Riders are being urged to strip off almost to the altogether next month as part of the Naked Challenge safety campaign.
Former international model and rider Elizabeth Charleston, who is also a brain injury awareness campaigner, is asking fellow horsemen and women to post pictures of themselves online in August, without clothes, but with hats, and the caption “I would rather go naked than not wear a helmet”.
Elizabeth suffered a “life-changing” traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2005, when a young horse she was riding fell and landed on her.
“That severe brain injury affected every single aspect of my life,” she said.
Elizabeth continued to compete for a while but struggled with speaking, balance, vision and memory. She worked as an equestrian photographer, then moved on to managing the New Zealand showing team, training showing judges and working as a drug-testing steward.
“That might sound like I was all recovered but I was struggling every minute of every hour of every day,” she said.
“I was in a living hell. My lifeline was my brain injury awareness work. Knowing I was making a difference to people’s lives gave me some self-worth during very dark times.”
Elizabeth campaigned for people to wear helmets, backed by New Zealand dressage rider Shiwon Green, and was delighted when Equestrian Sport New Zealand called to say it was banning top hats in all competition.
“I never set out to be ‘that person’ on the safety bandwagon – all I wanted was to prevent people living the life I’ve had to,” she said.
“One of the most common things I hear from people after they have suffered a brain injury is that they didn’t think it could be that bad.
“I’m here to say a TBI can be your worst nightmare come true, and people need to do everything in their power to protect themselves.”
Last July, looking for a different approach to back her cause, Elizabeth stripped off, encouraging others to do the same, creating the first Naked Challenge, with people taking part all over the world.
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Originally, it was held in support of International Helmet Awareness Day, which aims to educate riders on the benefits of wearing protective headgear.
Elizabeth urged participants to “cover up to maintain their dignity and infer nakedness rather than put everything on display” next month.
“Props and clever photography are encouraged and the wearing a safety helmet of some description is a must,” she added.
This year, naked challengees are being prompted to “think outside the box by experimenting with the location of their photos”.
“The only question that remains, is where will you get naked this August?” Elizabeth added.