All dressage riders competing internationally must wear approved protective headgear from 1 January, 2021.
The new rule – adopted at the FEI’s 2019 General Assembly in Moscow last week (16-19 November) – effectively removes each discipline’s jurisdiction over headgear.
While dressage riders such as Charlotte Dujardin have long chosen to wear up-to-standard hats, many international competitors have stayed in their traditional top hats.
Under FEI [international horse sports’ governing body] rules, helmets must be worn by anyone mounted on a horse at any time on any showground. Reining is covered by the ruling but not vaulting, which isn’t considered ‘riding’.
Relaxations on a discipline-by-discipline basis for prize-givings and the playing of national anthems will stay in place after January 2021.
Originally, an all-encompassing helmet rule for all riders was proposed for January 2020. Advocating a year’s delay, some delegates said it would enable helmet manufacturers to produce top hats that comply with safety standards and thus maintain the traditional dressage ‘look’.
Under current British Dressage rules, protective hats must be worn by all riders. The only exception is that riders in advanced to grand prix classes may wear top hats or uniform caps if they are 26 years old or older.
In another FEI safety rule change, bitless bridles have been banned from use in the cross-country phase of eventing. Some delegates objected to this proposal, citing a lack of evidence that bitless bridles reduce safety.