JANEIRO, Nov. 14–The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) approved on Monday a new rule making protective head gear mandatory on show grounds, but the United States Equestrian Federation succeeded in delaying its implementation for a year to provide time for vaulting and reining to prepare for the change.
The proposed new international rule would apply to all disciplines governed by the FEI–dressage, driving,endurance, eventing, jumping, reining and vaulting. Helmet rules already apply in all of the disciplines except vaulting and reining.
The proposed rule is similar in language to mandatory regulations imposed in the U.S. early this year and adopted by several other countries. U.S. groups had been leading advocates of protective head gear and American rules making their use mandatory for national dressage levels were implemented earlier this year.
Support for stronger protective head gear rules had grown in the past two years following a series of high profile accidents including that of U.S. Olympian Courtney King Dye who was in a coma for a month after a horse accident and is still recovering from the effects.
Courtney told dressage-nwws.com: “Even if it was delayed, I’m happy that a rule is being set. We’re on the track. It makes me very happy because it makes my accident justified. Even if accidents aren’t common in the show ring, it’s where many of our role models are seen and, therefore, mimicked. I’ve learned that time is unfortunately a common toll!”
The U.S. move to delay the rule for a year was made by John Long, the USEF chief executive officer, who raised the issue of applying it to vaulting and reining which have no requirements for protective head gear.
Vaulting, gymnastics on horseback, presents special obstacles with some participants arguing that protective head gear could lead to unintended accidents.
The FEI report from its General Assembly of the 133 member nations that set policy for international horse sports said this of general regulations:
“Protective Headgear: The Medical Committee prioritized rule changes promoting helmet use as part of its focus on athlete safety. A rule, which provides that the use of properly fastened protective headgear while riding on the show grounds is mandatory, was approved. The requirements while competing in each discipline are governed by the applicable sport rules.
“The GA agreed with the request of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) to delay the implementation of this rule by one year so that it will become effective on 1 January 2013 in order to allow for a comprehensive educational program.”
The General Assembly report dealt at length on safety for horses and riders in eventing.
In dressage, a rule change stated that protective head gear will be mandatory for all riders 18 years and younger, and all riders on six-year and younger horses.
For jumping, riders will be required to a wear a hard hat at all times when mounted except for senior athletes required to remove their head gear for ceremonial purposes.
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