmets are evaluated, but also in utilizing advanced helmet technology,” Duma said.

That’s where the Helmet Lab comes in. Customized pendulums, drop towers, and other equipment recreate impacts experienced by athletes in a variety of sports — so far football, hockey, soccer, and cycling, with others in the pipeline. These sophisticated devices allow the lab’s researchers to test helmets and other protective headgear under realistic conditions, evaluating which models are most effective at managing the impact energy responsible for concussions and other head injuries.

The most visible outcome of this research has been the lab’s five-star helmet-rating system. The Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings have given consumers an independent, evidence-based tool to guide purchasing decisions; they’ve also driven innovation in the helmet industry by providing a more granular metric for evaluating different models against each other using test methods that are reproducible in the lab and relevant on the field.

Now, the group hopes to extend this model to equestrian helmets. They’ve already conducted preliminary tests, measuring the performance of six different helmet models with respect to the existing standard. All six helmets passed, but the results revealed wide variation in performance and significant room for improvement: the best equestrian helmet was still far less effective at managing impact energy than top-performing football helmets subjected to the same test. The researchers presented the data at the World Congress on Biomechanics in Dublin, Ireland, in 2018.

The next step is to extend the testing, running additional trials and developing the same kind of bespoke testing protocols and equipment that they have for other sports. The crowdfunding campaign will help cover the purchase of helmets and defray the cost of testing.

This is the helmet lab’s second foray into crowdfunding. In a previous project, 84 donors pitched in to raise $10,000 toward the purchase of padded headbands marketed to soccer players. The result was the first independent ratings ever published for soccer headgear, which gave consumers a new source of information and, incidentally, helped raise awareness about how effective this type of headgear can be.

Now, the Helmet Lab and their donors have another opportunity to make a difference for athletes.

“Equestrian sports have an unusually high risk of head injury, and I don’t think that’s widely recognized. Per exposure, there’s a higher risk of head injury than playing football or hockey or racing cars,” Duma said. “That, to me, is the big story — and that there’s so much room for improvement.”

Advertisements

APHA Eastern National Championship entries give hope for growth of series

One of the great things about having the Virginia Horse Center in our backyard is the region gets to play host to some of the best equestrian competitions in the nation. Last weekend promised to be another one of those times with the APHA Eastern National Championship pulling into the facility for four days.

Competition was top-notch with quality horses being shown as one would expect of such a show. But the entries perhaps were a bit lighter than one would have thought of a national championship show.

APHA reports that the show drew 126 horses in 13 divisions. Most classes had fewer than 10 entries. So while it the show was run beautifully and had truly spectacular prizes, it didn’t, in the end, feel like a big show.

The show was aimed at bringing top-notch competition to new areas of the country.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“By taking the excitement of a top-level event and bringing it closer to our Eastern Paint Horse exhibitors, we hoped to invite new faces to dream big and compete for these prestigious titles and awards,” Senior Director of APHA Events Holly Slaughter said. “We were thrilled to welcome several exhibitors competing with APHA for the first time, along with strong numbers in many divisions.”

The turnout and enthusiasm at the Eastern event indicate the growth potential for the National Championship series, APHA Executive Director Billy Smith says.

The Western National Championship is set for October 16–19 in Las Vegas.

“The interest shown for both our 2019 National Championships indicates a gap existing within our horse show landscape,” Billy said. “These national shows fulfill a need for regional exhibitors seeking the thrill of a prestigious championship-level event located a little closer to home. We’re optimistic about this series and look forward to growing them further in the future.”

Find class results, results by judge, scribe sheets and complete high-point and all-around placings here.

Solid Paint-bred entries stand out at APHA Eastern National Championship

Tabitha Thompson of Fincastle and her mare Too Tuf To Be Fancy.

Written by APHA News

Solid Paint-bred exhibitors are shining bright at the Eastern National Championships, held March 22–24 at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia. The inaugural National Championship boasted more than 100 per-judge entries across Open, Youth, Amateur and Amateur Walk-Trot Solid Paint-Bred divisions by Saturday afternoon. Preliminary entry reports for the show are more than 800 per judge.

