Helmet rule changes 'are going to happen'

January 6, 2011

Rules surrounding helmet wearing by horse riders is a hot topic at a seminar this weekend, with US Equestrian Federation members preparing to vote on helmet rule changes at the USEF Annual Convention, which starts next Thursday.


Helmet Campaign supporter Kristen Pagliaro wearing her helmet campaign t-shirt. © riders4helmets.com

Horsetalk is an official supporter of riders4helmets© and the "Strap One On - Everyone's Doing It" campaign.

Saturday's riders4helmets Helmet Safety Symposium in Wellington, Florida, is being attended by medical and equestrian representatives who will discuss the importance of wearing helmets, helmet design, and rules surrounding helmet wearing, and more.

The proposed USEF rules would require everyone under the age of 18 and everyone showing fourth level or lower in dressage to wear a helmet whenever mounted at a showgrounds.

This will be the first time that a proposed rule for helmet use in dressage will have gone to vote and there has been a mixed response to its proposal. Some riders do not feel the ruling goes far enough and they say that it ignores the upper level riders who many consider should be the ultimate role models to the youth in the sport, while others feel that it should be a riders choice or not, as to whether they wear a helmet.

The USEF's Annual Convention takes place in Louisville from January 13 to 17.

USEF President David O'Connor and USEF Chief Executive Officer John Long will both be attending the helmet safety symposium. O'Connor aired his views regarding helmets at the December USDF Annual Convention in Jacksonville, Florida.

"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."

Saturday's symposium is being sponsored by Succeed Digestive Conditioning Program, Troxel Helmets, Charles Owen, GPA, Tipperary Helmets and Samshield Helmets.

Symposium chair Craig Ferrell MD said that as FEI medical chairman and US team physician, his goal is to make equestrian sports safer, which he believed could be accomplished without "changing the character of competition".

Ferrell said the symposium would feature several presentations designed to review current helmet designs and testing standards.

"Head injuries in sports are getting increasing attention. With this gathering of influential leaders in equestrian sports, I am hopeful we can guide improvements in helmet rules, helmet design, and helmet testing standards."

Other individuals attending the symposium include: Jamshid Ghajar MD PhD, President of the Brain Trauma Foundation and Clinical Professor of Neurological Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College; Allen Sills MD, Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery at Vanderbilt Medical Center, Courtney King-Dye; dressage riders Steffen Peters and Kathy Connelly; dressage coach Jane Savoie; jockey PJ Cooksey; and showjumper Anne Kursinski, among others.

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 Succeed's eBay store to raise funds for King Dye, and a partnership was formed, resulting in the Riders4Helmets campaign.