Plaidcast 313A: Tom O’Mara, Joe Dotoli & Dr. Barry Miller by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services

Plaidcast Episode 313A Tom O'Mara Joe Dotoli Dr. Barry Miller


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Piper and Traci Brooks speak with US Equestrian President Tom O’Mara, USHJA Board Member and Safety Committee Chair Joe Dotoli and Dr. Barry Miller of Virginia Tech about helmet safety and the recently released helmet ratings. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!


  • Host: Piper Klemm, Publisher of The Plaid Horse and Traci Brooks
  • Guest: Tom O’Mara is the President of US Equestrian. Prior to his role as President, Tom was a member of the Board of Directors for four years, and served as Secretary/Treasurer for two years. Tom has been an active part of the hunter/jumper community for many years, where his wife, Liz, daughters Meg, Casey, and Abby, and son T.J., are active competitors. With a professional background as a financial services manager and consultant, Tom brought his business acumen to his role on the US Equestrian Board of Directors. Tom took on the task of heading the Drugs and Medications/Lab Review Task Force, which ultimately led to the transfer of the USEF testing lab to the University of Kentucky. Tom has also been active in elevating varsity equestrian as an intercollegiate sport. 
  • Guest: Joe Dotoli has been part of the horse industry for nearly 50 years as a professional rider, trainer, judge, horse show manager and was the recipient of the 2017 USEF Lifetime Achievement Award. Joe’s record in the show ring as a rider and trainer is remarkable with championship wins at nearly every major hunter/jumper show. An even greater legacy is Joe’s work with younger equestrians who also have gone on to achieve much success- among them, Olympic gold medalist Peter Wylde. Joe dedicated nearly three years of his life to the passage of the “Safety Helmet Rule.” This made it mandatory for hunter/jumper competitors to wear American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) helmets. Joewon the 2001 USEF Distinguished Service Award for contributions to equestrian sport and is currently a USHJA Board Member and Safety Committee Chair. 
  • Guest: Dr. Barry Miller holds a PhD in Sport Biomechanics from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and also an MBA from the University of Delaware. Dr. Miller has over 25 years in higher education in various administrative and academic roles. Dr. Miller joined the Virginia Helmet Lab about 5 years ago and serves as the Director of Outreach and Business Development.
  • Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Foam-
  • Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
  • Photo Credit: Sara Shier Photography
  • Subscribe To: The Plaid Horse Magazine
  • Sponsors: Purina Animal Nutrition, Pacific Coast Horse Shows AssociationAmerica CryoAmerican StallsLAURACEA, BoneKare, Show Strides Book Series, Online Equestrian College CoursesWith Purpose: The Balmoral Standard, and American Equestrian School

This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.

Piper Klemm [00:00:34] This is the Plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine. Coming up on today’s special episode, we are going to be talking about the recent helmet study at Virginia Tech and discussing with several people who helped bring this study to life and what the results mean and the implications of all this. Today, I’m joined by my co-host, Traci Brooks of Balmoral Farm, and this episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services. 

Piper Klemm [00:01:02] Welcome back to the podcast, Traci. 

Traci Brooks [00:01:04] Hey, Piper, thanks for having me. 

Piper Klemm [00:01:05] It’s been a while. You’ve been on an airplane almost every Monday going to and from indoors for a while. 

Traci Brooks [00:01:13] Yes. I feel like I just live on airplanes now. It’s all been a blur, but hopefully now we get a minute to regroup before we hit the ground running in January. 

Piper Klemm [00:01:23] Yep. So you have some exciting news you want to share with us. 

Traci Brooks [00:01:28] Our book came out! Our book came out: With Purpose, The Balmoral Standard. And we literally yesterday just saw it for the first time, which was so exciting and fun. 

Piper Klemm [00:01:42] So tell us about it. Tell us about it. What’s in the book? 

Traci Brooks [00:01:47] Just some little glimpses into the way we do things. Our philosophy. As Carleton would say, this is this is book number one. So it’s somewhat general. So I think it speaks to really anyone who rides and across any discipline. Everything from what happens in the barn and preparing to ride and taking care of your horse to what actually happens when you’re riding, when you’re showing and just a little bit of the way we do things and we don’t think that’s a one size fits all or it’s going to help everyone in any one or the only way. But it’s just something to get people thinking and just options of different ways to do things. 

Piper Klemm [00:02:31] What I really like about the book. It’s also what I what I really like about riding with you both is that it’s really teaching you how to think and teaching you how to, how the horse thinks. And so instead of having answers, that kind of teaching you how to think empowers you to handle any situation that comes up. Because, you know, it’s not it’s not a matter of, you know, when you’re riding just putting the left leg on, it’s understanding why and how the circumstances are coming to the point of putting your your left leg on so that, you know, when you’re out in the ring by yourself or somewhere on your own, you know what set of circumstances lead to what reaction is needed from you. And I think that the book really encompasses from from horse care to how you plan your year to what horse shows you do, really thinking about it from your horse’s perspective and and really using that mindset of what does your horse think about all of this to to get where you want to go. 

Traci Brooks [00:03:28] I think that’s so much of what we try to get across in the book. And in some recent clinics that we’ve done is is saying to people there’s no right or wrong, there’s no one size fits all. Every person’s different. Every horse is different. And don’t think you have to get pigeonholed into thinking, Oh, I have to get on my horse and always walk for 10 minutes and I always have to go to the left first. And we just we keep asking people, why, why do you do this? And it’s interesting because so many people look at us and they say, well, that’s just the way we do it. That’s just how you’re supposed to do it. And then we continue to say, why, why, why? And then we just get their wheels turning a little bit and they go, Actually, we don’t know why. And we say, Well, wouldn’t- consider this. You know, there there are probably ten more options of things you can do that might make sense in your situation or more sense for your horse. And we free people up or we try to to just open their minds and and know it’s okay to do things differently. It’s okay not to have the right answer and just go in the same track that you think you’re supposed to go in because, quote, everyone’s doing it. 

Piper Klemm [00:04:37] Well, you said there’s no right way and wrong way. I would agree. I would argue that there’s a wrong way, But there is no one right way. 

Traci Brooks [00:04:46] Well, I mean, I think the way you do it, Piper, might be the wrong way for most people. It seems to be the right way for you. But like, the way you do it just I mean, just your situation. You don’t get to practice, right? You show up and show. But you have a system that works for you that you’ve created over time. And yes, it’s been trial and error, but you know what works and what doesn’t work. And now you know that if your horse is prepared a certain way and you embrace a certain system and believe in that, that 98% of the time it’s going to serve you well. 

