If your head or body is hit hard enough, the soft tissue of your brain, which is cushioned by spinal fluid, can crash into the hard bones of your skull and become bruised and damaged to varying degrees. Doctors generally rate the severity of a concussion by grades, depending on the symptoms that are displayed and how long they last.

With lower-grade concussions where there is no loss of consciousness, the person may not even realize they have suffered an injury. Often, any confusion, memory loss or disorientation is short-term, any may go away in less than 15 minutes, so the symptoms can be easily overlooked or dismissed.

Common signs of concussion include:

– Dizziness or light-headedness

– Nausea or vomiting

– Fatigue

– Headache

– Blurred vision and sensitivity to light

– Slurred speech or saying things that don’t make sense

– Difficulty concentrating

– Poor coordination

– Anxiety or irritability

– Short-term memory loss

Your brain needs sufficient time to heal after a concussion. If you return to your regular riding or exercise program too soon, you can delay recovery, or risk a more severe injury if you take another fall. A person with a concussion should rest in the days following the injury, avoiding too much physical activity or exercises that require concentration, until the symptoms subside.

People with repeat head injuries are more likely to suffer permanent brain damage. A report by the Equestrian Medical Safety Association states that “a rider who has one head injury has a 40 per cent chance of suffering a second head injury.” Further, “children, teens and young adults are most vulnerable to sudden death from second impact syndrome: severe brain swelling as a result of suffering a second head injury before recovery from the first head injury.”

Wearing an ASTM/SEI certified helmet is recommended AT ALL TIMES, whether riding in a show, on the trail or in your backyard. Studies have shown that wearing one reduces the chance of a brain injury by approximately 80 per cent. See page 8 in Horse-Canada for more information on the importance of protective headgear.


by Christi Mastley


1. Is your helmet more than five years old?

A. No B. Yes


2. Have you taken a hard fall while wearing your helmet?

A. No B. Yes


3. Does your helmet fit? (See Tip 5 on page 7 for a fast way to check your helmet’s fit.)

A. Yes B. No


4. Is your helmet made specifically for horse-back riding?

A. Yes B. No


5. Is your helmet certified by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and/or the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI)? (To find out, look for an ASTM/SEI label inside your helmet.)

A. Yes B. No


If you got all A’s — Your helmet passes the safety quiz! It’s doing a great job of protecting you. You can feel secure, knowing that you’re riding safely.

If you got any B’s — Your helmet fails the safety quiz. It’s probably not protecting you as well as it should, so it’s time to buy a new one.