A rule change proposal requiring helmets at fourth level and below created hot debate at this year's Adequan/U.S. Dressage Federation Annual Convention, held in Jacksonville, Fla., Nov. 30 through Dec. 5.
The new U.S. Equestrian Federation rules would require everyone under the age of 18 and everyone showing fourth level or lower to wear a helmet whenever mounted at a showgrounds, including during warm-up and schooling. It would be the first helmet rule instituted for dressage classes, and while some felt the rule wasn’t going far enough, others applauded it as a necessary move.
“Is there some reason we don’t care about the brains of people competing above fourth level?” asked Darren Chiacchia, upper level event rider who suffered a severe head injury in 2008. “Riders from Prix St. Georges and above serve as role models for those below.”
“This was what we felt was the best way to go forward,” responded USDF Secretary Janine Malone. “It’s what we thought would be the best supported by the dressage community. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we’re going forward with. It’s a compromise. It’s all a compromise. To go from no headgear for anybody—we don’t even have it for juniors in warm-up or in competition now—a first step is better than no step.”
USEF President David O’ Connor was also on hand to give the annual USEF state of the union, and he spoke about the proposed rule change for helmets.
“I applaud all you guys for taking a step,” he said. “Eventers don’t think about it anymore—it’s just the way it is. This is going to happen, by the way, whether you do it now or later. It’s going to happen in the FEI world, too. To take this step is very important and a huge direction of change.”
The proposed helmet rules and others will be voted on at the USEF Annual Convention, held Jan. 13-17 in Louisville, Ky.
Other USDF Tidbits:
- Beth Jenkins of Region 8 and the New England Dressage Association was elected as vice president, defeating Peter Rothschild and Janet Foy. “I had a wake-up call a couple weeks back,” said Jenkins in her campaign speech before the election. “I was sitting with a group of NEDA people. One person, who was not a dressage novice, said, ‘What do we need USDF for anyway?’ Other people I hear focusing on, ‘What can USDF do for me?’ I feel too many people are shortsighted. They forget USDF is the only national dressage organization. Everyone owes a big thank you to USDF volunteers and staff.”
- After lengthy discussion, delegates voted to continue allocating $2 out of the $10 paid for regional championships qualifiying classes to the general operating fund instead of the National Championship fund, which already contains more than $500,000 that can only be used towards the future championship. Debate continued over the viability of a national championship, and the rest of the balanced budget passed without adjustment or conversation. “It has come to the point where we need to make the decision: Do we really want a national championships or not?” said USDF president George Williams. “We need an in-depth survey of members who compete in the regional championships qualifying classes. I would like recommendations to be brought to spring executive members.”
- John “Jack” Kimball and Judith Noone were honored with USDF Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Salute Gala on Dec. 3.
- Ravel’s owner Akiko Yamazaki attended the Salute Gala to accept the Colonel Thackeray Trophy for Adequan/USDF Grand Prix Horse Of The Year. Ravel was also honored with a video showcasing his 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games accomplishments. “Watching that video made my heart pound again in nervousness!” said Yamazaki. “I’m so happy this happened on U.S. soil for all of you to share, because he is a U.S. horse.”
- A symposium, "Cross The Bridge From Training To Showing: Ride The Tests With Lilo Fore And Gary Rockwell," was held at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center, Dec. 4-5, in conjunction with the convention.