Helmet rules for eventing and dressage

I’m not entirely clear on these new rules, so someone who knows more could correct me, but it sounds like the USEF dressage and eventing committees passed some pretty wide-reaching new helmet rules at the convention last weekend. Anyone mounted on a horse at a USEF-recognized eventing competition will have to wear a helmet (even in the dressage phase? This is what it sounds like to me, but I have trouble believing it.)

For dressage, all riders will have to wear helmets while mounted. FEI-level riders will be permitted to change into top hats during their tests, but it sounds like even they will have to wear real helmets in the warm up ring. This will affect the dressage divisions at the Morgan shows that have them.

I’m not sure when the rules take effect.

I think this is a good thing, and I think eventually it will trickle down to all USEF divisions, at least for riders under 18 (except maybe reining…that’ll be a hard sell). I know lots of people don’t think we should have rules interfering with “personal choice,” but that stance has never made sense to me. If you’re showing at a USEF event, you’ve never had personal choice in what you can wear. There are vast sections of the rule book devoted to attire regulations. It’s odd to me that no one has a problem with that until they do something that might make the sport safer.

I also think that these rules wouldn’t have passed this year if not for Courtney King-Dye’s accident last year. It’s too bad one of our nation’s top dressage riders had to spend a month in a coma to get the industry to finally take a stand on the helmet issue. Hopefully it won’t take a similar situation for the breed circuits to catch up with the sport disciplines.