USEF Passes New Safety Helmet Rules for Eventing and Dressage Riders

Steffen Peters wore a helmet during the Dressage Freestyle at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Photo by Shannon Brinkman/USEF Archive.

Lexington, KY – 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: http://www.usef.org/_IFrames/RuleBook/Changes/2011.aspx.

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, riders under age 18 must wear protective headgear, as defined by DR120.5 and in compliance with GR801, at all times while mounted on the competition grounds. This includes non-competing riders as well as those competing at any level.

Additional details regarding the changes to the rules for Protective Headgear for Dressage will be posted here in the future: http://www.usef.org/_IFrames/RuleBook/Changes/2011.aspx.

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.

Riders4Helmets Safety Symposium Deemed a Huge Success in Educating Equestrians on Benefits of Helmet Wearing

The Riders4Helmets Helmet Safety Symposium held this month in Wellington, FL, was deemed a huge success by participants at the event. Representatives from USEF, USDF, USEA, USHJA, Racing, Polo, Helmet Manufacturers, Helmet Testing Authorities, Leading Equestrians and Medical Experts came together at the symposium with the goal of improving rider safety and went away pledging to work together across the disciplines to do just that.

Kemi O’Donnell, mother of deceased Christen O’Donnell kicked off the January 8 presentations by emotionally discussing her daughter’s death at the age of 12 from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). USEF President David O’Connor spoke next and vowed that USEF will commit to support making helmets mandatory at competitions. “If you have the technology available to reduce head injuries you have to use it and the time is now,” said O’Connor.

Dr. Allen Sills, a Vanderbilt neurosurgeon with expertise in sports traumatic brain injury and concussion, gave several presentations at the symposium. Other speakers included: Debbie Stanitski, President of the Equestrian Medical Safety Association; Dave Halstead with Southern Impact Research on current testing standards; Sara Ike with USEF on the history of helmet rules; Dean Moran with Safety Equipment Institute; Tom Cafaro with G-Form LLC; Beezie Madden (jumping), Anne Kursinski (jumping), P. J. Cooksey (racing), Lauren Sammis (dressage) and Peter Rizzo (polo) in a panel discussion; and presentations from the helmet manufacturers.

John Long, CEO at USEF, summed up during the closing presentation of the symposium. His thoughts included that there is a need for more data, science and education and to make wearing helmets cool. “We need to find a way to implement the rules so that it’s no longer optional, and it’s easy to regulate. It is incumbent on my organization to get my house right to be a model for the more casual rider,” said Long.

To view presentations and interviews from the symposium, visit www.youtube.com/user/riders4helmets.

Craig Ferrell, M.D. Physician for the United States Equestrian Team and chair of the FEI Medical Council stated “I am pleased with the positive response to the helmet symposium in Wellington. The participants heard informative presentations from a variety of key individuals in the equestrian world. This gathering of stakeholders in our sport was unprecedented. It is important to continue this discussion and not lose the momentum we have initiated with this symposium.”

The symposium was sponsored by USEF, Troxel Helmets, Charles Owen, GPA, Tipperary Helmets and Samshield Helmets. For more information on the Riders4Helmets campaign or the Helmet Safety Symposium, visit www.riders4helmets.com or contact Lyndsey White at lyndscw@hotmail.com.

Riders4Helmets was founded in early 2010 after Olympic dressage rider Courtney King Dye was seriously injured in a riding accident. 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 is currently undergoing rehabilitation. Jeri Bryant donated her helmet campaign t-shirts (featuring the slogan “Strap One On–Everyone’s Doing It”) to an eBay store set up to raise funds for King Dye, and a partnership was formed, resulting in the Riders4Helmets campaign.

Protective Headgear Rules for Dressage

Effective March 1, 2011, the following rules apply to Dressage Competitions and Regular Competitions holding Dressage classes:

1. Riders under age 18 must wear protective headgear, as defined by DR120.5 and in compliance with GR801, at all times while mounted on the competition grounds. This includes non-competing riders as well as those competing at any level.

2. While on horses competing in national level tests (Fourth Level and below), riders must wear protective headgear as defined by DR120.5 and in compliance with GR801, at all times while mounted on the competition grounds. This includes non-competing riders on horses competing in national level tests.

3. While on horses competing in USEF or FEI Young Horse Tests, and FEI Junior Tests, riders must wear protective headgear as defined by DR120.5 and in compliance with GR801, at all times while mounted on the competition grounds.

4. All riders competing in Para-Equestrian tests must wear protective headgear at all times while mounted on the competition grounds. Riders who compete in PE tests must wear protective headgear on every horse they ride, no matter the level or test.

5. All riders of any age while on non-competing horses must wear protective headgear at all times while mounted on the competition grounds.

6. All riders under age 18 and all riders while on horses competing in national level tests, who choose to wear Armed Services or police uniform, must wear protective headgear as defined in DR120.5 and in compliance with GR801 at all times while mounted on the competition grounds. Riders age 18 and over who wear Armed Services or police uniform on horses that are competing only in FEI levels and tests at the Prix St. Georges level and above must wear either protective headgear or the appropriate military/police cap or hat for their branch of service.

7. When a horse is competing in both national and FEI levels or tests (e.g. Fourth Level and PSG), the rider must wear protective headgear at all times when mounted on that horse on the competition grounds and during all tests.

8. 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), riders age 18 and over are not required to wear protective headgear in warm up or during competition. However, these riders may wear protective headgear without penalty from the judge.

9. In FEI-recognized (CDI, CDI-Y, CDI-J, CDI-P, etc.) classes, FEI rules take precedence and protective headgear is permitted but not required.

10. All riders while on horses competing in national level classes such as Equitation, Materiale and DSHB Under Saddle are required to wear protective headgear at all times when mounted on the competition grounds.

Protective headgear is defined as a riding helmet which meets or exceeds ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)/SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) standards for equestrian use and carries the SEI tag. The headgear and harness must be secured and properly fitted. Any rider violating this rule at any time must immediately be prohibited from further riding until such headgear is properly in place.

Recommendation to competitions:
In order to distinguish riders who are required to wear protective headgear from those who aren’t, it is suggested that entry numbers in a different sequence be assigned to the entries in each group (e.g. use numbers from 1-700 for entries where riders must wear protective headgear and use numbers from 800 and above for entries where riders are not required to use protective headgear).

Short summary statement for use in prize lists:
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).

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