Young Island Equestrian pushes for more regulation of helmet safety

By Abigail Cox

November 25, 2021

Holland College, Kinesiology student, Jacqueline Mackay is riding her horse Emery. MacKay rides for the Hurricanes Equestrian team. Photo by Abigail Cox.


Jacqueline MacKay has been riding since she was seven years-old and is a member of the Hurricanes equestrian team.

MacKay spends a lot of her free team spreading awareness about the importance of helmet safety while riding.

MacKay suffered from two concussions in the same year after falling off her horse twice. It was then that she realized the helmet she had been using, wasn’t properly protecting her head.

“It was after my second concussion when I was 17, was when I began researching and studying what helmets are the most protective and what ones are not because I knew mine was not doing what it should be.”

MacKay now has a helmet that better protects her head.

“Helmets don’t necessarily fully prevent concussions, but they do help the severity of them depending on your fall.”

MacKay’s new riding helmet has MIPS, which stands for multi-directional impact protection system, which is an additional layer of protection that moves with your head.

“So, when it’s an angled impact, your head can move a bit within the helmet, which allows it to absorb the majority of the impact.”

Since switching to that helmet two years ago, she has not had a concussion, although she has had multiple falls.

“I feel much safer riding in this helmet.”

The better the protection, the higher the price tag. MacKay’s helmet cost about $400.

Between Facebook and Instagram, MacKay has over 3000 followers. She uses social media to spread her message to equestrian riders about the importance of helmet safety.

“I always advise people, especially young riders, how important it is to get a helmet that fits your head properly because it won’t protect you if it doesn’t fit right.”

MacKay, who is a Kinesiology student at Holland College has even completed a research paper on the subject.

Having been in the sport for 13 years, she knows the risk and dangers well. There needs to be a better safety standard held during competitions, said MacKay.

“Not only should it be mandatory to wear a helmet, but it should also be checked by someone, to make sure it fits properly and that your helmet and equipment are safe.”

Angela Riveroll, a Research Scientist at the University of Prince Edward Island has done multiple studies on concussions over the past few years.

Concussions are a very grey area, said Riveroll.

“It can be hard to tell if there is actually an injury to the brain and what the short- or long-term effects may look like.”

Riveroll has recently been working on a study where they test blood for a specific protein, to help determine if someone has been concussed.

“There is a protein in the brain, that is a part of the neurons. Whenever there is a harsh impact to the brain, some of this protein may fall off the neuron and enter into your blood stream.”

Riveroll and her daughter are both horseback riders, so she knows the sport well.

“As riders, we fall off and the first rule we are told is we have to get right back on.”

There should be someone on the show grounds who is certified and able to do some testing on site to determine if there are any signs of a concussion, said Riveroll.

“Impacts to just the body itself can result in head injury, from the jolt or whiplash.”

Even though it may not be fashionable, it’s important to protect your head, said Jacqueline MacKay.

“Get a helmet that fits your head properly, it isn’t about the style or how it looks, it’s about protecting yourself.”

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