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Let's Talk - On May 25, 2020, 46-year-old Black American George Floyd was killed while in police custody, after it was alleged he passed a counterfeit bill. A Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd lay face down, handcuffed, and pleading repeatedly that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd ultimately succumbed. The tragedy struck a chord and protests flared against police brutality and racism — I can’t breathe their rallying cry, leading to an ongoing resurgence of the global Black Lives Matter movement.

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Head injuries are the most common reason for admission to hospital or death among riders. Sobering statistics reveal the high percentage of equine-related accidents resulting in traumatic brain injury, and helmets have been associated with reducing the risk of traumatic brain injury by as much as 50 percent. Yet many riders still do not wear a helmet.

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There are many reasons, or rather, excuses for not wearing riding helmets. Yet research shows that a properly fitted, safety-approved riding helmet can drastically reduce the risk of head injury. When a rider falls, the head is usually the first thing to impact the ground. The human skull can be shattered on impacts of 7 to 10 kilometers per hour, and horses gallop at over 60 kph. According to the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky, three out of every five equestrian accident deaths are caused by brain injuries, and there is four times the risk of mortality for non-helmeted riders who become injured.

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It had been three months since Laura, a junior rider, had sustained a simple concussion during a fall from her horse. Her parents were becoming increasingly concerned that she was not progressing in her recovery. Laura was having difficulty focusing at school, disrupted sleep patterns, and intermittent headaches. Fearful of creating any further escalation in her symptoms, she had not returned to riding or any activity.

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You are who your friends are. That adage can apply to horses, too. How we treat them will often be reflected right back at us - for good or bad. Sometimes the difference between a harsh cue and an appropriate one can be subtle. Pressure can be effective, but intensity and timing can make all the difference.

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Horsemen and women around the world are enjoying horses in more unique ways than ever, especially here in Canada. From mounted archery to combat and tent pegging, cowboy mounted shooting to working equitation, and Indian relay racing to skijoring, there are challenging horse sports for everyone. Many of the seven sports described are relatively new, but the skills these sports require originated hundreds of years ago when good horsemanship meant staying alive during battle.

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Most of us intend for our daily rides to improve our horse at some level, either by adding to his physical conditioning or progressing his training skills. But whether or not your horse actually makes these gains often comes down to the amount of time you spend on each phase of the ride. The format of your ride determines the outcome of physical improvement.

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