USEF Passes New Safety Helmet Rules for Eventing and Dressage

The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Board of Directors during this year's 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."

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 on the USEF website in the future.

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% 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, and affects dressage riders. It requires anyone mounted on a horse under the age of 18 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) to wear protective headgear.

Additional details regarding the changes to the rules for Protective Headgear for Dressage (DR120.5) will be posted on the USEF website in the future.

The USEF Board of Directors approved both the eventing and dressage helmet rule changes on Jan. 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.

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