USA’s New Helmet Rule – Confusion!

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Rider in the warmpup the day before the start of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby. This particular rider was not required to wear a helmet under the new rule, but riders with and without helmets warm up together which raised questions about the fairness of the rule. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

LOXAHATCHEE, Florida, Mar. 3–Confusion was the order of the day Thursday with the new USA helmet rule at the first competition, the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI-W, two days since the regulation came into effect.

As the official competition was not scheduled to start until Friday–though the veterinary check was Thursday afternoon–show organizers and officials made every effort to work with competitors to ease into the change.

The new rule is aimed at compelling riders in U.S. national classes to wear safety helmets. FEI riders over the age of 18 are exempt from the rule in that they have the option to wear the traditional top hat in FEI level ccompetition.

The show office made a major effort to mark bridle numbers specially to distinguish national and FEI level competitors.

Prior to the official start of the show, friendly “warnings” were issued to riders so they would not be in violation of the rules to be in effect for the show.

Copies of the rules were posted throughout the show grounds.

And there was the rub.

Were senior riders in the CDI classes exempt from wearing helmets?

Were senior riders in all FEI classe–CDI and CDN–covered by the same rule?

Initially, the determination was that all senior riders in all FEI classes–both CDI and national–were exempt.

The final determination was that all senior riders in CDI classes were exempt, while senior riders in national FEI classes would be required to wear a safety helmet in warmup but could wear a top hat in competition.

Both officials and competitors at all levels appeared to cooperate to make the new rule work.

Most every one agreed that the rule as written and distributed by the U.S. Equestrian Federation was confusing.

Separate from the official rule is a belief by some show organizers that they have the power to simplify the issue for individual competitors by stating in advance their rules for riders on their show grounds that could trump the USEF rules. In other words, organizers of a show could specify in advance the rules for riders at the show grounds.