New Helmet Rules for Eventing and Dressage Passed at USEF Convention

 The USEF's Annual Meeting made headgear mandatory in all competitions
Canadian dressage rider Jacqueline Brooks wore a helmet in her grand prix freestyle at the 2010 Kentucky Cup competition. Photo: Leslie Potter

The Board of Directors during this year’s United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Annual Meeting approved new helmet rules for riders in both eventing and dressage – just two weeks after dozens of stakeholders in equestrian sport met with the goal of improving rider safety across disciplines.

“If the technology is available to reduce head injuries, the time to use it is now,” said USEF President David O’Connor. “I am very proud of our organization for taking this very important step. It is a huge direction of change.”

Briefly, the first rule change requires anyone on a horse to wear a ASTM/SEI-approved helmet at all times while mounted on competition grounds at U.S. nationally rated eventing competitions. The rule change is effective immediately.

Further specifics regarding the changes to the rule for Protective Headgear for Eventing (EV 114.1) will be posted here in the future.

The United States Eventing Association (USEA) helped shepherd the rule change through the USEF committees during USEF’s Annual Meeting.

“The attention to safety in eventing has led to a 40 percent decrease in rider injuries between 2007 and 2011,” said Malcolm Hook, USEF Eventing Safety Officer and chair of the USEF Eventing Technical Committee. “The Eventing Technical Committee could see no reason to delay implementation of a probably inevitable and statistically justifiable rule change in an effort to continue this encouraging trend.”

The second rule change is effective March 1, 2011. For Dressage, anyone mounted on a horse must wear protective headgear except those riders age 18 and over while on horses that are competing only in FEI levels and tests at the Prix St. Georges level and above (including FEI Young Rider Tests, the USEF Developing Prix St. Georges Test and the USEF Brentina Cup Test).

Additional details regarding the changes to the rules for Protective Headgear for Dressage (DR120.5) will be posted here in the future.

The USEF Board of Directors approved both the eventing and dressage helmet rule changes on January 23 at the conclusion of USEF’s Annual Meeting.

Sara Ike, USEF managing director of eventing, said that while eventing riders long have been moving toward tougher rules, it wasn’t until early 2010, after Olympic dressage rider Courtney King Dye was seriously injured in a riding accident that the dressage world began to seriously consider stricter helmet use. “Dressage riders called the Courtney King accident their ’9-11,’ ” Ike said.

King Dye, who remained in a coma for a month following her accident, was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident and currently is undergoing rehabilitation.

Earlier this month, a Riders4Helmets Helmet Safety Symposium held in Wellington, FL, was deemed a huge success by participants at the event. Representatives from USEF, USEA, the United States Dressage Foundation, the United States Hunter Jumper Association, Racing, Polo, Helmet Manufacturers, Helmet Testing Authorities, Leading Equestrians and Medical Experts met with the goal of improving rider safety — and left pledging to work together across the disciplines to do just that.




  2. I disagree. I believe that decision should be left to the adult riders who compete in these disciplines. Mind you, I DO wear a helmet ALWAYS when I ride, but it is because statistics and common sense have convinced me that this is the safest thing to do. As an adult, fully aware of the inherent risks involved with horseback riding, I do not need “big brother” telling me what to do. I have no problem with USEF policies that ENCOURAGE helmet use, and believe that riders should not be penalized for opting for protective headgear — but they should not REQUIRE it. We have too many oppressive regulations already in this country.

  3. I agree with the “principle” that adults should be allowed to make their own decisions. However, in practicality, many adults do NOT make wise decisions, and their actions actually cost you and I money! (higher medical bills, higher insurance costs, and on and on) That is why we have seat belt laws when driving vehicles, and why the equestrian helmet rule is essential. I wish all states would also make it mandatory for motor cyclists to wear helmets as well.

  4. When you sign up for a spot you agree to follow the rules. You don’t see pro football players say, “Well, I know playing football has risks but I’m an adult and I should get to choose to wear a helmet or not.” They have to wear helmets as well as participants in many other sports. I know we haven’t always done it that way but then we also haven’t always had the knowledge we have now.


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