International Equestrian Federation Launches Global Safety Helmet Campaign

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The International Eqestrian Federation launched a global campaign to promote the use of protective headgear two weeks before a new rule makes the use of a properly fastened protective headgear mandatory while riding on the show grounds at FEI events.

The United States, a leader in the campaign for safety helmets, has promoted protective head gear for two years and organizers of some major competitions such as the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida have already launched campaigns warning of the new rule to be effective Jan. 1 and that it will be strictly enforced.

The rule provides for a Yellow Warning Card to be issued to athletes who do not comply with requests to wear a properly fastened safety helmet.

The FEI campaign will include a series of emails to national federations, athletes and others with strong visuals reminding athletes of the importance of safety, and particularly of helmet use.

A special page outlining protective headgear requirements specific to each of the seven FEI disciplines on the field of play and outside the competition arena has been created on the FEI website.

“The helmet rule, which was unanimously adopted by the FEI General Assembly in 2011, is a significant step forward towards the better protection of our athletes,” said FEI Secretary General Ingmar De Vos. “Beginning 1 January 2013, protective headgear will be compulsory at all FEI events and we strongly encourage everyone involved in international equestrian sport to familiarise themselves with the new general and sport-specific rules. The welfare of all our athletes, human and equine, must be protected.”

Courtney King Dye, who competed for the U.S. in dressage at the 2008 Olympics and was the recent winner of the FEI Against All Odds Award, advocates educating equestrians on the benefits of wearing helmets.

In 2010, Courtney sustained a traumatic head injury when a horse she was schooling tripped and fell. She was in a coma for four weeks  and spent three months in the hospital re-learning how to walk and talk. The after-effects of the accident still severely affect her coordination and speech. She is now aiming to compete at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“I think my accident was necessary in the fight for safety because an Olympian who sustains a brain injury while riding proves that injury has nothing to do with level of skill,” Courtney said. “For 15 years, I was a person who only rode the young or ‘dangerous’ horses with a helmet, but my horse did nothing naughty, he just tripped over his own feet.

“And while you can’t control what people do at home, the new rules can control what people do at shows and this will go a long way to create good habits.”