There are a number of riding disciplines in which helmets are not mandatory in Canadian competition. Until recently, dressage was one such discipline, only requiring riders competing in Fourth Level and below, FEI Young Horse tests, and equitation classes to wear helmets, while upper level riders wore the traditional top hat. But as of January 1, 2012, all riders, regardless of age or level of competition, must wear ASTM/SEI or BSI/BS EN approved protective headgear at all times when mounted at any Equine Canada-sanctioned dressage competition. This rule is echoed by the hunter/jumper and eventing Equine Canada (EC) rule books.
“I am very proud of our Dressage Committee for taking this step,” said EC president Michael Gallagher. “I believe we are the first national federation in the world to introduce this rule across all levels, and I can guarantee we will not be the last.”
Increased awareness about riding safety and helmets has occurred since US Olympic dressage rider Courtney King-Dye suffered a traumatic brain injury in March 2010 when the horse she was riding helmetless tripped and fell.
“Courtney King-Dye’s accident showed that safety has nothing to do with level of skill,” said Lyndsey White, co-founder of Riders4Helmets. “Any rider can suffer a traumatic brain injury – even an Olympian. Equine Canada should be congratulated on taking this monumental step.”
But is it enough? The vast majority of riders in the Western disciplines still do not wear helmets when schooling at home, nor are helmets required in competition. The EC Rule Book requires that all reining athletes must wear a Western hat or safety helmet (no ball caps) when training in the competition arena, but that “at Canadian events, a more casual attire is permitted in the training areas only.” The rules are similar for other Western performance disciplines, for which the EC Rules define appropriate Western attire as including a western hat, but state “Any competitor may wear protective headgear in any division or class without penalty from the judge. Junior riders under the age of 18 years as of January 1 of the current year must wear approved ASTM/SEI or BSI/BS EN protective headgear in speed events and are strongly encouraged to wear protective headgear in all classes.”
Likewise the EC driving and combined driving rules specify that “There are no penalties for wearing properly fitted, approved protective headgear in any class or competition,” but that such protective headgear is not mandatory.
What do you think?
Photo courtesy of Troxel