The Fédération Equestre Internationale Dressage Committee released a statement today recommending that dressage riders wear protective headgear while training and in the warm-up at shows. And, of course, if you want you can wear it when you canter down centerline as well.
Quite frankly, I think the Dressage Committee would have done better to release no statement at all.
They point to Courtney King Dye’s unfortunate head injury in March, which occurred while she was schooling at home, as the reason for their statement. So I could totally understand if helmet advocates used her accident as the impetus to try to pass a mandatory helmet rule.
On the other hand, Courtney isn’t the first person, or the last, to suffer a head injury that could’ve been prevented by wearing a helmet. Dressage riders have a long history of competing in top hats, so it doesn’t surprise me that many people are reluctant to give up that rite of passage, regardless of the dangers. After all, you can get injured stepping out your front door too.
I truly don’t have a strong opinion about whether helmets should be mandated or not. I respect that it’s a personal choice to wear one—it’s your head, not mine.
But I don’t see any point in a statement that says, “You should wear your helmet most of the time.”
Accidents can happen at any point—five judges sitting around the outside of the arena aren’t going to prevent a horse from bolting, spooking or tripping. In fact, the pressures of the show ring might make the unexpected more likely to happen.
I think many, many top riders would say they don their top hats because that’s what everyone else does, and that’s what’s expected in the ring, not because they object to wearing a helmet.
If the DC cares enough about safety to suggest riders wear their helmets while schooling at the show, then why not truly make a statement and encourage riders to wear their helmets in the competition ring as well?
What do you think? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.