The equestrian sport is one steeped in tradition, an aspect that is probably the most obvious in the way riders dress for competition. Clad in wool coats, white breeches, and leather gloves, top riders sometimes look like characters out of a history book rather than the athletes they are.
In the top levels of dressage and the dressage phase of eventing, it’s traditional for riders to don a bowler or top hat in competition. Since dressage involves flatwork only with no jumping, it’s perceived as being safer than other disciplines. But accidents can happen around horses whether or not they are jumping, and after dressage riders Courtney King-Dye and Silva Martin both sustained head injuries after falling from their horses, we are beginning to see more and more riders bucking tradition and strapping on a helmet instead of a top hat. During the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event in April, over half of the riders wore a helmet during the dressage phase. This is a huge improvement since 2010 when rider Allison Springer first decided to ditch her top hat in favor of a safety helmet, and was the only one to do so. More and more big-name riders, including Boyd Martin, owner of a Pennsylvania horse farm, are opting to protect themselves by wearing a helmet during dressage.
To encourage wearing a helmet while riding, the organization Riders 4 Helmets is once again sponsoring International Helmet Awareness Day on July 12. Major helmet manufacturers and retailers are offering discounts onhelmets that day, and it’s a great opportunity to get safely outfitted at a lower price. Ride smart, wear a helmet!