Aesthetics or safety?
When it comes to dressage, aesthetics is a decisive factor: the movements of the horse, the posture of the rider and, of course, the appearance. Combining all these factors results in a particularly beautiful composition, which is mainly characterised by the traditional clothing of the rider - and which is now to change due to new regulations.
Dressage helmet compulsory: 2021 without top hat
On 1 January 2021, after many years of discussion, compulsory helmets came into force in dressage. Since the beginning of 2021, the World Equestrian Federation (FEI) has prescribed a helmet as headgear in all equestrian disciplines. The reason for this is, of course, safety, which must not be neglected in equestrian sport either. Nevertheless, some dressage riders still miss the classic top hat.
Compulsory helmets for dressage riders - a controversial topic
Until now, we could admire the noble top hats on the heads at dressage events. This is now a thing of the past. Because as soon as the dressage competitions start again after the pandemic restrictions, the dressage top hats will stay at home. The reason for this is that the World Equestrian Federation now prefers to see helmets instead of top hats on the riders' heads.
However, not every dressage rider likes this, even though helmets certainly provide increased safety when riding. Some of the supporters of top hats argue that dressage is not "only" about riding, but also about the long-cultivated aesthetics in this area. And here, of course, a top hat looks much better.
Despite all this, participants in national and international dressage competitions will now have to do without their top hats and reach for a safe helmet from the beginning of 2021. This is because the German Equestrian Federation (FN) has implemented the new regulation of the World Equestrian Federation. Until now, riders of legal age could decide for themselves which headgear - top hat or riding cap - they would like to wear to the tournament.
A petition against compulsory helmets
Especially the six-time Olympic champion Isabell Werth and some of her fellow riders do not agree with the decision of the World Equestrian Federation. Accordingly, they submitted a petition against the World Equestrian Federation. As the entry into force of the new regulation shows, the petition was not necessarily successful.
The petition states: "We believe that it is the right of each individual rider to choose between the use of a top hat or protective headgear. This right cannot be revoked."
A common argument against compulsory helmets is that there is a proven lack of serious accidents in dressage riding, Werth said. "We are concerned with having the freedom of choice as an adult and experienced dressage rider."
What is the case for riding caps in dressage riding?
Now the World Equestrian Federation has decided against freedom of choice and in favour of safety. And this is already the most important argument in favour of the riding cap: Safety.
Although dressage is not a high-risk sport, wearing a rider's helmet can prevent serious injuries. And it is ideal if the new regulation prevents a rider from sustaining serious injuries at a dressage competition in the first place. Accordingly, we now have to get used to the combination "tailcoat and riding cap" and consider the top hat as part of dressage past. And the manufacturers are delivering accordingly - in the meantime there are extremely appealing models that also go with tailcoats and no longer represent a break in style.
And if we take it very seriously, the FEI does not prescribe the wearing of a riding cap, but of a safety headgear. Although the market is very poor in terms of top hats that meet the European EN standard for riding helmets, this could also change with increasing demand.
Nadine Husenbeth (RV Sottrum) thinks the introduction of compulsory helmets is perfectly fine. "As dressage riders we also have a role model function. Moreover, safety is paramount in this sport as well. In the young horse classes, a cap has been compulsory for a long time and is not a problem. Besides, today's helmets are so comfortable and so cool that I am fully behind this new thing."
Goodbye, top hat- Welcome, compulsory helmet
Compulsory helmets are now a done deal and thus top hat enthusiasts will have to get used to the new look at dressage competitions. It will be exciting to see how this decision affects vaulting and western riding.
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When it comes to dressage, aesthetics is a decisive factor: the horse's movements, the rider's posture and, of course, the appearance. Combining all these factors results in a particularly beautiful composition, which is mainly characterised by the traditional dress of the rider - and which is now to change due to new regulations.