Piper Klemm [00:05:23] Absolutely. And, you know, I think that I think that that has so much come from like what the book is about. It’s about listening to him and and figuring out what he wants and and making him happy and comfortable with his people at the horse show, it’s so fun for me, I think what are the coolest parts of the National Horse Show for me is he walked, Ruben walked right off the trailer and he saw Carleton and David and he was like, Oh, hey, guys. Like, he was totally comfortable in his in his skin, seeing his people. 

Traci Brooks [00:05:56] It’s so true, I think. And and we always say the horses, just like kids, just like dogs. They want boundaries. They want discipline. They want to know what to expect. So when things become somewhat routine and your routine doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s, but if it’s systematic, then it takes so much of the guesswork out of it for the horses and the people. And for us, every horse that we have has a different system. But we we try to get in their heads and we get to know them and know what they like and what works and what doesn’t. And some you understand immediately and some it takes years. But definitely we’ve seen, at least in our world, that they actually like it and they thrive on it. People too. 

Piper Klemm [00:06:43] So this is an episode that’s going to be tailored around safety and the helmet study. You have a chapter about safety in the book that was written long before all of all of this. But I think. But you know, to me, safety is so important. Doing everything we can to be safe is important. And then once once we put on the protective equipment, the best thing we can do is be good present horse people and knowledgeable horse people and surround ourselves with knowledgeable horse people because the purpose of protective equipment is not to use it. The purpose of protective equipment is for when everything else breaks down. So the safest thing you can do around your horse is be present, be aware, be thinking like they’re thinking and be around knowledgeable horse people and learn the best and most safe practices for for everything you do. I mean, it’s so quote unquote minor. But, you know, if I like one time, you know, don’t pull the reins over the head till even lead into the ring. Like Emily will be on me and say no. Like we have correct mechanisms, we have correct functions, we have correct habits. And those are the things that fundamentally keep us safe day to day. The the protective equipment is for when. The small percentage of the time that horsemanship fails, it’s not meant to be used. 

Traci Brooks [00:08:14] Absolutely. And I think what one thing that that I take away from all these conversations is I don’t want people to think, oh, I went out and bought the best helmet, so now I can jump higher, I can do more, I can take more risks. It’s still every day, every second you have to be scanning and paying attention. And I can’t tell you how many times in a week I see someone walk up to the mounting block and I say to them, Pay attention. A lot of things happen at the mountain block. You’re you’re thinking about all of your to do list for that day or what horse show you’re going to, where you’re talking to someone. And it just in an instant, things can change. You go to turn out your horse, it spins around and it makes you don’t check your equipment before you get on and your reins break. I mean, there are so many variables that just having the correct protective gear is not a silver bullet. 

Piper Klemm [00:09:09] Absolutely. And and this is another argument I would make to put your phone in your trunk when you get to the barn . And, you know, the more we are on our phones and the more we are not paying attention and not aware of the horses, you know, the more accidents are going to happen in our sport. And and that that’s a scary thought. And we’re heading in that direction. And we really need people present and listening to horses also with the younger generation on their phones more than ever, learning that horsemanship, learning that horse sense. A lot of that comes from just hanging out at the barn and, you know, you might quote unquote, not be doing anything. But if you’re sitting on your tack trunk with your head on your phone, you know you’re not going to notice the horses. You know, how the how they shift their weight and how they react to different environmental stimuli. And and that’s the best way to keep yourself safe, is to really understand the horses and how they’re going to react and how what their incentives are and that their prey animals and how they’re going to go about their days. 

Traci Brooks [00:10:15] Absolutely right. And I think that’s how you develop that intuition is you’re in the moment and if you’re not available, then it’s not going to happen for you. And so many people say, I want to learn, I want to learn, and they have their face stuck in their phone. And even if they’re studying something or they’re watching YouTube videos, they’re not really feeling the horses. So I think just being present is huge. And the barn at the ring, when you’re watching at the horse show, any time, just get away from your phone. Get away. It’s it’s meditation in a way. And I always say that to our adults who come and ride, like when they can get on and get away from their their to do list and their task for the day and their phone. It’s a moving meditation, so you have to be present. And I feel like any time you’re around horses, that’s the case. 

Piper Klemm [00:11:04] We’re going to take a quick break here and be back with U.S. equestrian Tom O’Mara on how this monumental helmet study for our industry was funded and how it all came together. And then later on in the program, we are going to be hearing from Joe Dotoli and Dr. Barry Miller about the actual research. So hold tight here while we hear a word from some of our sponsors. And in the break, if you want to pick up Traci and Carleton Brooks book With Purpose, The Balmoral Standard, it’s available on Amazon Audible Kindle or the 

Piper Klemm [00:14:09]  Tom O’Mara officially became the President of U.S. Equestrian in January 2021. Prior to his role as president, Tom was a member of the Board of directors for four years and served as Secretary Treasurer for two years, Tom has been an active part of the Hunter Jumper community for many years, where his wife Liz daughters Meg, Casey and Abby and son T.J. are all active competitors. Meg and, T.J. are both past winners of the Dover USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final. With a professional background as a financial services manager and consultant. Tom brought his business acumen to his role on the U.S. Equestrian Board of directors. Tom took on the task of heading the Drugs and Medication Lab Review Task Force, which ultimately led to the transfer of the USEF testing lab to the University of Kentucky. Tom has also been active in elevating varsity equestrian as an intercollegiate sport. 

Piper Klemm [00:15:00] Welcome to the plaidcast, Tom. 

Tom O’Mara [00:15:02] Thanks, Piper. Thanks for having me. 

Piper Klemm [00:15:04] So tell us a little bit about why U.S. Equestrian wanted to be involved in this helmet study and why such? Why now is such an opportune time to really focus on safety? 

