Safety First: Rider Sports Football Helmet in Traverse City

Photo by Andrew Ryback Photography

By Catie Staszak

When covering the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab’s Equestrian Seminar recently for US Equestrian, a quote that stood out to me was the following, from Stefan Duma, one of the Lab’s founders: “If an equestrian helmet is producing similar numbers to a [highly rated] football helmet, it probably doesn’t need improvement.”

According to Duma, “A football helmet is the most advanced designed and optimized helmet.”

Someone in Traverse City got the memo.

Andrew Ryback Photography’s popular “Horse Show Photo of the Day” Thursday featured a rider sporting a One K helmet with an interesting addition—a football helmet face guard:

Ryback concluded his post with the following statement: “This sport can certainly be dangerous, and I applaud her for doing what she needs to do to compete safely.”

Helmets can often be viewed as a fashion accessory more than a piece of safety equipment. I, too, applaud this rider for her efforts to put function above fashion.

The Virginia Tech Helmet lab is set to release its highly anticipated STAR (Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk) ratings system for equestrian helmets this fall. The STAR helmet ratings for equestrian helmets are designed to complement existing helmet certifications and fill in the gaps relating to concussion risks to help riders make more informed choices on the helmets they wear and purchase when riding, as well as educate manufacturers on how to improve the safety of their helmets. You can learn more at and at

Will any helmet come close to what’s worn in football? The two sports are incredibly different, with football a multi-contact sport. But we’re set to gain an entirely new wealth of knowledge very soon.

Which helmet do you think will be rated safest? I’m not sure this exact model was tested…


Show jumping commentator and journalist Catie Staszak is the CEO of Catie Staszak Media, Inc. and the color commentator and journalist for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League for the last four years. Catie has announced at showjumping events across the globe, and in 2018, she moderated at the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 2021, she received the inaugural AHP Equine Media NextGen Award for making “a significant impact in advancing equine media while upholding journalistic excellence, integrity, and trust in a competitive communications world.”

Catie began doing editorial work for The Plaid Horse in early 2020 before growing her role as Digital Content Manager and Co-Host of the Plaidcast in 2021. When she’s not working, she’s enjoying time with her two horses—”superhero” Zantos and 8-year-old Petey—her dog/production assistant Omaha and cat/office assistant Turtle.

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