Bill Could Enact New Safety Standards for Equestrian Helmets Christen O'Donnell riding prior to her death in 1998. 

Bill Could Enact New Safety Standards for Equestrian Helmets


New legislation could require equestrian helmets manufactured and sold in the United States to be held to a higher safety standard.

If signed into law, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) would establish safety standards for equestrian helmets. The regulations would be based on those developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), a leading non-profit developer of safety standards. All helmets manufactured and sold in the United States would have to meet the ASTM safety standards until the CPSC standards were finalized.

Companies who were not compliant and tried to pass off their unapproved hats as approved helmets would be subject to fines, according to the proposed measure.

“Since Christen’s death, I have been tirelessly working on passing the Christen O’Donnell Equestrian Helmet Act to stop the sale and production of unapproved equestrian helmets in the United States,” said Kemi O’Donnell, Christen’s mother.

Christen’s life was snuffed out far too soon when she was only 12-years-old. She died in 1998 after being thrown from a horse that was walking during a riding lesson. Christen was wearing a hard hat that looked like a helmet, but it did not meet proper safety standards and she sustained a traumatic brain injury.

“I had no idea back then that the helmet she wore that day was simply a piece of apparel and offered no protection against any kind of head injury. I could not believe that it was legal in the United States to sell something that looked exactly like a helmet but was simply a hat. If passed, the Christen O’Donnell Equestrian Helmet Act would ensure that no consumer ever again would mistakenly purchase a hat instead of a helmet,” said O’Donnell who has been crusading to protect other riders for years.

Head injuries account for approximately 60% of deaths resulting from equestrian accidents. Properly fitted ASTM-certified helmets can reduce head injury-related deaths by 70% to 80%. U.S. Pony Clubs reports it lowered head injury rates by 29% through mandatory helmet use.

Congressman Jim Himes recently unveiled the measure and said, “As a parent of two young girls, nothing would cause me greater pain than seeing my daughter hurt or worse from an injury that could have been prevented with proper protective gear.”