Tom O’Mara [00:15:14] Well, great question. Safety is something obviously forefront of a lot of things that we do, both human and an equine safety. The helmet. And believe it or not, the Virginia Tech lab has been in existence for quite some time. I think it’s over ten years. They started working on a project for football helmets after there was a major lawsuit about not keeping football players safe, not just in the NFL, but at all levels from, I think, youth football through high school, college, up to the pros. And it was a major, major settlement. That part of the settlement that the sport wasn’t acknowledging the true risks of playing football was to set aside money for research and to figure things out. And I think that’s when they and again, this is my my recall here. But that’s how they connected with Virginia Tech, which was well known in some biomechanical engineering research. There’s a lot of universities that probably are, but they had some type of connection with Virginia Tech, and that’s what started it. And really, Virginia Tech reached out to us, the US Equestrian Federation, a couple years ago now and told us about this. And then they believe it or not, there was a young woman who’s a graduate assistant there in the lab who is a member. She’s an eventer. She’s a member of U.S. eventing and U.S. equestrian. And she also made it a point to connect with us all. And she’s coming to speak at our annual meeting. And and she said that they had the research, but, you know, to do the work for a specific sport that they needed funding and they had reached out to the U.S. Hunter jumper association. I think they reached out to a lot of the different affiliates under U.S. equestrian. And when I finally. Thought it through. I realized, you know, this is not an eventing problem. This is not a dressage issue. This is not a hunter jumper issue. This is a sport wide issue. So I kind of realized that we needed to spearhead it a bit and and get involved and coordinate everybody to make sure. And so we had meetings with the Virginia Tech lab, the leaders there, the scientists who run, and they walked us through what they have done with other sports and the helmet research that they’ve done. And and I tried it out. I went out to get a bike helmet one day recently, shortly after that first conversation, they were talking about bike helmet. I pulled up their website and I looked at the different ratings and I bought a bike helmet based on that because now I could differentiate a little bit instead them all  just being kind of pass fail, which I think is the key part of this whole thing. So we coordinated the whole thing. They needed to raise a lot of money. We put it together. I went to the board of the USEF. They agreed that we needed to make sure that this got over the finish line and it was some great coordination, I think, across all the different organizations who raised money. And so it was USEA it was the Jacqueline Mars Foundation, U.S.. I know you don’t like it when we use acronyms. So US Eventing I mentioned Jaqueline Mars Foundation, U.S. Hunter Jumper and the U.S. Hunter Jumper Foundation also was involved, and individuals. So we talked about it and put it out there and we had members, both the USHJA had members directly donate to them and we had members direct donate through the USEF public relations. You know, we put our press piece on it and said, if you want to help contribute and people did. So we raised a significant amount of money which was then going to fund a I think we of course we were immediately saying everyone was collectively we’re on the phone with Virginia Tech. We’re like, get this done as fast you can. Right. And they said, well, you know, we’re going to build it and do all the work. So they eventually got it done on time, actually a little bit ahead of schedule. So it took about a year and a half from us raising the money, committing it to them for the entire study and for them to come out and release this first round of 40 helmets, I think it was that they did the testing on. 

Piper Klemm [00:19:27] Yeah. And prior to this, all we had was kind of a pass fail system in helmets. So everything appeared essentially equal to the consumer. 

Tom O’Mara [00:19:37] That’s exactly what hit me. There’s two parts of this that I just wanted to chime in on. And I know you’re going to have the experts from Virginia Tech speaking and and Joe Dotoli, who’s done a lot with the USHJA Safety Committee and has been a proponent of helmets in our sport to begin with. So he’s been kind of the grandfather, the godfather of getting helmets more widely accepted many years ago. And so that was the first step and this is the second step. But what stood out to me, the most interesting thing to me was as a consumer, as a parent of young kids who ride horses was what you just said. The the standard to date has been and this is what the folks at Virginia Tech pointed out to us, pass fail. So every helmet when you walk in the shop has to meet the standard, which if you want, which I’m not saying that’s a good standard or a bad standard, but it’s just a standard. So everything that’s above that, how do you differentiate besides how it looks, which is really what equestrians do? So by having this rating system, we can now look at every helmet and see, okay, we know they all pass, they all meet the minimum requirement and really what are the ratings? And then you can make a choice. Now, that’s the neat thing. The second thing I heard on this Piper was people were concerned in other sports before we were doing this for equestrian that. You know, actually, there’s one of their concern was that it would raise the costs of them all because all of a sudden you’re raising a standard and everyone wants to get the highest rating and that’ll just cost more to produce and that’ll cost more for the end user. Well, irrespective of whether or not it costs more, I don’t know how we can measure how much you would spend to keep your kid or your significant other or yourself safe. But the fact of the matter is and here’s what happened, which I think is really important for everyone to recognize. But in the other sports, when they finally did this, we just got to the first stage of this. It’s you know, the first round of ratings is out, but it will evolve as more and more get done and they will continue to do ratings over time. So with the other sports, it’s the over time part that they did a study on and two things came about. One, before the so pass fail rate. So here’s everyone’s passes. And then if you put in a rating system of, you know, 1 to 5 and everyone comes in at, I think one, the lower number is the highest rating is a better helmet in this case, if everyone was say, everyone had a low rating. Whatever metric you’re going to use for the rating. If at that point in time, once they knew that they were being rated, they saw over time that the level of the helmets in these other sports actually all did get better. They all started once they knew once the helmet makers knew what they were shooting for and what the requirements were. They made them that way. So until that metric and those measurements were put out there, they weren’t doing that. So we have seen the precedent is that in other sports, the helmets actually got safer over time. And to the cost point, the actual cost of those helmets in those other sports went down or on how much better the helmet is comparison. You know, they may have stayed the same, but the helmet was four times better all of a sudden. So it’s pretty significant the advancements that are made once you just have these metrics out there. So to me, that’s the most exciting part of it. We’re above pass fail now. We can differentiate and I think going forward the helmet makers will well, will make helmets even better now that they know. 

Piper Klemm [00:23:19] Absolutely. And we’ve seen this in our own industry. When, you know, the approved helmets in the nineties before they were required were the most uncomfortable, horrible helmets. And then as soon as they became required, there were mass People being like, no, no, this needs to be a lot more comfortable. You know, all the helmet makers changed it. And really overnight, it seemed like looking back on it, all of a sudden we had all these approved options and comfortable options. And the market, you know, it’s a little bit of a chicken and egg as a market, you know, driving the helmet makers are the helmet makers driving the market. And it’s a little bit of both. I think that’s why it’s hard to make change and parse out. But exactly what you’re saying, as soon as the helmet makers really understand what will encourage people to buy their brand or their helmet, they’re going to do it. 

Tom O’Mara [00:24:16] Yeah, there’s no doubt. I mean, you’ve already seen there’s since the first announcement of the first set of ratings occurred, a number of helmet makers have responded already publicly. There’s, I was just reading an article on it yesterday. And the great thing about their responses is, you know, they’re not all attacking the system that was used. They’re all saying this is good. Some have said they weren’t so certain that it was measuring one part of their helmet versus another. To me, that’s just all good. Now, the conversation has started and they’re they’ve all stated they’ve always said that was their goal was to make safe helmets. And this research is helping them as well. Right. I mean, not every helmet company, they all do research. They all do testing, but they might not be doing this research or this testing. So by having a little bit of centralized independent funding of independent studies and independent research has created the next stage of conversations for helmet manufacturers who I’m positive going forward, we are going to be seeing new models and new research and new studies and new safety around all the helmets that are currently in our our equestrian world. So I think this is great news. 

Piper Klemm [00:25:27] Absolutely. Well, Tom, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you for spearheading this initiative with U.S. equestrian and and having our governing body get behind the safety of everyone. 

