Expanded helmet rules for U.S. Dressage riders take effect April 1.


Dressage Helmet
The days of dressage riders in top hats seem like a distant memory, but it was only a few short years ago that helmets were the exception, not the rule, in dressage competition. A revision to the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) rule book will make top hats even more of a rarity when it takes effect on April 1, 2013.

Helmet regulations for dressage riders have increased considerably after Olympian Courtney King-Dye sustained a traumatic brain injury in 2010 when a horse she was schooling stumbled and fell. The high-profile accident brought the long-simmering helmet argument to the forefront and forced equestrian sports to take action on what was once considered a matter of personal choice.

In 2011, the USEF added rules requiring helmets for all dressage riders under age 18 and all riders of any age competing through fourth level. Adult riders at Prix St. Georges and above could still opt for top hats.

This year’s rule change, which was approved at the USEF convention in January, mandates protective headgear for any rider of any age competing at any level at a nationally recognized competition. The rule also extends to anyone riding on the grounds of a nationally recognized show, even if they are not competing.

Where the rule stops short is with riders competing in Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) sanctioned classes. In those classes, FEI rules dictate what riders are permitted to wear, and the FEI has not yet mandated helmets for adult riders in international-level competition.

The United States has been a driving force in increased helmet regulation over the past few years, but in this case the U.S. is following Canada’s lead. Equine Canada, the governing body of equestrian sports in Canada, enacted a rule in January 2012 requiring helmets for all national-level dressage riders.


  1. Absolutely ridiculous! If a riders on .a St. Geo or above horses are in such imminent danger they need to be suited up like nascar drivers we’re in no danger of brain injury – we’ve already lost our minds!

  2. I think its fantastic! I wear a helmet every time I ride my bicycle or my horse. I love having my brain intact. A fully functional brain really helps me enjoy life.
    I also wear my seat belt when driving my car. I take full advantage of safety gear to keep me performing at my absolute best.

  3. I agree, Fantastic! With young riders, it’s important for them to see upper level and adult riders wearing their helmets as an example of proper dressing. I always wear my helmet and sometimes even when schooling on the ground. I work at a barn that provides therapeutic riding including rehabilitation of injured riders. Let’s keep what little is left of our sanity!

  4. I’m glad helmet use is becoming the norm. As our young riders see top competitors wearing helmets, they will accept helmet use as the standard and continue wearing them in show and in practice as they mature and advance through the levels. I look forward to the day when helmet use isn’t an adjustment we have to make, but the standard. (Personally, I’m a huge fan of skull caps)

  5. I really liked the article, however I feel that helmets should be mandatory in all disciplines, and all age riders. Far to often riders are getting to many head injuries that could be prevented if only they were wearing helmets.


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