Rider makes Olympic dressage history with helmet

Jacqueline Brooks and D Niro are ranked 18th after the opening day of Dressage competition on August 2 at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Jacqueline Brooks and D Niro are ranked 18th after the opening day of Dressage competition on August 2 at the 2012 London Olympic Games. © Cealy Tetley, www.tetleyphoto.com

Canadian dressage rider Jacqueline Brooks has made history by being the first in the discipline to wear a hard hat during competition at an Olympic Games.

Brooks, who rode her Grand Prix test in a safety helmet rather than the traditional top hat, is currently ranked 18th in the individual standings after earning a score of 68.52 percent in her test with D Niro.

“I am very proud to be the first Olympic dressage rider to compete in a helmet,” said Brooks of her decision to choose safety over tradition.

“It’s the way the sport is going.”

Finnish rider Emma Kanerva, who finished 12th on Spirit, also wore a hard hat, as did Brooks’s team-mate Ashley Holzer, and overall leader Charlotte Dujardin.

Brooks’s teammate, David Marcus, was eliminated after striking trouble during his test, leaving Brooks and Ashley Holzer to ride as individuals.

“He did everything I asked for out there,” said Brooks of D Niro, a 13-year-old grey Swedish Warmblood gelding owned by Brookhaven Dressage, Inc.  “He was so rideable and everything felt easy.  I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Chef d’équipe Gina Smith, 1988 Olympic team bronze medalist, said: “Jacquie rode D Niro through a clean test today and made an excellent first impression for our team. Both Jacquie and D Niro were relaxed but had such positive expression in their performance.  Canada can be very proud of this combination!”

Holzer, of Toronto, Ontario, will ride Breaking Dawn on the second day of the individual and team qualifying competition.


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10 thoughts on “Rider makes Olympic dressage history with helmet

  • August 4, 2012 at 10:13 am

    This is dissapointing but seems to be a sad trend. The question I would ask is, was it that necessary? Who exactly ever fell off during dressage?

    • August 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      I myself,prefer the top hat…its much more, formal.

    • August 5, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      When on an animal with the potential to kill you, you should always use caution. Just because the “sport” isn’t a particularly rough, physical one doesn’t mean a horse can’t spook and throw their rider, potentially stomping on them in their panic.

    • August 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm

      People have fallen off during dressage tests at every level, during competitions and whilst schooling at home. What a very silly ill informed comment from Peter!

    • August 9, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      Safety is “a sad trend”? What planet are you living on?!

  • August 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    I found it distracting. Kept looking for the top hat, or wtg for the horses to shy or act up. It’s a mindset – change is sometimes hard to accept. I understand the safety issues, but miss the elegant look of the top hat.

  • August 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Ultimately, I think it is the riders’ decision to wear a helmet or not, but it is wonderful, truly good for the sport to see top-level riders wearing head protection.
    Of course, to the untrained eye, dressage horses look like perfectly rideable creatures who do exactly as they are told. This, let me say, is in no way the truth.
    Much of that “x-Factor” that we see in dressage horses is actually a concentration of energy. To be able to turn that energy into beautiful dressage tests is a tribute to the riders. They are superb. This, however, does not make them unbreakable.
    And even if the horse is calm, and not going to freak out and throw the rider, even if they are thoroughly rid of any high spirits, all it takes is for a horse to fall is one hoof out of place. Even something as little as a stumble can catapault even the best face-first into the ground.
    Riding horses is a dangerous sport (we know this). Riders have to trust their horses to look after them (We believe this). But when you get on a horse without a helmet, especially in a high-octane environment such as the Olympics, you truly are guessing that you’ll be fine.
    Of course, I get on my “pet” competition horse bareback in a halter with no helmet and go to the river or up the road to his other paddock sometimes. I feel that I can trust him. I would never do that on my “real” competition horse.
    It is a matter of personal opinion, but I give full credit to any rider at any level who wears a helmet, no matter what the other competitors say.

  • August 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    True athletes strive for the best and do what they can to be safe stretching the limits. These brave riders – for it takes bravery to buck tradition – have hopefully started a trend that will give others the courage to choose such an easy step toward safer riding. Kudos to them. May all realize we are only blessed with one brain, it can be protected but it cannot be fully healed.

    • August 9, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      Absolutely agree. Hopefully this will mean younger riders will see no problem in wearing a hard hat instead of keeping with tradition.


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