Tom O’Mara [00:25:40] Thank you, Piper. 

Piper Klemm [00:27:28] Dr. Barry Miller holds a Ph.D. in sport biomechanics from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and also an MBA from the University of Delaware. Dr. Miller has over 25 years in higher education and various administrative and academic roles. Dr. Miller joined the Virginia Helmet Lab about five years ago and serves as a director of outreach and business development. Joe Dotoli has been a part of the horse industry for nearly 50 years as a professional rider, trainer, judge, horse show manager and was a recipient of the 2017 USEF Lifetime Achievement Award. Joe’s record in the show ring as a rider and trainer is remarkable. With championship wins at nearly every major hunter jumper show, including the Devon Horse Show, the Hampton Classic, The National Horse Show, the Pennsylvania National Horseshow, and the Washington International Horse Show. An even greater legacy is Dotoli’s work with Younger Equestrians, who have gone on to achieve much success. Among them, Olympic gold medalist Peter Wylde after a number of tragedies resulting in the hunter jumper disciplines. From those choosing not to wear a safety helmet. Joe dedicated nearly three years of his life to the passage of the safety helmet rule. This made it mandatory for hunter jumper competitors to wear American society for testing materials as ASTM helmets, due in large part to his work on this initiative. He was awarded the 2001 AHSA, Now USEF Distinguished Service Award for Contributions to Equestrian Sport. Joe is currently a USHJA Board Member and Safety Committee chair. Welcome to the plaidcast, Dr. Miller and Joe Dotoli. 

Dr. Miller [00:29:00] Thanks for having me. 

Piper Klemm [00:29:01] So, Dr. Miller, can you briefly tell us about what the Virginia Tech helmet study looked like from the scientific study part and then how some of the results were were ranked and what criteria you use? 

Dr. Miller [00:29:16] Sure. This is a two year project that culminated in a star rating for equestrian helmets. This is our ninth star rating release. And in a nutshell, we took a sample of 40 helmets currently available on the market from a variety of manufacturers and model numbers and price points. And from those 40, we actually take an average and then from that average, then we start calculating all of our, you know, our weighted metrics for the location, the velocity. And then basically what we determined is that, you know, some of the helmets, two of the helmets were five star and then there’s a couple at the lower end. But, you know, it’s it’s typical. The biggest step forward is that we now include both linear and rotational acceleration for these ratings. And as most of you know, the current standards only use linear acceleration. And then in the pass fail threshold for those are catastrophic head injury. So we go a step further and now we’re taking the helmets through an evaluation as it pertains to the concussion risk. So we we have a bivariate risk function, obviously, that includes linear and rotational acceleration with over 2 million data points. So we have a really good idea of when those numbers start to reach certain levels, what your risk of concussion gets. And so yeah, we’re very excited to release these star ratings. We’ve already had several conversations with equipment, helmet companies and asking us how we know how we can improve the helmets. So that’s where we are. And I think the advances are going to come fairly rapidly in the big scheme of things. And so it’ll be the next next phase of improving safety for the equestrian world. 

Traci Brooks [00:31:02] Can you elaborate a little bit on how you test them? I know you do a lot in the field on different surfaces and then it goes to the lab. Can you tell us a little how that works? 

Dr. Miller [00:31:12] Yes. We did a bunch of developmental tests. We went to our equestrian facility here on campus. We did dropped head forms onto dirt. It was pretty packed dirt. It was really hard it was probably one of the worst surfaces you could probably use. And then we also did on sand. We did some measurements on grass. We actually did take measurements on the new synthetic surface called Putting’s First, I believe. So what we do is we take all that information from these dropped head forms into the real world, and then we try to replicate those in the laboratory. And we have a variety of test rigs or and or we can build a test rig. And what we try to do is match the time traces of those acceleration graphs. So every time your head hits the ground, you create some sort of graph. What what is the linear and rotational acceleration graphs look like? And it’s really important to try to best pair those and match those in a laboratory setting. And so we we landed on using the pendulum impactor, which is a highly repeatable test rig. It’s really easy and really efficient and precise to actually put a helmet on a head form that’s attached to a hybrid, three neck and a sliding mast. So a really consistent and using that. Obviously, you take the pendulum arm up to a certain angle. You get a nice repeatable velocity at impact. And then we decided on three locations based on the literature and the 100 plus video analysis of how people actually fall. So we do three locations, a couple of different energy levels, a low and a high, which are also determined from the research, our video analysis. And so basically run those helmets through those three locations to energy levels and thats, you know, 12 total impacts. So we do two trials per condition and then that kind of starts to put our test data into a nice big data package, and we start analyzing from there. 

Traci Brooks [00:33:12] I was interested to read that a lot of the worst falls are actually low energy falls. Can you elaborate on that? 

Dr. Miller [00:33:21] Yeah, I don’t know that the worst falls are the low energy falls. What the research told us is that there’s lots of concussions but no helmet damage. And so these helmets, just like bike helmets. They’re single impact helmets. So they’re generally made of EPS foam. So kind of an expanded foam that’s designed to crack, crush, crumble, break or somehow somehow deform if the energy threshold is high enough for them to do that. It’s kind of like the crumple zone in your car. You know, a small bumps, probably not going to get to the crumple zone of your car. It might just be the bumper. But if the energy is not high enough to allow that helmet to attenuate the energy by braking, crushing, crumbling, etc., then most of that energy is probably going to be transferred to your head. And so again, there’s quite a few research papers out there with lots of injuries, and only 50% don’t have any helmet damage. So that kind of led us to believe that the helmets are probably too stiff. And then also looking at the research literature, most falls happened at the lower energy levels. Versus the high energy levels. You know, you can have a variety of ways that you fall off your horse, but, you know, more times than not, you’re probably not doing the high end activity. And so the research said we should rate or weight. The low energy falls much higher. And so we weighted them three times as much as the high energy because there are a lot more frequent in the real world. And so and then the results pretty much show that, you know, the helmets and our test ratings thus far, the helmets that did better on the lower energy impacts tended to score better in the Star rankings. 

Piper Klemm [00:35:02] So Joe, let’s take a step back and talk a little bit about kind of the story of of how we we have approved helmets and and how that all happened. It’s easy to look back and say, like, this was an obvious decision, but, you know, 20 years ago, you were very, very much alone in wanting us to wear helmets. 

Joe Dotoli [00:35:25] It was a lonely island there for a while trust me. 

