Safety First

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The announcement this week that the USEF will require safety helmets at recognized dressage shows starting March 1 came as a surprise to me as it did to many people.? I saw this coming, but I didn't expect it this soon. Dressage shows have been slowly moving in this direction for several years, with the impetus picking up considerably after Courtney King-Dye?s accident last winter.? A lot of people were already wearing safety helmets by last fall, maybe as many as half at some shows, depending on the location.? But a lot also had no intention of giving up their hunt caps, derbies and especially top hats.? I found it interesting that some places I judged last year seemed fully accepting of safety helmets, such as New England and the Middle Atlantic regions, including at the FEI levels, while in other areas there were fewer safety helmets and none at all at FEI.? Guess it depended, at least partially, on what everyone was used to seeing. Dressage shows have welcomed safety helmets for a long time, even if many individuals didn't, because of the close ties between dressage and other sport horse disciplines such as eventing and jumping.? This rule change probably would have come sooner if top hats weren?t so closely associated with the achievement of reaching FEI levels in competition.? Therefore, I never felt there would be all that much resistance to this rule from the dressage world itself. What surprises me is that the rule was passed for a non-jumping discipline when so many other non-jumping styles represented by the USEF have made few moves in this direction.? The general rules for the USEF state that a judge may not penalize a rider in any discipline for wearing a safety helmet or vest (USEF rule GR801.4), and many dressage riders took that to heart.? But, what about the western and saddle seat folks'? Will they climb onto the bandwagon as well'? The statistics have clearly shown that safety helmets save lives and prevent serious injuries. I've seen attempts at devising a safety helmet worn with a derby cover or a western hat cover, but they really look goofy.? The plain safety helmets look much better, although they don't mimic the usual attire for saddle seat and western. It is, of course, one thing to mandate helmets at shows, but the bulk of riding without helmets is done at home.? A neighbor of mine in Virginia was killed several years ago while trail riding when her horse slipped and she hit her head on a rock.? That kind of news doesn't resonate as well; it does however, when an accomplished rider such as Courtney is injured in the most innocuous of circumstances. So many of us, too, recall the days before we had safety helmets available for bike riding and horse riding, or even seat belts while driving for that matter.? We seemed to survive unscathed.? But we likely didn't pay all that much attention when people did get hurt.? We didn't have these great helmets available to us back then, but we do now. Research is continuing, and it's likely that thinner and even more effective materials will come out in the future. The initial release concerning the new USEF helmet rule was somewhat confusing, but it boils down to two main elements: 1.? All riders under the age of 18 must wear a safety helmet, no matter what level. 2.? All riders at Fourth Level and below must a wear a safety helmet. I expect there to be a run to tack shops during February.? I'm still looking for a new(er) home for my never-used top hat.? It might come in handy for a song-and-dance revue.? As a fashion aside, I won?t miss derbies.? I've never seen any rider look good in a derby.? They didn't even look good on Jackie O. In other news: I saw three robins this week, or maybe it was the same robin three times over.? I got bread out to them (it'), since there can't be any bugs to eat, and robins don't do seed.? it's going to be a long wait for any misdirected robins until the grass and bugs reappear.? Another hopeful sign:? Windy started to shed this week (yeah!) and so did my Corgi Mandy.? Well actually, in Mandy?s case, she just started to shed more.? Corgis never stop shedding, they just look moth-eaten twice a year if you don't keep up with the Furminator. Resolution Report:? Another pound the last week in January, not my goal for the week or month, but at least the right idea.? More trips and to the gym and more snow to shovel couldn?t make up for less riding due to the weather and another weekend ?new test? forum.? Total loss of January: 5 pounds.? Yeah!