The rule change was put forward by the board of the American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA) to ensure the safety of exhibitors in leadline classes, who are between the ages of two and six. This comes just weeks after the USEF Board of Directors approved a series of new protective headgear rules in eventing and dressage, following a presentation on safety and protective headgear at the 2011 USEF Annual Meeting in Lexington.
USEF Morgan Horse Committee Chair Georgie Green said following the safety presentation at the 2011 USEF Annual Meeting, she reported back to AMHA board members, who then proposed the rule for protective headgear in leadline classes.
"When the medical profession, the sports world and the insurance world all started getting involved, it became clear that the equine world needed to get involved as well," Green said. "I felt we needed to be aware and ultimately, a part of this conversation. As equestrians, we need to educate ourselves and get in front of this, rather than waiting for those outside of our sport to make these decisions for us. That's one of the reasons why I felt strongly about taking this to the AMHA board when I did."
An additional rule proposal for protective headgear in walk-trot classes is also being considered by the AMHA, but is still being discussed within the Morgan community.
"I know the immediate reaction because I had it myself," Green continued. "It is, 'What do you mean you're going to tell me and my children how to dress?' But the bottom line here is safety and we need to work together to come up with solutions. We need constructive opinions about how to make this work going forward - not negative reactions - but positive responses and dialogue about how we're going to address it."
USEF President David O'Connor applauded the AMHA for its "bold, forward-thinking move."