Piper Klemm [00:35:28] It was very lonely. I, I was driving to Devon probably seven or eight years ago, and I had a herd of young riders in my car, as I often do. And one of them made some comment that was like, no one person can change the sport or something pessimistic like that. And I was like, the first story that came to mind was actually you. And so I told them the story that I knew from my outsider perspective of how the how the helmet rules came to be. And so I’d love I’d love you to tell that story from your perspective. And I also want to say that without you, we would be like Western disciplines. I mean, the majority of people did not want to wear a helmet, they did not want to wear an approved helmet. They were not interested in this. And by making a sweeping rule change, everyone had to. And once they had to, the helmet makers really stepped up and made better helmets. They made more comfortable helmets. They made more stylish helmets. But without without the rule change with and without essentially forcing people, it wouldn’t have happened. And we see what that would have look like and we see what that would have looked like on the western side of things where no one kind of came through and forced anyone. And still so many people don’t wear a helmet. 

Joe Dotoli [00:36:47] There was there were a number of us, a small number, but there were a number of us that were interested in and trying to make our sport like other real sports and get some protective headgear. And we went through a number of at the time AHSA conventions trying to make something happen. Nothing really did. Except they would keep putting in the rule book strongly recommended and of course peer pressure with the kids and so forth. Nobody wore them. I mean, you would never find a safety helmet on horse show grounds. And then in my mind, the worst compromise that was ever made was back in the eighties when they said, okay, we’ll keep the old helmets, but we’ll make you put a harness on. And all the kids had to wear harnesses on their stupid little shell caps, which you might as well have put a harness on it, on a baseball cap. And so to me, it sent completely the wrong message. It said to parents, okay, well, now they’re safe because we put a harness on, but they were no better than they were before the harness. So it was a it was not a good rule change at all – it was the wrong direction. And then the sport went through a really bad time. I don’t know whether you remember, but there was, I believe, five fatalities and about a two and a half year period at major horse shows around the country. Four were juniors. One was a professional. And you know, finally, I just kind of thought to myself, you know, this has got to stop and somebody’s got to be the bad guy here because nobody wants to do this. So somebody is going to have to make it happen. So I put a committee together, put a lot of very influential people on the committee and. With the idea that we would first try to get the low hanging fruit, meaning at least you could get most people to agree that kids ought to wear helmets. So we figured Junior’s first would be the best shot we had. And before we went to the convention with that rule change, I went like there was only six helmet makers at the time. And I wrote them all a letter, asked them if they would send a representative to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where they have their annual sales meetings in the fall. And I rented a room in the Holiday Inn there. And. To my surprise, all six companies CEOs came and we had a problem making the rule change because our people were never going to wear the helmets that were on the market. It just wasn’t going to happen. You know, everybody called them the bubble hat helmets and what the real problem was. The helmet makers had given up on horse show people because we had so many times come to the start line and so many times we failed to get anything done. And so each time they thought they had this market, they didn’t. And so they were making helmets for the people that wanted them, which was pony club, 4H, handicapped riding and all they really cared about that they were safe and they weren’t very expensive. And so that’s what they were getting safe, cheap, hideous looking helmets. So I knew I had to do something with the helmet people before we can make this really work. So I had that meeting with them and I said, Look, we’re going to get this rule passed and I’m going to guarantee you a whole new market of people. But you got to help us out. So I’m going to do is get the rule passed with a two year waiting period. And in those two years, you got to promise me that you will make helmets that our people will wear. They don’t care what they cost. They just want them to look right and do the job. And they all agreed that that could be done. So then we went to the convention and we got the rule passed for juniors with a two year waiting period. And that day of the vote, I’ll never forget it, too, because you brought up the the Western world. I was on the board of directors at USHJA at the time and I had gotten there to try to get this done. It was the only real reason I wanted to be on the board. And the day of the vote came as to whether it would be mandatory for juniors. And I got cornered by the three or four Western representatives on the board, and they kind of got me in the corner and said, Listen, mister, if you have any thought of making our people wear these helmets, we’re not voting for you. And I remember distinctly saying to them, Look, I got enough problems with my own discipline, you guys. You got to do your own thing. And so they said, okay, then you have our vote, and we got it passed. And in those two years, the helmet makers, I got to say, did a phenomenal job. They produced helmets that were attractive. They were they they were all put past the ASTM standard. And they looked like real athletic helmets, not you know, it was not just trying to make a hunt cap look like a helmet. There were real. Safety helmet GPA was the last of the bunch to get certified. And and that was like literally midnight before the rule went into effect. But they did get the certification and we were all all ahead full, which was great because GPA had become the popular helmet with the juniors and so most of them were wearing them before the rule went into effect. So if for some reason they didn’t get approval, it would have been a nightmare. But they did last minute. It all worked out. Another year later, we made it for adults as well, and a couple of years after that, we finally made the current rule, which says that anybody on the show grounds that’s on a horse has to be wearing the ASTM helmets. So, I mean, it worked out. It was. But as you say, in the beginning, it was it was a tough gig. And I really didn’t want to go on my computer because I was getting hammered. So I tried to just stay off the Internet for a while until everything got done. But it got done and it it worked out great. And, you know, for the last 20 years, we basically because that was 2001 when the junior helmet rule got passed. So 20 years we’ve been, you know, working off that premise and we’ve gotten everybody used to the idea. And and to be honest, one of the biggest things is the attitude has changed unbelievably. I mean, today, I mean, judges don’t. You know, they’re happy to see the kids in the vest. They’re happy to see the kids, you know, riders doing what’s safer for the sport. It’s really been a whole 180 degree turn on how people are looking at safety in the sport, which is great. That’s how it started. 

Piper Klemm [00:43:37] So, Dr. Miller, can you give us a little more context on what Virginia Tech has done with with other sports and how the safety lab got started? And, you know, again, I think and this is something I say a lot on the plaidcast is that we we often don’t learn from other sports in the equestrian world because we feel like we have nothing in common with them except the opposite is true. We have so much to learn from other sports. So can you tell us a little bit about how Virginia Tech got started on this side of things and how equestrian got involved? 

