Style vs. safety

Published 06-23-2010 11:44 AM | Fernanda Camargo

This blog was written by Kristen Janicki-Harvey, the Extension Associate for Equine Activities of the University of Kentucky.

Style vs. safety

When I was in 7th grade, my parents finally gave in to my horse craze and I started taking lessons at a local hunter barn. From day one, it was stressed to me how important it was to wear a helmet when riding-no questions asked. One of the first gifts I got for Christmas was my very own riding helmet! I remember being all excited about the new, black, velvety hat of my very own.

It never even occurred to me to get on a horse without a helmet no matter what you were doing until I was exposed to other disciplines of riding. Western riders are seen with a cowboy hat. Saddle seat riders wear a derby. But why is that? Equestrian sport is rich in tradition, which includes attire. Every discipline has its own distinctive look. Hunt seat and Dressage apparel is based on British tradition and has a very formal appearance. Saddle seat is more of an old-fashioned appeal. And Western is based on a casual and comfortable look.

But proper equestrian attire changes, just like style of clothing changes! I remember really wanting a pair of rust-colored breeches when I was a child-what was I thinking!! So, traditionally hunt seat riders are used to wearing helmets. But they were not always (and still are not in some situations) the proper ASTM-SEI approved equestrian helmets that are proven to protect your melon. Helmets were first made mandatory in the US Equestrian Federation rulebook in 1964 for jumping classes, and even then it was just simply called as “protective headgear”. Today, the US Equestrian Federation has moved from that rule to one that mandates that the helmet “meet or exceed ASTM/SEI standards…” that is properly fitted with chin harness secured. This rule applies to both youth and adults competing in those specific classes. In 2008, the USEF added the following:

  • Any exhibitor may wear protective headgear (ASTM/SEI) and/or a protective safety vest, specifically designed for use in equestrian sport in any division or class without penalty from the judge.

Not only does USEF not penalize for the use of an ASTM/SEI approved helmet, but AQHA as well. Surprised? According to the 2010AQHA Rulebook, section 445 Attire

  • It is optional that an exhibitor may wear a hard hat with harness in all classes

Optional means that it is the exhibitor’s choice to wear a helmet without any penalty from the judge. Some may argue that wearing a non-traditional helmet versus a cowboy hat may draw more attention to the exhibitor, both positive and/or negative. But my question to you is: did you really pay to be judged by your headwear??

So, you choose: style and tradition or safety? Believe it or not, Troxel makes an approved ASTM/SEI helmet that looks just like a Derby for Saddle seat riders and several styles of helmets designed for the Western rider. So, let’s break tradition, and make helmets the new style!!

Page last updated: 7/30/2013 5:22:10 PM