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No Helmets in the Upper-Level Dressage Phase of Eventing

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  • No Helmets in the Upper-Level Dressage Phase of Eventing

    This is just something I've been very curious about for a long time. I personally choose to wear a helmet every time, every ride, but I don't ever preach to people about how they should wear a helmet and I don't push my beliefs on people who choose to not wear one. I believe that everyone has the choice to wear (or not wear) whatever they like on their head.

    I know, though, that there has to be at least one upper-level eventer (I mostly mean Advanced level riders) that shares my mentality that helmets are a daily necessity. My question is, why is there not one Advanced rider that chooses to wear a helmet in the dressage phase?

    I understand that wearing a top hat and tails is an honor, and I could understand the argument that it shows respect to the judge. But is there really not one rider out there who feels that they can put their own safety above that and wear one during their test, if they do every single ride at home and believe that they're necessary? I just find it incredible to believe that a true helmet "Nazi" could find it acceptable to forgo the use of a helmet for just one ride every month or so.

    The first thing I did was look up the rules for dress during dressage; I thought it might be compulsory to wear the tails and top hat at Intermediate and above. It's not. EV114, Section 5b, says that protective headgear may be worn even at those levels. Obviously, there would be a lot of talk if someone like Karen O'Connor or Phillip Dutton showed up wearing a helmet in the dressage phase, but they wouldn't be eliminated.

    Sure, the likelihood of one of these great riders falling off their horse, even if the horse spooks, is probably slim. Still, there are always freak accidents and anyone who really wanted to wear a helmet should! Is it simply because their would be many people who might look down on them for not wearing the traditional dress that they don't? Would that kind of choice reflect negatively on their dressage scores?

    I would love to be corrected and have someone show me an Advanced level rider wearing one in their test, or hear from a rider who wears a helmet 100% of the time at home who neglects to wear one during the dressage phase. It would also be interesting to hear from the lower-level eventers who wear a cap during dressage instead of a helmet.

    Thanks for humoring me
    Blue-eyed Eventers

  • #2
    Heh. I have had the same thoughts. I am a devoted helmet-wearer, and have worn my crash-hat for every dressage ride from BN through I for 23 years. However, I did find myself at my last CCI* (full format) wearing my top hat. I was more nervous about my head-wear than any other aspect of the event! I did get through the test without getting a concussion but it really did make me fretful. I don't know the answer. I would hope that by the time we're competing at the upper levels that the beasts under us will behave for the hour that we're in a felt and cardboard hat but there is no telling what might happen. An unexpected flip-out is ALWAYS possible!
    Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.

    Comment


    • #3
      I ride with Gina Miles and while she does wear a hunt cap/top hat for actual competition she wears an ASTM approved helmet for absolutely every other ride. It was a truly refreshing change from some other professionals I have worked for, who have told me point blank that they "have become good enough riders to not need a helmet" ... even over fences on rank young horses.

      And Polly I remember the exact same feeling!! The very first time I wore a top hat I had NEVER been on a horse without approved head gear in my life. I was so nervous I thought I was going to puke (and it didn't help that the d*** thing was borrowed from Suzi so of course it didn't fit at all and kept blowing off in warmup!).
      http://greybrookeventing.blogspot.com/
      http://kerickso.tumblr.com

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      • #4
        lower level checking in.

        I am not a helmet natzi, but I do wear a helmet at home, mostly because I ride alone on green beans. I wear my hunt cap in my dressage no matter what level I ride or how green my horse is. It doesn't bother me in the slightest. Maybe because when I started riding all we had were hunt caps. I remember my mother getting after me for wearing my cap to school in, she didn't want it to get dirty, lol, how thing have changed. Upper level dressage riders don't wear a helmet when they show either, and "classic" in the HJ world wears a top hat over fences, as does most if not all side saddle OF and flat classes.

        Comment


        • #5
          ^ classics in the Hunter world does not mean a top hat over fences. They wear tails with a real helmet. At least Ive never seen one in a top hat.

          Comment


          • #6
            Always worn one

            Ever since college when I had two friends get seriously injured due to hunt caps not doing thier job I have worn approved helmets. I have played with wearing just a cap for dressage and wasnt comfortable in it and decided that it was too much trouble to pack 3 helmets for a competition At the CCI* last spring I worn a dressage coat and a ASTM black helmet, the pictures look great I think Doubt I will ever go above the prem level.
            Cindy

            Make any mistakes going forward!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Bobthehorse View Post
              ^ classics in the Hunter world does not mean a top hat over fences. They wear tails with a real helmet. At least Ive never seen one in a top hat.
              Only because of the 'new' helmet rule. Before that passed (2007? 2008? I dunno, I'm too poor to horse show), everyone wore top hats with their shads over fences in classics.
              Have YOU ever looked into the eyes of a rich white child who has just lost a jumping competition?

              Comment


              • #8
                Sadly, I was told by my trainers (both dressage - USEF "S" judge - and eventing - rode Rolex and was selected for the Olympic team) that if I wanted to play at that level, I needed to look the part. No, helmet during the competition for the reasons you present. It is a hard ingrained tradition that hopefully will change. In the meantime, I feel that I have to play the game as established or be indirectly penalized. Hence why I wear a hunt cap in dressage and not a helmet as well at the lower levels.