With bountiful opportunities to compete, solid Paint-bred exhibitors like Tabitha Thompson, of Fincastle, Virginia, enjoyed demonstrating their horse’s versatility. Tabitha raised Too Tuf To Be Fancy, a 2012 bay solid mare by The Ultimate Fancy and out of Hosan Forties (QH) since she was a weanling. The duo demonstrated their versatility at the Eastern National Championship Show, competing in Amateur Solid Paint-Bred halter, showmanship, ranch, equitation and showmanship events.

“We’re here to do a little bit of everything,” Tabitha laughed. “I only live 30 minutes away, so coming here was a no-brainer. The show has been great; we’ve gotten a couple of trophies and a few placings. I’m pleased with how we’ve done!”

High interest and a strong regional community of active solid Paint-bred exhibitors led to expanded class offerings, Senior Director of APHA Events Holly Slaughter says.

“We had great enthusiasm and interest from solid Paint-bred owners in the area. After reviewing the large number of class requests and examining participation in the area, we were excited to offer a full slate of solid Paint-bred classes—including Solid Paint-Bred Amateur Walk-Trot,” Holly said. “We’re excited for the turnout, and we hope to continue to grow our solid Paint-bred classes at future National Championships.”

Youth exhibitor Maryann Johnson of Drewryville, Virginia, took to social media to encourage entries; a member of Rock Solid World Tour, a Facebook group dedicated to organizing and encouraging solid Paint-bred exhibitors across the country, Maryann and fellow exhibitors created a spreadsheet of their planned entries to share with others.

“Networking is huge,” she said. “The spreadsheet let others know who was coming and in what events, so that they could better decide if they should make the trip. We communicate heavily on Facebook to see who is coming, and it really works!”

Maryanne brought Zippos Sweet Te, a 2010 dun solid mare by Zippos Goldn Mover and out of Blues Cup Of Te (QH), to the Eastern National Championship Show. Though they’ve seen great success at regional APHA, 4-H and Open shows, Maryann says the cost and distance makes attending the APHA World Championship Shows difficult. The National Championship brought the prestige and excitement of a top-level show to her area, she says.

“This might be as close to a high-level show as we can get—and it’s right in our backyard!” she said. “The turnout has been great, too—it’s fun to compete against other Youth [in the Youth Solid Paint-Bred division]. We like to win, but we also like to have a lot of fun.”

Inaugural APHA Eastern National Championship draws big dreamers to Virginia

Written by , Paint Horse Journal 

Excitement buzzed in the crisp air as the inaugural Eastern National Championship kicked off March 22, at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Virginia. Designed to bring more top-level opportunities to Paint lovers in different areas of the country, the 2019 Eastern National Championship is already seeing strong turnout and entries; Paint lovers from all walks of life are in attendance, dreaming of good rides and the coveted championship trophies.

Cheyenne Davis of Bedford, Virginia, is one such dreamer, and she spent 10 days prior to the National Championship counting down to the big event on Facebook, reflecting on her progress and memories with Stripes Little Swan, a 2003 bay overo gelding by Jedi Stripe and out of One Black Filly (QH).

“I have a tendency to think about backing out of things, so I thought that a countdown would make me really excited—and not nervous—about being here,” she explained. “Because I am excited to be here! It feels like such a blessing to have this kind of opportunity for ‘Levi.’ ”

Cheyenne’s aunt, Brenda Spencer, purchased Levi at an auction for $900 as a yearling. First intended as a pony horse on the racetrack, Levi instead became a stellar trail-riding mount before spending several years out to pasture; he didn’t begin his transformation into a show horse with Cheyenne until his 9-year-old year.

With hard work, determination and a strong support group cheering on their progress, Cheyenne and Levi soon stepped up to APHA competition, where currently compete in Amateur Walk-Trot all-around events.

“We showed our first Paint show in 2016, and we even won a couple of our classes—I was so excited! I’m just this girl from ‘Nowhere, Virginia,’ with a $900 horse,” Cheyenne laughed. “We won a whopping three APHA points at that first show, and I was so proud; I’m still proud of those points.”

When the Eastern National Championship Show was announced, Cheyenne knew it was a can’t-miss opportunity to show off how far they’ve come.

“I wasn’t planning on coming at first but the more I let it stew, the more something was telling me that I just had to come to this national show,” she said. “My plans are to take him to the APHA World Championship Show someday, but I’m not sure if that will happen; the National Show is my chance to give Levi the opportunity he deserves to do something big. I’m really excited; I’m just so happy to be here.”