Dr. Miller [00:44:07] Sure. So the helmet lab was actually formed or the idea came from our equipment room guys down in athletics asked Dr. Duma 15 years ago, Can you help help us pick  a safer football helmet? Dr. Duma came out of the auto safety injury biomechanics area and he said, Well, you know, let’s think about this, you have to remember 15 years ago when concussion was just starting to be talked about and we didn’t really understand it. So Dr. Duma said, Yeah, if we can quantify what happens to your head, you know, maybe we could do a better job, picking and chooseing and helmet. So we started putting sensors inside helmets and the sensors were kind of they rested between your head and then they kind of embedded in the padding of the helmet. And so whatever happened to your skull- We use that as a surrogate to guess what happens inside your skull because we can’t really put sensors inside your skull. At least we haven’t had any volunteers just yet, but we’re happy to take them. And so after four years of collecting all this on field data with about 50 football players, you know, we had all these impacts. Every time your head was hit, the sensors would give us linear and rotational acceleration information. And so we started building this basically risk of concussion contour graph, because when onfield concussions were diagnosed, we would pair those with what the helmet data tells us and every practice is videotaped so we could confirm know where these players get hit. You know, was it head to knee, head to ground, helmet to helmet, whatever it was. So we start documenting all this and we continue to do that to this day. And so at this point in time, we have over 2 million data points. But the first ratings were released about ten, 11 years ago in 2011. And then since that time, there was only one five start. How many initial ratings for football? And now you cannot buy anything but a five star rating. And a lot of it attributed to us because we gave the manufacturers a blueprint to improve helmets, just like the equestrian world helmets are approved for football by the National Operating Committee for the Standards of Athletic Equipment, better known as Knoxy. They first came out with that standard way back in the seventies, and same thing was true to prevent from catastrophic head injury. And so we got rid of concussions in that sport to help the certifications do great for that. But then, you know, what’s the next level? There’s still a lot of concussions. You know, football players are probably the fastest, biggest, strongest athletes as far as team sport goes. And so when they hit each other, it’s it’s a pretty high energy impact. Yeah so since that time again. This is our ninth star helmet rating and our ratings have proven to be effective in the real world. So our football, ratings have actually reduced concussions on the field, because if you compare the five star helmets to the one star, two star helmets, there’s documented data that says, yes, better helmets reduce risk, and there’s published papers about this. So we feel very strong, very strongly that we can improve. You know, the same thing with the equestrian world and advance the helmets or help the manufacturers advance helmets and make the the sport safer. 

Traci Brooks [00:47:23] Let’s move into the actual ratings list for the equestrian helmet. And I wanted to bring up something that I think marketing goes goes a long way with this. And for a long time, you heard people say, oh, I have to buy the helmet with the newest technology. It’s the MIPS technology. And then you look at that ratings list and the MIPS technology is is not one of the highest rated helmets. So also noticing that on that list, the helmets that we’re used to seeing at horse shows don’t really start showing up until much further down. So can either one of you speak to that? 

Dr. Miller [00:48:02] Sure. Well, I can start with the rotation of mitigating technologies, which MIPS is one of several. It’s to my knowledge, it’s the only one included in equestrian helmets. And basically what it does, it’s a little plastic liner that goes between your head and the helmet to create the slip plain. So in essence, what it does, it allows the helmet to move a little independently of your head. And these impacts or, you know, 5 to 10 milliseconds, so really fast. But if the helmet can move and absorb energy before it takes your head with it, that’s all advantageous. You know, a full head of hair is a natural slip plain. And so is it. As it comes to these rotational technologies, their efficacy may be very dependent on exactly how you test a given helmet. You know, what head form you use. Did you use a surrogate neck? What location, what energy did you create? An oblique impact, which is, you know, creates a lot of rotation. And so all those things may affect how well one of these or any of these rotational technologies work. Our goal was not to conduct samples, paired samples of MIPS and non MIPS helmets. If they happen to have them, you know, they get tested just like everything else. And so some helmets are highly rated. Rated have MIPS in some of the lower rated ones still have MIPS. So it’s not always indicative of overall helmet performance. But again, I think it could help depending on the location, energy and how you test that helmet. 

Piper Klemm [00:49:38] Can you talk a little bit about how you read the data? I know that obviously people were very quick to jump to conclusions on the Internet. And I noticed that. But some of the initial readings were backwards or not. What was intended. 

Dr. Miller [00:49:53] Yeah. So again, the average helmet is now a 5.0. As far as the Star score and the reason it’s because we did when we average and create this absolute risk function to start with and then we wait the location and velocities accordingly based on, you know, trying to make the helmet as robust as possible for every location as far as risk is concerned. And then the frequency of the low energy is higher, so that got weighted higher. So then we standardize and create the average helmet starts off as a 1.0. And then we we multiply everything by five just to spread the scores to make them a little bit more meaningful, because it’s hard to interpret a point two five or, you know. And so it’s easier to interpret like a 2.5 or that. So what the Star score represents and the score is the critical piece because that’s what determines what bin or what star number you’re going to get. It’s kind of like a ABCD. And, you know, an on math test, except for in our case, you want a low score because the star score represents the average number of concussions you would get wearing that helmet model if you’re exposed to the testing protocol here in the lab, which are representative of the real world. And so and so for the star for equestrians, it’s actually 30 impact tests. 15 are high energy and 15 are low energy. And so you don’t expect to have a zero, right? Because 15 of these are pretty high energy impact. And so, you know, for helmets at this point in time, to attenuate all that energy without a concussion would be kind of rare. So the average helmet does have a score of 5.0. So just like anything else, most helmets are about average. You’ll have some that are a little better, some a little worse. But so, you know, a three star helmet is actually a, you know, pretty decent helmet. And again, these helmets were all designed based on the certification standards, which is for catastrophic head injury. So they are safe and they protect you from catastrophic head injury, which is the critical piece. Now, this next phase is the advancement. Now, can we also, you know, help these manufacturers improve these helmets to help reduce concussion risk? And so that’s where we are. And so, again, we’ve already had lots of discussions with helmet companies out there looking to know what are the data look like, where, you know, where is the risk, the highest risk based on location and energy. And and again, I think, you know, the helmets, that did the best, did a little bit better job on the lower energy impacts compared to the others. But again, there’s stiff because the standards require them to be stiff to protect from catastrophic injury and injury where the helmet cracks crumbles. I mentioned previously. So does that help? 

Piper Klemm [00:52:42] Absolutely. And I feel like there’s I feel like with all parts of our sport, people seem to just want like an answer they want, you know, and we see it all the time with everything else. Like, should my horse, like, be barefoot or where these shoes or that shoes are? Like, people just want there to be one answer and there’s no. Can you talk a little bit to this? Like, there’s no one answer, there’s no one helmet, there’s no, like, the best to to just get it that’s involved in so many of these things. And helmet companies will constantly be improving thanks to studies like this. But there’s so many other factors and it’s not like buy this one that and this other one is trash. 

