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Animals 2015, 5(3), 576-591; doi:10.3390/ani5030373

Helmet Use Amongst Equestrians: Harnessing Social and Attitudinal Factors Revealed in Online Forums

The Appleton Institute, Central Queensland University, 44 Greenhill Road, Wayville, SA 5034, Australia
These authors contributed equally to this work.
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Academic Editor: Marina von Keyserlingk
Received: 20 March 2015 / Revised: 23 June 2015 / Accepted: 6 July 2015 / Published: 17 July 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Horses and Risk)
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Simple Summary

Epidemiological research details a high rate of horse-related injury, despite technical countermeasures being widely available and largely affordable. Whilst barriers to engaging in preventative behavior such as helmet-use have been identified, less attention has been given to enabling factors. These factors could contribute to the design of more effective injury prevention interventions. To identify barriers as well as enablers in an Australian context, we explored how riders discussed helmet use amongst one another in an online setting. Our analysis revealed that social relations heavily influenced safety behavior. In particular, we identified three attitudes that affected helmet use: “I Can Control Risk”, “It Does Not Feel Right” and “Accidents Happen”.

Abstract

Equestrian activities pose significant head injury risks to participants. Yet, helmet use is not mandatory in Australia outside of selected competitions. Awareness of technical countermeasures and the dangers of equestrian activities has not resulted in widespread adoption of simple precautionary behaviors like helmet use. Until the use of helmets whilst riding horses is legislated in Australia, there is an urgent need to improve voluntary use. To design effective injury prevention interventions, the factors affecting helmet use must first be understood. To add to current understandings of these factors, we examined the ways horse riders discussed helmet use by analyzing 103 posts on two helmet use related threads from two different Australian equestrian forums. We found evidence of social influence on helmet use behaviors as well as three attitudes that contributed towards stated helmet use that we termed: “I Can Control Risk”, “It Does Not Feel Right” and “Accidents Happen”. Whilst we confirm barriers identified in previous literature, we also identify their ability to support helmet use. This suggests challenging but potentially useful complexity in the relationship between risk perception, protective knowledge, attitudes, decision-making and behavior. Whilst this complexity is largely due to the involvement of interspecies relationships through which safety, risk and trust are distributed; our findings about harnessing the potential of barriers could be extended to other high risk activities. View Full-Text
Keywords: equestrian; horse; injury; helmet; safety; risk; online forum; barriers; enablers; behavior change; injury prevention equestrian; horse; injury; helmet; safety; risk; online forum; barriers; enablers; behavior change; injury prevention
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Haigh, L.; Thompson, K. Helmet Use Amongst Equestrians: Harnessing Social and Attitudinal Factors Revealed in Online Forums. Animals 2015, 5, 576-591.

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