The 2019 Eastern National Championship continue throughout the weekend; stay up-to-date on show entries and results by downloading the Cinch Horse Show Tracker app, available for Apple and Android smartphones. Find candid photos, updates and more via APHA’s Facebook and event page.

Extra Dirty Martini and Randy Wilson win 2019 Virginia Maiden

Horse and rider receiving winners check.
Extra Dirty Martini and Randy Wilson won the 2019 Virginia Maiden at the Virginia Horse Center.

With a big pot of gold up for grabs just in time for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, about a dozen horses took to the Coliseum at the Virginia Horse Center on Saturday, March 16, for the 2019 Virginia Maiden — a Western Pleasure class for horses 3 and over who have never been shown.

In a format that is familiar to many who attend the largest of stakes classes such as the World Show, the horses were introduced one by one as they jogged down the center of the arena in front of the judges before the class began.

Vying for a total purse of $33,810, the class was formerly known as the Hylton Maiden Western Pleasure Class and is designed to encourage owners and trainers from pushing their young horses too hard.  The class has been the highest paying Western Pleasure futurities in the nation for the past several years.

The class is run like a slot class, with a $700 pre-entry fee due Feb. 15. After that, the entry fee increased to $1,000.

This year, it would be Extra Dirty Martini, a son of The Best Martini, that would take the win. Bred by University of Florida and out of Certain Mouseketeer, Extra Dirty Martini was ridden by Randy Wilson and is owned by Jennifer Moreau.

Complete results:

 

  1. Extra Dirty Martini, owned by Jennifer Moreau and shown by Randy Wilson; $9,000
  2. Shez Slippin Around, owned by William Hodges and shown by Bret Parrish; $6,000
  3. Tennessi Whiskey, owned by Rusty and Katie Green and shown by Dawn Baker; $4,200
  4. Moonlite Imagination, owned by Dawn Baker and shown by Brian Baker; $2,400
  5. (5/6 tie): Only Na Lexus, owned by William Dean Oliver and shown by Jay Starnes; $2,100
  6. (5/6 tie): ShezaEzRockinGoodbar, owned by Mac McGinnis and shown by Dustin Milsap; $1,680 and $1,500 for being the highest placing Intermediate Rider
  7. PSU Certain Hope, owned by Penny Osburn and shown by Christina Bantner; $1,560 and $1,500 for being the highest placing Limited Rider
  8. Invitation Bronzed, owned by Nicole Stickney and shown by Jeff Long; $1,350
  9. No Doubt Ima GoodOne, owned by Lori Partridge and shown by Brian Rastall; $1,320
  10. (10/11 tie) Jessica Rabbit, owned by Alexandra Chavez and shown by Andrew Sharp; $1,200
  11. (10/11 tie) Drunk On Ur Love, owned by Stephanie Windecker and shown by Jessi Irion

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Virginia Horse Council to hold annual meeting and seminar in Blacksburg

horse council seminar flyerThe Virginia Horse Council will hold its annual meeting and seminar on March 30 at the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Educational sessions will take place throughout the day, beginning at 9 a.m. Cost to attend is $20 for council members and $25 for non-members. Lunch is included.

Sue Fanelli, chairman of the Virginia Horse Council board, will talk about the council’s Cruelty and Abuse Project at 9 a.m. Other topics throughout the day include Equine Cushings Disease, law requirements for horse owners, mud management, veterinarians expectations for standard of care, and a Make a Horseshoe lab. Speakers include Jill Deegan, Dr. Scott Pleasant, Carrie Swanson, and Paul Papadatos.

The day will also include vendors, a silent auction and networking opportunities. For more information, contact info@virginiahorsecouncil.org.

Roanoke Valley Horsemen’s Association to host 12th annual Equine Vet Forum

vet forum

The Roanoke Valley Horsemen’s Association will hold its annual Equine Vet Forum on Sunday, March 24, at the Pine Spur Hunt Club in Vinton, Virginia.

This year’s forum will feature Emma Jeffries from Blue Valley Vet, who will talk about hauling, and Tony Hutchins, of Pell Animal Clinic, who will talk about Tick Borne diseases.

Admission is free and membership in RVHA is not required.

