Today’s post is a little side-jog off the usual marketing topics, but it’s one on my mind this week. The horse world is pretty darn traditional in lots of ways, but when it comes to safety, what’s the cost of tradition?
I’ve been emailing with Debbie McDonald and Courtney King-Dye on an article that’s about to go up on Riders4Helmets.com this week. Courtney suffered a traumatic brain injury over a year ago when her horse tripped and fell on her; she wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time, being in a hurry and thinking she could skip it ‘just this once.’ She ended up being in a coma for a month. While she’s very fortunate that her injuries didn’t result in the permanent damage that often comes with head injuries, and plans to return to riding and competing, her days right now are filled with all kinds of rehab therapy, and she’s not yet able to walk without assistance. And that’s after a year of therapy.
Debbie started wearing her helmet religiously after Courtney’s accident, and good thing – recently she was pitched off a large, young gelding, landing on her head and thankfully messing up the helmet instead of her noggin. She says that helmet saved her life.
This morning I came across a link to a British Horse Society (BHS) survey, shared on Twitter by @YourHorse (thanks!). The survey seeks to determine why more riders and carriage drivers don’t wear high-visibility (hi-viz) clothing, which can give an additional three seconds of reaction time by vehicle drivers.
According to BHS Senior Executive of Safety Sheila Hardy, not only does hi-viz equipment help drivers avoid hitting you, wearing it can help others find you should you be lying on the ground, perhaps unconscious, after a fall or accident on the trail.
The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) recently passed rule changes about helmet-wearing in both eventing and dressage competitions, although adult (over 18) FEI level dressage riders are exempt from the requirement. That rule change, while encouraging in terms of safety improvement, doesn’t even begin to address the traditional headgear of western disciplines, the cowboy hat.
Pro bull riding, bicycling, and hockey are three sports that have focused more on safety in recent years, and safety helmets are either required (hockey) or much more common than they once were (PBR and bicycling), but the introduction of helmets and other safety or protective gear often faces significant resistance.
OK, this is where we go back to marketing. It’s an interesting dilemma, overcoming resistance to change. And when that change is butting up against tradition as rich and as old as equestrian tradition, it’s particularly challenging. However, the tides can change, and horsebiz owners and managers can actually make a difference here:
- Safety can be a selling point in marketing messages for riding stables, lesson programs, and trainers, especially when trying to attract those new to the horse world. Olympian Debbie McDonald now won’t even teach a student unless they’re wearing a helmet; how’s that for a strong message?
- Manufacturers and retailers can also incorporate safety into their marketing, in ways that are both interesting and engaging. How about video clips of safety gear in action, or using photos of riders with helmets in catalogs and on websites? Make a big deal out of local or national ‘safety holidays’ with in-store displays or social media events. You can start with U.S. National Safety Month, which is this June.
Despite the best intentions, accidents can and do happen in the horse world. It doesn’t even matter how experienced or competent you are; both Courtney King-Dye and Debbie McDonald are Olympic riders and among the best in the dressage world! But a safer horse person is one that can remain in the industry, and be a customer, for a long time, so why wouldn’t we want to promote attention to safe practices and safety equipment? Seems like a no-injury-brainer to me.
Does your horsebiz have regular safety practices, or use safety in your marketing? Are you planning to make any changes to promote greater horse & rider safety? Share them via the Leave a Comment link below.