Interview with Anne Kursinski

 CHAMPION ANNE KURSINSKI TALKS HELMETS WITH STATELINE TACK

Anne Kursinski
State Line Tack is proud to announce our association with World Champion Horsewoman Anne Kursinski and to launch the new, expanded content area of our website with an exclusive conversation with Anne, available only at Statelinetack.com. With the World Equestrian Games, considered by many riders to be more important than the Olympics, held for the very first time on U.S. soil this month, it is the perfect time to feature an athlete and trainer who leads equestrian showmanship on behalf of our country.

As part of our ongoing campaign to encourage everyone to wear a helmet, every time they ride, we focus our conversation with Anne about how she became a leader in heightening awareness and changing the rules regarding helmet use. To do our part, we are offering our customers special pricing with free bonus items on select best-selling helmets during the month of October.

With statistics showing that helmet use in the U.S. is still at a discouraging rate of only about one in eight riders regularly using approved protective headgear, there is a great need for continued education and outreach on this important safety issue.

Five-time Olympian, two-time Olympic Silver Medalist, three time competitor at WEG, as well as author, clinician and international competitor, Anne Kursinski is one of the United States’ most accomplished and respected show jumping athletes. Anne is known for her fluid, classical, American riding style. We talked with her at Marketstreet, her stunning, state of the art training facility in Hunterdon County, NJ. She starts out by addressing the reason she has always been a leading advocate for all riders of any disciplines, at all times, to wear helmets. She describes what led up to the landmark occasion when she attended the AHSH annual meeting in 1984 where the historic rule changes on helmet use took place with her input and active encouragement.

"I’m a big fan of protective headgear. I was one of the first hunter jumper riders to start wearing one on the early 1980’S because I had had several concussions. When the big rule change came through requiring competitors to wear helmets, I was there at the AHSH’s annual meeting, to talk about my injuries and how important it was to wear a hunt cap with a chin strap. Canada had already made the move to increase helmet use and it was more than time for us to do this in the U.S.

I had had several concussions in a row, some with but most without helmets. Finally my doctors insisted that I take some time off, and I was forced to consider what would happen if I couldn’t ride anymore. I was in my early twenties and really getting my international career off the ground, having gone east from my home in Pasadena, CA in 1981 to work with the legendary George Morris, so the thought that my preference for not wearing a helmet was going to jeopardize my career was very scary.

I went through the whole evolution of the ASTM standards, and am gratified that the U.S. standard for safety in helmets is now even higher than the European standards. I credit the USEF (U.S. Equestrian Federation) for supporting that.”

We asked Anne about the sad event that prompted State Line Tack to join a nationwide campaign to encourage helmet use for equine activities, the accident and coma that Dressage champion Courtney King Dye suffered last Spring…

"Not long before that, last November, Ian Miller, Courtney King and I all did a clinic together at the Syracuse invitational horse show. It was a demonstration ride, and so we all rode together in the indoor ring, each with a wireless mike and it was a great deal of fun and very well received. I had been with her at the Hong Kong Olympics and many other places so her accident was very upsetting and really struck a chord. I realized that education about helmets is as important as sharing the details of our techniques.

Now, I never ever ride without a helmet on. Even though I’m a jumper, every rider whether western pleasure enthusiasts or Dressage riders should be wearing one, every time they hop on a horse. Riders are athletes and part of being an athlete is having all the correct gear and equipment, and protective headgear is indisputably part of being properly outfitted for the sport of riding, no matter what your discipline.

Also, every time you do have a fall, even if your helmet looks the same and undamaged, you should then always replace it with a new one.

There are a number of good helmets out there. The main thing I look for in a helmet is for it to fit my head really well. It’s very important that the fit be right. I’ve had a concussion in helmets that I wore in the past where I was not focused on the fit and safety rating, so the SEI rating and the safety and the fit of a helmet are all really important.

The other thing I always remind my students about is that everyone needs to wear their chin strap tight enough. A lot of kids do not want to wear it snugly, because it’s not comfortable, but it’s really important for the chin strap to be correctly attached.

Always be prepared because you never know what can happen, it’s like defensive driving, or always wearing a seat belt even for a spin down the block – or a couple of loops around the ring."

"You only have the one head!!"

Anne concludes her conversation with State Line Tack by talking about the excitement surrounding WEG, the World Equestrian Games, which take place every four years, and her involvement:

"It’s great that WEG is finally here, in the U.S. for the first time, coming to Kentucky from the last one in Aacken, Germany. To have it right here on our home turf is so exciting especially after we got the gold medal in the Olympics and had the chance to show the rest of the world the strength of equestrian skills in the U.S. It is such a tremendous sport, so it’s great to bring everyone here to see how the Americans do it and to show them that we are winners."

With two WEG team wins as well as five Olympic medals under her belt, this year’s World Equestrian Games will feature Kursinski’s presence as a spectator and in a critical behind the scenes role.

"I am the head of high performance committee for show jumping, involved in the team selection, and have been helping with rule establishments. I also signed off on the selection process of the jumping teams that were chosen to participate in WEG."

Anne is humble about her critical role over the past three decades in helping to guide show jumping in this country, funding the sport, expanding it, promoting the sport, and insuring fairness. We join her in celebrating the strength and enthusiasm for equine sports in the U.S.

"It’s great to see that horse shows continue to be well-attended, training clinics are full, there’s as much if not more enthusiasm for the sport out there now as ever. I love to teach and to share how I got to where I am in the sport. The enthusiasm for learning and improving is completely there, and wearing helmets very important to that process."

"I’ve been so blessed to be involved in this sport!"

We couldn’t agree more.



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