Local Arabian breeder nominated for 2018 Breeder of the Year award

A Fincastle-based farm’s breeding program has been in the national spotlight. Wiloma Plantation  was nominated for the 2018 Breeder of the Year award by the Arabian Professional and Amateur Horseman’s Association.

“We think we have a breeding program that will keep getting better,” David Bandy told the Fincastle Herald recently.

The Bandys have been breeding horses for more than 40 years. The farm normally has three stallions and about 15 to 20 mares. Each year, they raise between five to eight foals. Besides Arabians, the farm also breeds Hackneys and Saddlebreds and outcrosses.

Recently, several of the Bandys’ horses have seen success at shows. The horses include: WP Corporate Image, WP Imperator Furiosa, WP Gold Boom, WP Corporate America, and WP Fashionista.

 

According to the Wiloma Plantation website, their breeding program “is based on a careful blending of Crabbet and Polish Arabians to produce maximum motion at the trot along with extreme length of neck combined with flexion at the poll. In addition, Hackney horse bloodlines through the Halstead and King horses, Hackney Pony blood through Heartland and Dun Haven lines, Dutch Harness Horses from the Ritsma Breeding Program, and Saddlebred horses whose bloodlines trace back to Wing Commander, Sultan’s Santana, and Oman’s Desdemona Denmark are being bred as purebreds, as well as being outcrossed on the Arabian horses. Utilizing these three programs will produce a blend of the best attributes of each breed resulting in the ultimate Half Arabian, as well as great purebred individuals in each breed.”

 

 

David and Cindy Bandy bought Wiloma Plantation in 1987. The farm of 130 acres features an 1842 house that is on both the Virginia and National Historic Registry.

David Bandy, a graduate of Virginia Tech, is president of Spectrum Designs,  which offers offering full-service architecture and engineering and is based in Roanoke. He previously served as the president of the Roanoke Valley Horse Show.

Their daughter Rachel, who graduated from Hollins University, has followed in her parents footsteps and is a horse show judge and exhibitor.

Hollins University hiring assistant riding coach

Hollins University is hiring a full-time, year-round assistant riding coach.

The assistant coach teaches riding classes throughout the academic year, but also helps prepare team riders for shows, and assists with the care of the horses and facility as needed.

Additionally, this position works with the Admission and Marketing offices on program recruiting including attending events, facilitating social media outreach, coordinating campus visits for prospective student riders, and helping them through the application, admission, and enrollment processes. The assistant coach also helps in the direction and planning of the summer riding camp.

Hollins University in Roanoke is one of the nation’s strongest equestrian schools.

Think you might have what it takes? Hollins University says successful applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in education, equine science, or a related field; a minimum of three years of successful experience with the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and collegiate competitive equestrian teaching/coaching at all levels; understanding and working knowledge of ODAC, IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association), SWVHJA (Southwest Virginia Hunter/Jumper Association), and other equestrian organizations and their rules and policies; understanding and working knowledge of horse health; Microsoft Office proficiency; and a valid U.S. driver’s license with minimal violations.

Candidates must have effective teaching methods; demonstrated horse and rider safety skills; ability to articulate the benefits and unique experience of a liberal arts institution for women; excellent leadership, role-modeling, organizational, communication, and interpersonal skills; and demonstrated success working with diverse populations.

Applicants must also have abilities to work well with student, campus, alumnae, and equestrian organization constituencies; work independently and as part of a team; and drivea horse trailer. Must also be able and willing to travel by air and ground and to work evenings and weekends. Applicants with experience in collegiate admission or marketing and those with knowledge of the Hollins riding program are preferred. Final candidates will be subject to criminal history and motor vehicle background checks.

Qualified candidates should submit a cover letter, resume, salary requirement, and contact information for three references to hollinshr@hollins.edu. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.

Flanagan Stables closes doors

flanagan

Flanagan Stables, a premier dressage stable near Christiansburg, Virginia, has closed its doors. Flanagan Stables offered many shows, clinics, lessons and more through the years.

Instructor Lynn M. Jendrowski said she is moving her business to a smaller facility in the area. She will be available for clinics and traveling to farms to teach.

The 35-acre facility along Interstate 81 is up for sale, priced at $695,000. The facility includes a 24,000 square foot outdoor arena with sand/rubber footing, 14,700 square foot indoor arena with sand/rubber footing, a large round pen, newly renovated stable area, a heated viewing room and large pastures.