Move to Keep Top Hats for High Level Dressage Too Late; More Colorful Tailcoats, Jackets to be Allowed for Grand Prix, Special

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Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein of Denmark trying a safety top hat almost a decade ago. File photo. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Oct. 27, 2020

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

A move by many of the world’s top dressage riders to keep top hats for high level competitions has apparently failed before making it to the International Equestrian Federation’s governing General Assembly next month as, the FEI said Tuesday, it was submitted after the deadline for proposed changes.

In another step away from tradition but likely to win widespread support, the somber colors of tail coats and jackets can be replaced at Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special by official national uniforms as already permitted for jumping and eventing. A move away from the “HSV scale” was allowed for the Freestyle.

The petition on top hats was submitted to the FEI by International Dressage Riders’ Club President Kyra Kyrklund and designed to give riders in senior high level competitions the option of not being required to wear protective headgear. All youth divisions up the age of 26 are required to wear protective headgear for both competitions and veterinary inspections.

The 2019 General Assembly approved a requirement for protective headgear across all riding disciplines. However, senior dressage was exempted for one year at the request of Germany and the Netherlands.

The FEI told dressage-news.com the international riders’ petition was received last week for it to be considered by the General Assembly of all national federations at its mid-November online meeting.

“The top international dressage riders would like to make a formal demand to the FEI to keep the option to use the top hat in international competitions for seniors,” the petition said.

“There has never been a serious accident at an international dressage competition, and the riders believe there is no reason to change that for senior competitors at CDI4*/5*, Games and championships on Grand Prix level.

“The top hat is an essential part of the identity of dressage. The dresscode makes us unique and we feel very strongly that the top hat remain as optional to use, but only at the highest level of competition.”

The petition said: “We believe it is the right of each individual rider to choose between the use of a top hat or protective headgear. This right cannot be revoked.”

An FEI spokesperson said of the request:

“However, as the FEI did not receive any request to change this rule during the period of the rules consultation process, neither from the IDRC nor National Federations, the item has not been included on the General Assembly agenda for a vote. It is now too late to submit anything new for the 2020 General Assembly due to statutory deadlines to which we need to adhere.”

The deadline for proposed revisions of rules is March 1, after which no new items can be added. National federations and stakeholders then have the opportunity to comment on the first draft of proposed changes and suggest additional changes, but not to propose anything new.

Nations Cup team awards at Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida in 2020. USA, Canada and Denmark are barely distinguishable from one another. © 2020 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

FEI Dressage Committee Chairman Frank Kemperman reported on changes for Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special to requirements for dressage jackets and tail coats.

“The reasoning behind the current rule was to keep tradition,” he said,  “but give some freedom in the Freestyle.

“The DC supports the proposal to move away from using the HSV scale and agrees to the change to using any uniform (one same) color for jackets and tailcoats. It was agreed that what is allowed in the Freestyle should be valid for all tests.”