Himes Introduces Christen O’Donnell Equestrian Helmet Labeling Act

Congressman Jim Himes (CT-04), along with Representatives John Larson (CT-01), Elizabeth Esty (CT-05) and John Carney (DE-At Large), have introduced the Christen O’Donnell Equestrian Helmet Labeling Act. The bill is designed to let horseback riders know if the headgear they are purchasing meets basic safety requirements.

“Eighteen years ago in Darien, Christen O’Donnell died after being thrown from a horse,” said Himes.  “She was 12 at the time.  Christen was wearing a riding hat that looked like it offered protection, but didn’t.  Since her daughter passed away, Kemi O’Donnell has been working to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s child. That’s why I introduced this bill. Clear labeling can save lives.”

Christen’s Act simply requires a clear and obvious warning label on equestrian headgear, including packaging and advertising materials, if it doesn’t meet the American Society for Testing and Materials safety standards.

The bill has also achieved the support of the American Horse Council and the United States Equestrian Federation, two of the most prominent riding-related organizations in the country.

“Whether it’s you, your kid or loved one riding a horse, you should have the right to know how safe your equipment is,” continued Himes. “This very simple bill helps achieve this goal. Riding is a popular sport here in Connecticut and across the country, and I want everyone to be able to enjoy it with a minimum of risk. Passing this bill is easy and will almost certainly prevent needless injury or worse.”



  1. Helmets should change color via a, ink bleed if ever they’ve received trauma from a fall or sharp blow. People and their children wear helmets that may have approved labelling but have been in a fall and will not protect sufficiantly if they receive another hit in the same area of the helmet.

    The thing is that riders are usually weaker on one side and horses get that figured out pretty quick and dump riders off of the same side repeatedly, as in “He always ducks left around a jump” or “Each time I go around the ring to the right he spooks and I fall off.”

    So a rider might buy a used helmet that has had a blow to it (BAD news) and not know it, or may not replace a helmet after a fall and not be protected.

    A common misconception is if the helmet isn’t visibly damaged it is “Still Good or Better than Nothing” but that simply is not true. Helmet’s foam liners are designed to compress ONCE to protect the skull and brain at the spot of impact to the helmet. Most times a dusting off is all a helmet gets before being put back on, but as explained above, what lies beneath that dusted off she’ll may no longer protect the brain from impacting the inside of the skull when it hits the ground or other hard object.

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