Dr. Miller [00:53:22] Yeah. So yeah, this is similar to the bike helmet ratings and the football helmet ratings. Remember football we only had one five star helmet to start with and now you can’t buy anything but a five star helmet. Same with the bike helmets we have over, you know, over 150 helmets rated now and now the list of five star. I don’t know how many is on there, but it’s a lot. And so we need to rescale because the helmets keep getting better and better, better. And you know, with this initial launch, we weren’t surprised to see how things shook out. Most helmets are about average, you know, because, again, there was no design criteria to change or improve them over and above the standards or the certification standards. So and I would say this to the riders out there, you know, you don’t need to jump to any conclusions and, you know, freak out and, you know, feel like you have to go buy a helmet right now because there’s going to be advances made. Your helmet’s safe to protect you from catastrophic injury. There’s like I said, you know, for the most part, these helmets and depending on what type of riding you’re doing, I would go there. So, you know, if you’re a high end jumper, you might want a helmet that protects you from penetration from crush, as well as all the different impacts from the hazard handles. And so, you know, depending on if you’re just a ranch hand and you don’t ride much and you’re, you know, just walking the horses around, maybe you don’t need a helmet that has a triple certification because you’re you’re not as exposed, you’re not as risky as some of those other things. So take that into account how the helmet fits your head. Obviously you want it somewhat snug. The most critical piece, the helmet fit is, does it stay in place for that initial impact if you were to get bucked off or fall off your horse? And, you know, there’s a lot of head movement when you fall off a horse and so it needs to be tightened up to stay in place for that initial impact. That is the critical piece to helmet fit above anything else. You know, if it’s a little bit looser than that or a little bit tighter, for the most part, if it stays in place. The performance of the helmet as far as impact attenuation is going to be about the same. So I got that answer to that question quite a few times the last couple of weeks after the rating. So any follow up questions to that? 

Piper Klemm [00:55:36] Yeah. I think that that’s just such a reminder of like being really realistic to, to what you have going on and what you’re doing. And obviously anything can happen, but it’s not, um. How do I say this? One of the things I preach is like the best. You shouldn’t be using your protective equipment. Like, it really should revolve around having good horsemanship practices. Being aware, setting yourself up for safe situations. And. And the helmet really is a failsafe for when all of your your regular practices fail. 

Dr. Miller [00:56:15] Absolutely, yeah. But we talk about football players. We say, well, don’t hit your head. And so they started modifying practices and tackle football where they don’t hit. They do a lot of drills where they’re not allowed to hit or use their head during impacts. And so, you know, there’s a lot of changes you can do to maximize safety. You’re right. Helmet is the last resort. Best thing is don’t fall off your horse at all, right? But if you did, then you probably want, you know, a high performing helmet that protects you from catastrophic injury. And now with these recent changes, maybe a helmet that better protects you from concussion risk as well. So I kind of use the analogy of the auto safety world right? We first had to wear seatbelts and they went across your lap because then we included shoulder straps and then we had airbags and then we had airbags everywhere, front, back, side, top. And then we had sensors that tell you you’re not wearing your seatbelt or lane changes. And so, you know, do you run out and change your car right now to get the latest technology? Probably not. But next time you shop, you might take all that into consideration on price. How often do I drive, am I a commuter or do I drive, you know, just in town? So what’s my exposure, in other words, to all these things? And so that’s going to, you know, help drive what kind of helmet is best for you when you make that purchasing decision. So. 

Piper Klemm [00:57:31] Okay. So that actually reminds me of this question that I’ve had that no one’s been able to answer for me. Shifting the conversation to vests a little bit. One of the things I’ve always thought looking at vests and I’ve done no research into vests and I don’t know anything about this is having air canisters like seems like a lot when air bags use sodium azide, right? Like, why wouldn’t we have a sodium azide exploding vest like an air bag? 

Dr. Miller [00:58:02] Good question, Joe. You want to start with the use of chest protectors and air bags and then you know where we’re hopefully with the next phase of research. 

Joe Dotoli [00:58:12] I don’t know whether you were tuned into the state of the association at the annual meeting, but that was kind of where my talk went in that, you know, where do we go from here? And and I think we all agree that that the air vest technology has got to be next in line here for us to tackle. And, you know, part of the problem is that the air vest technology has been borrowed from motorcycle world. And, you know, theres a number of things like the noise they make, motorcycles don’t care when they make a big pop, but some horses do. You know, the fact that we have to still be tethered to the saddle to make them work. There’s a lot of issues that we need to get some real science on to know how much the vests are helping, if they’re helping and and deal with some of the the basic problems which are the noise they make, the fact that some go off when they’re not supposed to, some don’t go off when they are supposed to. We’ve got a we’ve got a lot of things that we you know, I think most of us who who have kind of looking at it as we go here, it seems like you’re looking at evidence that they do help. You know, we bought one for our granddaughter. We feel that they’re they’re an improvement in safe riding. But as Barry will tell you, one of the things we’re coming up against is different from helmets. Helmets had a good standard ASTM 1163. But vests don’t really have a standard at this point. So we’re kind of the the study is going to have to be more widespread. It’s going to have to be deeper. The good news is board of Directors USHJA has given us the okay to start raising money to go full bore on the whole vest thing. And, you know, we certainly hope and we know that Virginia Tech is ready to go go with us on this and and do some real science on the vests and how they help and how they don’t help and improvements that we can make and all of that. So, yeah, we’re we’re we’re ready to go. We’re going to be starting to raise money very shortly. 

Piper Klemm [01:00:28] I think that’s really exciting and I think that that’s so good for the sport. And again, that goes back to what’s so good for the companies because then they know what they’re building towards and they know what the standard is. I think, you know, from again, from my outsider’s perspective vest have seemed a little bit like the Wild West the past few years. I think the pandemic has made people more cautious. They made people more fearful. They want to protect themselves every way they can, which is not a bad instinct around horses. But then to have all of these air vests that, you know, have, as you said, like very little standard, very little consistency. We have, from what I understand, some studies on the shell vests, not the air vents, as used for venting, but those are pretty old studies at this point. 

Joe Dotoli [01:01:16] Yeah. You know, my my feel on the whole thing. And, you know, I don’t know how I became this involved in safety, to be honest with you. I just tried to get a law passed a bunch of years ago, and now they won’t let me go. But I do. I am happy to be the one that seems to be able to move the needle on this stuff. So I’m always happy to try to take the next step. My feeling has always been we live in a dangerous sport. Let’s protect ourselves as best we can. And that’s what we love. And that’s been my approach from the beginning. I think there’s no reason not to take advantage of the technology and I think would be not very intelligent if we didn’t take advantage of it. So, you know, I don’t know if you’re aware of how my involvement with Virginia Tech started. If you want me to go back to that, I’ll be happy to do it. But I’m sure it’s been great to work with Barry and Dr. Duma and all the brilliant people at Virginia Tech. It’s very inspiring. 

Piper Klemm [01:02:15] Yeah. I’d love to hear how that all got started. 

