Safety Helmets Make it All the Way to the Top

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With new gold helmet, Isabell Werth on Flatley 2 in the Nürnberger Burg-Pokal Final in Frankfurt. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

 

FRANKFURT, Germany, Dec. 18–The inevitable march to safety helmets for riders at all levels of the sport took a major step forward at the International Festhallen when Germany’s Isabell Werth competed with not one but two different helmets.

As the most decorated of Olympic dressage riders in history, the 43-year-old mother is a role model for millions of fans around the world. She has a son, Frederik, aged 3.

For the first time in a major competition, she wore a safety helmet, a black version while riding Don Johnson to victory in the World Cup qualifying Grand Prix.

Black was the color selection for riding Don Johnson to victory in the World Cup Grand Prix at Frankfurt. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

In the even more intensely watched Nürnberger Burg-Pokal Final, she wore a hard to miss gold number.

Anky van Grunsven, three-time Olympic individual medalist and nine-time World Cup champion, was among the first top riders to wear a helmet in the warmup arena and in recent years her compatriot, Adelinde Cornelissen, has adopted a similar practise.

North America has taken the lead, driven primarily by the outpouring  of support for 2008 U.S. Olympian Courtney King-Dye whose accident on a horse two years ago left her in a coma for a month and is still undergoing intense rehabilitation.

One of the most public statements of support was from Olympic team mate Steffen Peters at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky when he wore a safety helmet in the individual medal awards ceremony.

And a Canadian team all wearing safety helmets at a European competition raised the buzz level.

The issue was discussed at length at the news conference for the Young Rider World Cup Final, with the winner, Sanneke Rothenberger, admitting she considered wearing a safety helmet in the final freestyle but opted against a last minute change in her routine. She did, however, wear a helmet in the awards ceremony.

Safety helmet rules for all disciplines will be inscribed in International Equestrian Federation (FEI) rules beginnng Jan. 1, 2013.

The rules were sacheduled to be implemented a year earlier but the United States succeeded in having them deferred for a year to give reining and vaulting disciplines time to cope with the changes.