Beginning March 1, 2011, the US Equestrian Federation made it mandatory for riders to wear approved protective headgear while mounted at national dressage and eventing competitions. Do you know the rules? Here's a rundown so you're not caught unprepared without the correct helmet this show season.
If you're younger than 18, you must wear protective headgear that meets or exceeds ASTM/SEI standards ("approved helmet") at all times when mounted on competition grounds, whether competing or not, at any national or international dressage level.
All riders competing in national dressage tests (Fourth Level and below) must wear an approved helmet at all times when mounted on competition grounds. This includes noncompeting riders on horses competing in national-level tests.
If you're 18 or older competing only in FEI dressage levels or tests (Prix St. Georges and above, including FEI Young Rider Tests, USEF Developing Prix St. Georges Test and the USEF Brentina Cup Test), you are not required to wear an approved helmet in warm-up or competition. You may, however, do so, if you wish, without penalty from the judge.
If your horse is competing in both national and international dressage tests (e.g., Fourth Level and Prix St. Georges) at the same show, you must wear an approved helmet at all times when mounted and during all tests.
All riders competing in Para-Equestrian tests must wear an approved helmet at all times while mounted on the competition grounds, including in competition at any level.
Eventers in any USEF-endorsed competition must wear an approved helmet when mounted for all three disciplines. Helmets for the dressage phase should be predominantly black or dark blue.
This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.