At the 2011 USEF convention (Jan 19-23), the rule requiring protective headgear for ALL riders competing at the national levels (Training through Fourth). Ever since Courtney King-Dye’s accident, this has been a popular topic of debate. The pro-helmet people say that it will save lives and disability. The anti-helmet people say it should be their choice to protect their head or not. I am definitely in the pro-helmet category now, but until I rode dressage, I usually rode without one. I rode a lot of Western, it wasn’t what we did in the QH world, and I just never thought about it.
The major problem with the anti-helmet people’s argument is that if they were to become injured (or killed) it would be their own fault and they would have to live (or not) with the consequences. But as Courtney’s accident demonstrates, your mishap affects many more people than just yourself. Even if you don’t have a legion of adoring fans, you have family and friends, usually a job (or clients if you train horses), and most likely other pets, all of which rely on you. I feel it is being a little selfish to not wear a helmet because you get hot or you don’t like the way your hair looks after taking it off. There are solutions to just about every excuse people have come up with not to wear a helmet.
(I have heard rare stories where someone died because of their helmet but I’ve also heard stories where people have died due to their seatbelt while driving. However, no one these days disputes the statistics showing seatbelts save lives.)
The USEF/USDF dictates other appointments of our show outfit. Our clothing must be of conservative colors. We can’t show in a Western saddle. Our horse must be ridden with a bit, which has to be a snaffle at the lower levels. Why shouldn’t they say we must wear protective headgear? I am sure that after a few years of watching the pros wear helmets that no one will think there is any other way to ride. I hope that they will not only ride in a helmet at shows, where it is mandated, but also at home, not because its mandated, but because they’re used to it from the shows.
When I first started wearing a helmet it felt weird. Now I feel naked without one. I applaud the USEF in sticking to their guns despite a substantial amount of opposition.