A fall from the back of a horse carries increased risks for head injuries, and while an increase in helmet use has helped reduce those injuries, the overall number of head injuries among riders is still high.
And choosing a helmet is a bit of a guessing game for riders. Word of mouth and anecdotal evidence seems to drive buying decisions and there is no rating system available that helps riders make an informed decision about which helmet to wear.
In hopes of providing some guidance and help lead manufacturers to produce safer helmets, the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab has set its sights on developing a rating system for riding helmets.
As part of a two-year project, the lab will develop a star system rating how effective the helmet protects riders. The lab’s helmet ratings identify which helmets best reduce concussion risk. More stars equate to better protection, with 5 stars representing the best available helmets. Consumer demands for five-star helmets will in turn drive manufacturers to develop helmets with the best protection.
Since 2011, the helmet lab has 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 research on head impacts in sports and identify which helmets best reduce concussion risk.
The lab has worked on helmets for several other sports, including football, hockey, and cycling. Each sport requires a very sport-specific evaluation system. For equestrians, helmets are tested against various surfaces such as grass and dirt, as well as from taller heights like a rider would experience during a fall from a horse.
“I look forward to the challenge of helping the horse center to be the best it can be.”
— Glenn T. Petty
Glenn T. Petty has been appointed the new CEO of the Virginia Horse Center Foundation. An experienced business leader and horseman, Petty will succeed John Nicholson and assume responsibilities on May 3, 2021. Nicholson will be retiring to his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky.
The foundation board of directors announced the appointment April 14, 2021.
Petty spent 16 years as manager of the Governor James B. Hunt Jr. Horse Complex and 25 years as show manager of the 19-day State Fair Horse Show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. Most recently, he was executive vice president of the Arabian Horse Association for 12 years.
He has experience working at the national and regional level with a wide array of breed and sport associations. Petty is also a past president of the North Carolina Thoroughbred Breeders Association and the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine Foundation.
Petty has served as a consultant on the construction and design of horse show facilities and fairgrounds across the nation. He has also officiated some of the nation’s largest shows including the Saddle Horse World Championships, the AHA Youth Nationals, and the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden and the Meadowlands.
“I simply could not be more pleased that Glenn Petty will succeed me as CEO of the Virginia Horse Center Foundation,” said John Nicholson, current CEO of the Horse Center. “I have known Glenn and worked with him for many years and I am proud to consider him a friend. He is an honorable, experienced, and well-respected member of the equestrian industry. Under his leadership we can look forward to great and exciting growth for our horse center in the years ahead.”
John Nicholson announced that he planned to retire more than a year ago, with the transition delayed by the pandemic.
Under Nicholson’s leadership, VHCF’s financial stability was restored, enabling it to thrive at a time when its survival was in question. Nicholson and his team attracted new horse shows, recruited new board members, and garnered the support of the equestrian community. Most recently, VHC raised millions of dollars to fund newly added renovations and upgrades at the facility, guided by VHCF’s first-ever master plan.
Gardy Bloemers, president of the board of directors, said, “On behalf of the entire board, I would like to thank John for his more than six years of service with the Virginia Horse Center Foundation. Seven years ago, our organization faced two very serious problems: a leadership void and financial instability. It would be hard to imagine what would have happened to VHC had we not found John.”
During Nicholson’s tenure he worked with both management and the elected leaders of Lexington and Rockbridge to increase the local occupancy tax allocated to meet the debt service on VHCF’s $11.5 million mortgage from the US Department of Agriculture. Obtaining non-operating resources to meet annual debt service payments was the first step in returning VHCF to financial stability.
Board Vice President Kenny Wheeler said, “All of us are incredibly grateful to John for stepping in to lead at a time when we needed specific expertise and help. The situation was pretty dismal. His vast experience and ability to connect with the horse industry, and the localities of Lexington and Rockbridge County,as well as commonwealth leaders, enabled us to turn this ship in the right direction.”
Legendary dressage horse, Totilas, died Monday after a severe bout of colic. He was 20.
Bred in the Netherlands, the Dutch Warmblood stallion was one of the most outstanding competitive dressage horses in the world and the first horse to score above 90 in competition with rider Edward Gal. He was the former world record holder for highest dressage score in Grand Prix Freestyle Dressage.
Totilas won numerous medals from the World and European Championships, including the World Championships held in Lexington, Kentucky in 2010 where he won three golds.
