FEI Weighing Dressage Helmet Rule Following USA Lead

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Victoria Max-Theurer of Austria, one of the most recognizable international stars wearing a helmet while warming up at a recent competition. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, June 23–The International Equestrian Federation is studying a mandatory helmet rule for dressage riders at horse shows–but not in the competition arena–based on a landmark policy introduced by the United States earlier this year and would standardize safety helmet requirements for all disciplines.

The FEI Dressage Committee approved gathering information on the ground-breaking U.S. rule imposed effective March 1 and adopted by Canada two months later in the wake of accidents in which American Olympians Courtney King-Dye and Günter Seidel were seriously injured in 2010.

In Courtney’s case, she came off a horse in Florida in 2010 and was not wearing a helmet while Günter was wearing a helmet when he was thrown and broke his pelvis. Since then, Debbie McDonald, the first American to claim the World Cup title, and an Olympic and WEG team medalist, was thrown from a young horse and credited the helmet she was wearing with preventing serious injury.

All eyes are on this combination, Matthias Alexander Rath on Totilas. © 2011 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The rule has had a significant impact in North America with an increasing number of riders wearing helmets in the warm-up and awards ceremonies and some in competition.

The FEI Dressage Committee commissioned a study of the U.S. rule, which states:

“At any time while mounted on the competition grounds, all riders under age 18, and all riders while on horses competing in national level tests, all riders competing in Para-Equestrian tests, and all riders while on non-competing horses, must wear protective headgear as defined by this rule…”

Senior riders in FEI levels have the option of competing in a top hat or protective headgear as at present. All riders under the age of 18 years must wear protective head gear at all levels, including FEI, as well as riders in FEI Dressage Tests for 4, 5 and 6 year-old horses as well as USEF test for 4-year-old horses.

If a rider competes at both national and FEI level in the same competition they will be required to wear a safety helmet in all classes.

In the U.S., protective headgear is defined as a riding helmet which meets or exceeds ASTM/SEI (American Society for Testing and
Materials/Safety Equipment Institute) standards for equestrian use and carry the SEI tag.

The harness must be secured and properly fitted.

Making a point at the World Equestrian Games, Steffen Peters wearing a safety helmet on Ravel celebrating their second medal. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

If the FEI adopts a helmet safety rule for dressage, the standards would allow for differences in standards, as applies in jumping and eventing but the helmet rule would then apply for all three Olympic disciplines.