An accident at a show in which a rider was kicked in the head has highlighted the lack of rules surrounding head injuries in showjumping and dressage.

On 2 July showjumper Charlotte Arnold, from Co Durham, was taking part in a competition at Waterford Equestrian, when she was kicked and taken to hospital.

But there was no rule to say she should not compete after such an injury and the next day she went on to win a class.

Charlotte told H&H she was putting studs on the back shoes of her horse Gibside Queen Bee when a horsefly landed on the mare and she lashed out.

“She walloped me full on the head,” said Charlotte. “I went flying — I turned three somersaults in the air.”

She was assessed in hospital and had six staples to her head. The next day she competed in the last Scope qualifier of The Blue Riband Classic and won.

Though she chose to compete, she thinks there should be stricter rules.

“I squeezed my hat over the bandage and felt OK,” she said. “I wasn’t concussed, but if you are, I think you should be stood down.”

Unlike racing and eventing, where post-concussion suspension is mandatory, a spokesman for BS said there were no rules regarding head injuries and it was up to the rider’s discretion.

H&H columnist Graham Fletcher said: “We’re turning into a country of wusses, so I applaud her carrying on. But with concussion there should be a rule — it’s very serious.”

British Dressage also has no formal rules regarding concussion.

On 9 July 16-year-old Emma Littlewood was kicked in a fall during a BYRDS competition at Keysoe and taken to hospital, only to compete the next day.

She said she was “determined” to continue as she “didn’t want to let the team down”.

Dr Suzannah Hoult from the Medical Equestrian Association said it depends how serious the injury is but added: “I feel the bodies should look at rules regarding assessment of riders after a head injury and hand out a suspension as appropriate.”

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (14 July, 2011)