Totilas was pulled into controversy over Rollkur — the hyperflexion training technique used on him and what critics say create artificial, extravagant gaits.
In 2011, Totilas was sold to ownership in Germany. With Matthias Rath in the saddle, Totilas competed in the 2011 FEI European Championships, where the pair took team silver. Totilas was injured in 2012 and didn’t return to competition for two years. In 2014, he won the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special at Aachen but was withdrew before the freestyle due to another injury. He was then retired after an MRI revealed bone inflammation in his left hind hoof.
Totilas was also a sought-after sire and sired hundreds of foals in a stud career stretching from 2010 to 2020.
A message from Gal on the Glock Performance Center Instagram page reads:
Goodbye my friend Heaven has a new star today. But my heart is broken. Rest in peace #Totilas. You will always be remembered. Together with you I experienced happiness and even grief. Time passed by and wounds healed. But my love for you lasts forever. You honored me with your trust. You were my friend. My condolences to Matthias and all who had the chance to work or live with this exceptional stallion. And my thoughts to all of you who loved him. Good bye my friend. I will miss you until we meet again
Thoroughbred horse owner, philanthropist and son of a Sweet Briar College alumna, Richard C. Colton Jr. has given $1 million to the women’s college to support the renovation of the college’s stables, which will be named the Howell Lykes Colton ’38 Stables in honor of his mother.
Colton’s donation will enhance Sweet Briar’s ability to cultivate scholar-athletes who are accomplished leaders and supportive team members — and to maintain a nationally-ranked program that attracts top riders, instructors and trainers. The renovations should be complete by September.
“At Sweet Briar,” said the college’s president Meredith Woo, “one third of our students identify as riders, whether for competition or recreation. Their participation in the program helps them learn lessons of perseverance, discipline and teamwork. We are committed to supporting the excellence of our riding program and I thank Dick Colton for his tremendous generosity, which is an important part of that commitment.”
Colton is glad to be able to support the school his mother loved so much. “To this day, my mother’s life and what she did with Sweet Briar has definitely impacted us,” Colton said. “We really admired Sweet Briar. Being part of its comeback is honoring my mother and has been a wonderful part of my life. Also, Sweet Briar is really well-known for its riding and I want to help keep it up.”
Colton’s mother, Howell Lykes Colton, was a member of the Sweet Briar Class of 1938. She was a member of a number of clubs and organizations on campus, and also served as the student head of riding. “My mom was a very intelligent woman and Sweet Briar was a great asset to her life.” Colton told us. “She was wise beyond her years. I think she would have excelled in the school even in today’s generation.”
Sweet Briar has become something of a tradition for the Colton family. Although Colton wasn’t able to follow his mother to Sweet Briar — he graduated from Washington & Lee in 1960 — his sister, Keenan Kelsey ’66 did attend and both have been generous to the college.
Shadow Ridge Stables in Wirtz is now under new management.
Huxley Greer of New Life Equestrian Center at Shadow Ridge Stables says a lot of work has been done to ensuring the facility is ready to provide top quality boarding, training, lesson, clinics, shows, and more! Visitors are invited to check the facility out at an open house on Dec. 22nd from 1-3 p.m.
An overview of amenities include:
Laundry services for boarders
Outdoor arena with excellent footing, lights, and sound system
12×12 stalls with rubber mats and fans
Miles of amazing trails
Hot and cold wash stalls with fans and heat lamps
Heated tack room with individualized lockers
Variety of turnout options
Pasture board that offers comfy sheds with fans
Staff that lives on-site
All disciplines and levels of riders are welcome.
For those interested, an FEI event and dressage trainer is available on site for lessons, but boarders are also welcome to bring in outside trainers.
“Well, Doc, he sometimes takes an off-step when the ground is too hard.”
“He trips and stumbles when the footing is deep.”
“She seems off. Maybe.”
Equestrians of all disciplines dread that sinking feeling when they know something just isn’t right with their horse’s performance. Lameness can be notoriously hard to diagnose. But now, veterinarians in Virginia are getting a new tool to help evaluate sport horses. Virginia Tech’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia, recently broke ground on a new indoor arena designed to help evaluate lameness.
The arena will have three types of surfaces under one roof where equine athletes can be evaluated by a variety of specialists to diagnose possible physical problems affecting the horse’s performance.
The arena will be connected by a breezeway to the recently renovated Youngkin Equine Soundness Clinic, which also offers advanced imaging, therapeutic podiatry, and acupuncture among its services. The clinic also uses a wireless motion-analysis system to locate lameness.