                And yes, I wear one 100% of the time at home. But for me I think I have a different background. I grew up in a time of NO real hard hats (plastic shells with a bit of foam and no chin strap). We jumped out in our XC field all the time without a helmet. It wasn't until I was in my late 30s that I started to wear a helmet always when mounted. Now, I do feel "naked" without it on, even while hacking.

                I think Nina Fout rode with a helmet during the Olympics or Pan Am games?

                Reed

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by RAyers View Post
                  In the meantime, I feel that I have to play the game as established or be indirectly penalized. Hence why I wear a hunt cap in dressage and not a helmet as well at the lower levels.
                  Are you saying that dressage judges (indirectly, subconsciously, of course) penalize for helmets at lower levels?

                  I'm not suggesting they don't--I'm really curious.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Beam Me Up View Post
                    Are you saying that dressage judges (indirectly, subconsciously, of course) penalize for helmets at lower levels? .......
                    Hey! Maybe that's why I get crummy dressage scores!!!!!!!

                    My horses can be quite naughty, in the ring and out. I will never get on a horse without a helmet, chin strap done up. Except when I'm wearing a shadbelly! I grew up in the day when we wore a hunt cap to show, nothing the rest of the time. The only reason I started wearing a helmet was when my best friend gave me her 3 year old TB homebred she looked me in the eye as she handed me the lead shank and said, "If I ever hear of you getting on this horse without a helmet on your head, with the chinstrap done up, I will take him right out from under you and that will be the end of it."
                    That was in 1989. She agreed to the top hat when we were going Intermediate or FEI, but any other time I had to be in the real thing.
                    Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I will never, ever ride at the upper levels, but if I did I would GO OUT OF MY WAY to be seen riding in my big old musroom-head helmet, tails or no tails. I would consider THAT an honor, to show the world that yes I do consider my brain more important than my "look".

                      I am also past the point of preaching to someone else what they ought to do with the contents of their skull. But I would think 1000x MORE of someone who had the intestinal fortitude to strap on their helmet for dressage, no matter what the venue.
                      Click here before you buy.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Beam Me Up View Post
                        Are you saying that dressage judges (indirectly, subconsciously, of course) penalize for helmets at lower levels?

                        I'm not suggesting they don't--I'm really curious.
                        I have no idea at the lower levels.

                        I am only speaking for my experience at the UPPER levels. The judges pool etc. is so small that regardless of where you are, you find that you ride for the same person consistently. They get to know you as a rider and if they have the wrong initial perception then you have a problem. Just like a professional interview, you only have a few seconds to make the correct impression.

                        I find that judges who know me outside the ring tend to give me better scores, consciously or not.

                        Reed

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                          I will never, ever ride at the upper levels, but if I did I would GO OUT OF MY WAY to be seen riding in my big old musroom-head helmet, tails or no tails. I would consider THAT an honor, to show the world that yes I do consider my brain more important than my "look".

                          I am also past the point of preaching to someone else what they ought to do with the contents of their skull. But I would think 1000x MORE of someone who had the intestinal fortitude to strap on their helmet for dressage, no matter what the venue.
                          I have absolutely NO DOUBT what the outcome of my injuries would have been when I got tossed 2 weeks ago as I landed head first...no helmet, there would not be a Lynda here typing... I for one, am happy I was on COTH back in the day when your signature line was a daily reminder ...many thanks!
                          ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Thanks everyone, the replies have been enlightening!

                            Originally posted by RiverBendPol View Post
                            However, I did find myself at my last CCI* (full format) wearing my top hat. I was more nervous about my head-wear than any other aspect of the event! I did get through the test without getting a concussion but it really did make me fretful.
                            Do you think you'll wear one next time, just so you aren't as nervous?

                            Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                            I am also past the point of preaching to someone else what they ought to do with the contents of their skull. But I would think 1000x MORE of someone who had the intestinal fortitude to strap on their helmet for dressage, no matter what the venue.
                            I agree completely, deltawave. I've got to say, what I've been hearing about Gina Miles lately has made her one of my favorite UL riders.

                            Originally posted by RAyers View Post
                            They get to know you as a rider and if they have the wrong initial perception then you have a problem. Just like a professional interview, you only have a few seconds to make the correct impression.
                            So a smiling, friendly rider with a helmet that presents themselves and their horse immaculately, precisely on time, rides a beautiful test, and does a nice salute at the end and thanks the judge for their time (not sure if that last part is possible at the UL) ... this rider would likely make a worse impression than one wearing tails and a top hat?

                            RunForIt, I'm glad you're alright!
                            Blue-eyed Eventers

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Irishrose261 View Post
                              Only because of the 'new' helmet rule. Before that passed (2007? 2008? I dunno, I'm too poor to horse show), everyone wore top hats with their shads over fences in classics.
                              The rule requiring all mounted exhibitors to wear ASTM approved helmets passed in 2005. This means that even when not in a class an approved helmet must be worn on the show grounds.
                              Prior to 2005 the rule required protective headgear in any jumping class or when jumping on the competition grounds but the rule book still mentioned top hats or silk hats in the hunter classic section. But the Hunter Classic section also mentioned that protective helemts could be worn without penalty.

