Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Return of the Helmets

It's been a long time coming, but personally, I think this makes sense.   Starting in 2011, the USEF Rules for Dressage, section DR120: Dress (page DR21) state that all riders must wear "protective headgear" while mounted unless they are riding in only PSG through GPS classes and are over 18 years old.

Protective headgear is defined as helmets made to ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) / SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) standards for equestrian use and which carry the SEI tag. (PAS 015:1998 is the standard used in the UK.)

When it comes to this rule, the number of USDF & Olympic medals a rider has in his trophy case is not a factor.   Wearing a tailcoat / shadbelly does not exempt the rider from the rule.   Calibre of horse and / or rider don't make a difference, either.   The rules, although complex when first read, are pretty basic.   And so is the message.   The USEF and USDF want riders to properly protect their heads!

If a rider is competing two horses, one which is doing 4th Level & PSG and the other who is doing PSG and I1, the rider MUST wear an approved helmet whenever riding the first horse, but can wear a top hat when riding the second.   To help differentiate who can wear what when, some shows may decide to use different ranges of show numbers, or maybe even colored dots on bridle numbers.   We'll see how the show managers in Region 8 help support compliance to the new rules.

I've had the pleasure of riding in my two top hats.   Both are tight, unlikely to ever blow or bounce off while doing a test.   They get very hot in the summer.   They are tricky to get hair up into.   And they have to be handled very carefully, protected from dust, rain, sweat, and so on.   But they are ever so elegant to wear!   However, I have also competed at Fourth Level and in USDF Regional Championship classes with a well fitted helmet and three point harness.

SmartPak and Charles Owen & Co, Ltd put together this short video on how to fit a helmet.   I like that Renee asks about fitting a helmet knowing she will be putting her hair up to ride.   Whenever I try on helmets, I put make sure I test the fit as if I were competing.   Hair braided, twisted, pulled up, whatever I will be doing that year.

For those looking for more information & statistics about helmets and safety, check out the American Riding Instructors Association website about helmets.   Very interesting.

I still have a couple of my old "hunt caps". However, they are simply display models now.   Reminders of my equestrian past.   Decorations.   I wonder if the silk top hats will one day follow suit.....

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