In it’s 35th year, the equine medical center is working to become the premier equine medical center on the East Coast. It offers advanced specialty care, 24-hour emergency treatment, and diagnostic services for all ages and breeds of horses.
To schedule an appointment, refer a patient, or inquire about the center’s sports medicine or other clinical services, please call 703-771-6800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s a new spot to shop for horse lovers in Roanoke!
Tack of the Town, a consignment shop specializing in tack and equestrian apparel, has opened in Willow Tree Antiques & Primitives, across from Walmart on 220 in Clearbrook. The shop is located in the back left corner of the store.
Reba Farm of Bedford, Virginia, has asked to end their lease with Explore Park, citing lower participation than they expected for the riding program.
Horseback riding was just one of several services that were recently brought to Explore Park in Roanoke County as part of a revamp of the 1,100 park. Other services also include camping, disc golf, tubing, kayaking and other outdoor activities.
Roanoke County Parks & Recreation Director Doug Blount told The Roanoke Times that “the decision to end the lease was amicable.” The county partners with the farm for other programs such as Camp Roanoke.
Roanoke County says it hopes to find someone new to provide equestrian programs in the fall.
Horse racing is about to make its return to Virginia.
Colonial Downs will hold its first races since 2013 on Thursday, Aug. 8. Colonial Downs will hold 15 race dates this year from Aug. 8-Sept. 7 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Gates open at 4 p.m. and post time for all race days is 5 p.m.
Hundreds of horses are making their way to the track, which opened its barns on July 25. The public is welcome to watch the horses train every morning from 6-10 a.m.
General admission is free and includes apron access with track and paddock-side viewing, covered bench seating and access to the Paddock Bar and Homestretch Hospitality tent.
Colonial Downs, located between Richmond and Williamsburg in eastern Virginia, boasts the widest grass course and the second largest dirt track in North America.
The highlight of the racing season will be on Saturday, August 31 with the return of the Virginia Oaks and Virginia Derby. Flat racing is coming back to its Virginia roots, with an approximate $7.5 million in total purses.
Over the years, the Virginia Derby has been won by Eclipse Awards Champions Kitten’s Joy, English Channel and Gio Ponti. Hall of Fame-trainer Bill Mott and Eclipse Award-winning trainer Dale Romans have each saddled three winners of the Virginia Derby.
The first Saturday of the meet, Aug. 10, will feature four stakes races on the turf course for Virginia-bred horses, with each race carrying a $100,000 purse. Those races are: the M. Tyson Gilpin for fillies and mares at 5 ½ furlongs; the Meadow Stable, also at 5 ½ furlongs; the Nellie Mae Cox for fillies and mares at one mile and the Edward P. Evans at one mile on the turf.
The 2019 Colonial Downs meet will close September 7 with six stakes races totaling $550,000. Five of those events are Virginia-bred flat races and one is an open Steeplechase. There will be three races carded at 5 ½ furlongs on the turf: the $100,000 Jamestown for 2-year-olds; the $100,000 Punchline for 3-year-olds and up, and the $100,000 Camptown for fillies and mares. The two route races on the program will be the $100,000 Bert Allen at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds and up, and the $100,000 Brookemeade for fillies and mares, also at 1 1/8 miles.
The $50,000 Randolph D. Rouse Steeplechase for fillies and mares will be run at 2 ¼ miles over national fences.
Horse racing has deep roots in Virginia
Virginia has a long racing tradition. The first printed account of a Virginia horse race appeared in the Virginia Gazette of Williamsburg on Dec. 14, 1739.
An Englishman, J. D. G. Smyth, who visited Williamsburg in 1773, wrote of horse races. In “A Tour in the United States of America,” published in London in 1787, he reports:
“There are races at Williamsburg twice a year; that is, every Spring and Fall, or Autumn. Adjoining to the town is a very excellent course, for either two, three or four-mile heats. Their purses are generally raised by subscription, and are gained by the horse that wins two four-mile heats out of three; they amount to a hundred pounds each for the first day’s running, and fifty pounds each every day after; the races commonly continuing for a week.
“There are also matches and sweepstakes very often, for considerable sums. Besides these at Williamsburg, there are races established annually, almost at every town and considerable place in Virginia, and frequent matches, on which large sums of money depend; the inhabitants almost to a man being quite devoted to the diversion of horse-racing.”