Joe Dotoli [01:02:17] So I don’t know how. Barry, you know how your. Idea of how it all started with me was. But you guys. I’m sure you know Kenny Marish, the horse show announcer, His wife had a brain injury from a horse from a fall. And so Kenny has always had an interest in, you know, the safety issues, particularly helmets. And so every once in a while, he’ll send me something by email or text or whatever. And I got this. He sent me an email with a copy of an article about the work Dr. Duma was doing at Virginia Tech with the football helmets and the bicycle helmets. And it was it just was great. And, you know, I had been thinking for a long time, you know, we’ve had this rule for 20 years about ASTM and having an ASTM helmet, but we haven’t really done anything since. So it’s all great. But let’s get some more information about concussion. You know, we just know that they passed the standard. We don’t know anything more. So I got this article that had the work that was being done, and I literally went on Google and got the 800 number for Virginia Tech and called up and asked if I could talk to Dr. Duma. And, you know, he 20 minutes later, he called me back and I told him, you know, the organization that I represent as chairman of the safety committee. And what would Virginia Tech’s interest being in doing an equestrian study? And we got the ball rolling and it’s been it’s just been great. Our association has been terrific. I work mostly with Barry, not so much with Dr. Duma, but we we’ve we were able to raise were able to raise $450,000 in eight months to get the ball rolling. And Virginia Tech has been right on schedule with everything that’s been great. 

Traci Brooks [01:04:17] And I’m assuming there’s ongoing fundraising looking into vests like starting that process that’s that’s in the works currently? 

Joe Dotoli [01:04:26] For that for the vest. So you’re talking about. 

Traci Brooks [01:04:29] Yes. Well, helmets and vests but specifically vests. Yes. 

Joe Dotoli [01:04:32] But the vests we just really gotten the ball rolling at this annual meeting. We’ve been given the okay to start raising money, which we’re we’ve got some plans to start doing. I know the board of directors is ready to stand behind it with funds. And, you know, it’s a it’s a bigger nut, so it may take longer to raise the money. On the other hand, we seem to have so much more interest than we did even two years ago in helping out with getting this done. So I think we’ve got we’re going to have an easier time this time around raising the funds to get this done. Yeah. It’s it’s all very positive. 

Traci Brooks [01:05:13] What do you think the number is? What do you need to get the vest research going? 

Joe Dotoli [01:05:19] Barry, want to handle that. I mean, I know what the number is, but I don’t know how much. 

Dr. Miller [01:05:23] Yeah, well, but you can share it. We gave you guys the proposal. Yeah. 

Joe Dotoli [01:05:27] So it’s. It looks like double. It looks like $850,000. 

Dr. Miller [01:05:31] And and the reason for that, Piper, is this is really technical. It is hard research to do, you know, helmets and head forms are really easy to, you know, put helmets on, you know, head forms and do some impact testing that we’re you know, we’re kind of experts in that area. We’re a comprehensive injury biomechanics lab. And as I mentioned, Dr. Duma came out of the auto safety world. And so he’s done a bunch of work with airbags, seatbelts, and in particular the rib cage in the torso that current standards, you know, don’t do a good job as it relates to the by bio fidelity of the tests. So they don’t really simulate, you know, your chest or your rib cage very well at all. And just like helmets up and to this point, you know, you pass or you fail. So you don’t really have an idea, you know, how well did it pass or in the criteria for passing is not necessarily congruent with exactly how the body or the torso, you know, chest, spine, rib cage, how that responds to an injury scenario. And so, you know, we’re going to have to use full hybrid three dummies, which are very expensive and hard to use. They’ve got a lot more sensors. And when we drop these things, it gets very technical as far as how you assess that area of the body. And then, of course, we would look at, you know, both standard vests and Airvests. And, you know, when it comes to airbags, you know how fast they inflate, how fast what’s the run down times so after they do inflate and you’re falling against it, you know, you want it to give a little bit. And so there’s it gets highly technical with this this research and but it’s needed because we don’t really know if those safety vests really at this point in time are helpful in all injury scenarios. Or maybe they’re not helpful at all. It all just kind of depends. So we need to really do our due diligence and do some research and figure out what should be the recommendation and advance, you know, the next level of chest protection. 

Piper Klemm [01:07:31] So is the helmet study being submitted for peer review and as a goal of the vest study when when the funds are raised?

Dr. Miller [01:07:40] Yeah, we used to always submit peer reviewed articles for all of our helmet ratings. The equestrian one’s in print right now, so it’ll go to one of the biomedical injury journals. We obviously have the methodology on the website right now, so that’s kind of the nuts and bolts of it. But yes, it’ll be peer reviewed by our colleagues throughout the country, so we look forward to getting that. And that’s pretty much true with everything we do. We always, you know, in our proposal to say, hey, this, you know, we anticipate, you know, trying to publish this because otherwise, you know, how do you advance safety if you’re not publishing your your work? And so, you know, we don’t operate we don’t make decisions without peer reviewed data. And so we would expect the same. It’s part of our public service mission. Virginia Tech is a public institution. 

Joe Dotoli [01:08:27] So. 

Piper Klemm [01:08:31] That sounds great. Joe, is there anything else you want to add? 

Joe Dotoli [01:08:37] No. You know, I think making the sport safer is everybody’s job. I think that we all know we’re in a sport that can be that can have a fair amount of risk to it, both when you’re on the ground and when you’re on the horse and. I think, as you said, Piper, you know, part of the responsibility is to teach kids good horsemanship. And a lot of those old Horsemen’s rules that were that that developed over years for a good reason. As you know, we know horses can be unpredictable. And then when we’re on a horse that, you know, we’ve made great strides, we’ve got safety cups, we’ve got good we’ve got good helmets, we’ve got vests. And the study where we’re doing a good job as far as when we’re on the horse. And I think it’s everybody’s responsibility to, like I said, make the sport as safe as we can and then go on with what you love. We don’t want you to jump lower, we don’t want you to go slower. We just want to use the technology to make the sport as safe as we can. And then let’s go on and do what we love. 

Piper Klemm [01:09:55] Sounds great. Well, Joe Dotoli, Dr. Barry Miller, thank you so much for joining us on the plaidcast. 

Dr. Miller [01:10:00] You’re very welcome and happy to answer any follow up questions moving forward. So my email address is on the website. All the methodology and the ratings are on the website and happy to elaborate where needed. So. Thanks for having us. 

Piper Klemm [01:10:15] Thank you for all your great work for for everyone in our industry. We all appreciate it. 

Dr. Miller [01:10:21] Great. Thanks. 

Piper Klemm [01:11:58] To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show, visit the plaid horse dot com. You can find show notes at the plaid horse dot com slash. Listen. Follow the plaid horse on all the social medias. You can subscribe to the print edition of The Plaid Horse magazine at slash subscribe. Please write and review the plaidcast anywhere you listen to it and if you enjoy this episode, please share it with your friends. I will see you at the ring!