                              In 2007 vests were added to the rule to indicate there was no penalty for wearing one.

                              For Junior riders the ASTM approved rule has been in effect for I guess decades.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Neets View Post
                                ...
                                So a smiling, friendly rider with a helmet that presents themselves and their horse immaculately, precisely on time, rides a beautiful test, and does a nice salute at the end and thanks the judge for their time (not sure if that last part is possible at the UL) ... this rider would likely make a worse impression than one wearing tails and a top hat?...

                                You are adding more constraints than your original post. What I am saying is that if you take the same horse and rider at a level and had one in a shad and top hat and another in a helmet, the judge's perception, regardless of knowledge, will most likely go to the most complete classic picture. That means that those of us who are at the bottom of the upper levels have to go beyond what you list in order to be competitive against preconception.

                                You asked for experiences and I am giving you mine. I am not saying it is good/bad/indifferent. I am saying that this is what I went/go through. I am answering your original question directly. I wear a helmet every day, every ride, right up to the moment I get on to ride my dressage test in competition (at the upper levels). At the lower levels I wear my helmet or hunt cap. You wanted to know why we do this.

                                I absolutely agree with your intent and desire! But you also have to accept that the sport has its own set of unwritten "rules" at the upper levels that we riders sometimes must adhere to if we wish to be competitive.

                                There are certain battles to fight. In my case I trust my trainers. When they say something I tend to do it. Yes, I will go against them at times (e.g. veterinary care, some training techniques) but in this case it is not a battle worth fighting as they both have done dressage at the top FEI levels. They know the game. I don't.

                                Reed

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Ok guys, I remember going cross country with a flimsy hunt cap and an elastic chip strap, but today I always wear a helmet. A few years back I asked myself if I whore a helmet everyday why didn't I use one for dressage? So I bought a nice velvet Charles Owens and have been wearing one in dressage ever since and so have my kids.

                                  I'm also a "R" evening judge and I would never hold it against anyone for wearing a helmet in dressage for any level. What I find much more annoying is someone who borrows a top hat that doesn't quite fit and the rider spends more time trying to push the hat down hard enough so that it will stay in place. In many cases the hat eventually falls off, bumps the horse in the rump and lands in a place that the horse spooks at it every time it passes it

                                  Between you and me I have had my worse falls riding on the flat and most of those have been when relaxing on a loose rein

                                  Jackie

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Thank you, Reed. Sorry if I seemed a bit argumentative. I appreciate your insight!
                                    Blue-eyed Eventers

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      By "helmet" I am assuming everyone is meaning ASTM approved helmet with chinstrap fastened.
                                      Because the hunt cap type helmet is actually, still, a helmet. Not approved and no chinstrap but technically a riding helmet.
                                      Here's the deal:
                                      I don't think it is fair to castigate upper levels for dressing properly and following the rules as they are written for attire at their levels. Dressage is not the whole of our sport, but it is a starting point for scoring, and it's important after you have worked for YEARS to get to the upper levels on a special, highly trained and loved animal, that you look as though you are proud and beautiful and belong there. Looking beautiful and riding a fit, sound, gorgeous animal dressed to the teeth is a wonderful thing to be able to do. I wouldn't begrudge any rider that picture. And I don't think that is a wrong message to send at those levels. (I am seeing Fair Hill International, etc. in my mind's eye here).

                                      BUT.....
                                      this is important....did you know that JUNIORS can ride in a hunt cap (non ASTM helmet) or derby or top hat in dressage at any time? Yes, it's true -- juniors are not required to wear ASTM helmets in recognized dressage shows. A fact I find horrifying. So it is hard for me personally to fault an upper level rider who wears one for all other phases, and knows the value of one, but not trainers or parents of junior riders who do not have to even wear them by the rules in recognized dressage shows. Begs question: why isn't there a rule for ASTM helmets for juniors in dressage? (Not even in eventing dressage by the way.)
                                      Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                                      Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I think Reed has very eloquently answered the question of "why", and the answer is not "because UL eventers don't value safety." But the more pertinent question would be what it would take to change the situation. Not that I would call changing the helmet rule for dressage even CLOSE to the safety priority for eventing today, but if you wanted to brainstorm...

                                        One wonders why there hasn't yet been the creation of a helmet that is in keeping, aesthetically, with the tradition of the top hat. Over in saddleseat land, all it took was the suggestion of a saddleseat rider who had suffered a head injury to the Troxel helmet company, and they responded with this derby-style helmet:
                                        http://www.troxelhelmets.com/product...p?ProductID=32

                                        If they can do it with a derby, I can't see why they can't do it with a top hat. Make the harness system out of clear plastic, and voila.

                                        A subtle change in culture might help too. What if some riders chose to do all of their exhibitions and hors concours performances in helmets? If there was enough visibility and enough subtle cultural shift over a period of years, things might change.
                                        Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/

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