According to Equestrian Canada (EC) regulations, earphones, earbuds and/or other electronic devices are strictly prohibited in the hunter/jumper competition arena, and such usage is penalized by elimination. Otherwise, the use of only one earphone/earbud is allowed while mounted everywhere else on the grounds.

This rule went back and forth for a couple of years. The rationale was that with two buds in the ears, safety was compromised, especially in the warmup arenas. If a horse is behaving badly or if someone yells “loose horse” or “heads up,” it is thought that when at least one ear is open, warnings are more likely to be heard.

Dressage rules state that earbuds are allowed in warmup areas only, but are forbidden in competition. They are also allowed with two-way communication devices (between coach and rider) but unlike hunter/jumper, dressage does allow two earbuds during warmups and schooling.

It should be noted that there is an exception: in dressage, athletes with documented hearing impairment may use headsets only if the competition organizer is able to provide a supervisor to stand with the test caller. An EC medical form indicating the athlete’s hearing impairment must be submitted with the competition entry and the steward and judge must be advised.

Similarly, FEI jumping regulations state: “Earphones and/or other electronic devices are strictly prohibited in FEI Jumping Competitions, and such usage is penalized by elimination … athletes, grooms, or any other person may wear one earphone at any other time while mounted.”

FEI dressage rules note that “Earphones and/or other electronic communication devices are strictly prohibited at FEI Dressage competitions whilst competing, and such usage is penalised by elimination. Earphones or similar devices are, however, permitted during training and warm-up.” Para dressage also makes exceptions for classified athletes through their advisory group.

Regarding cell phones, the same EC rule referred to earlier advises that it is not recommended to use cell phones while mounted. Some competitions are now adding this as a local rule in prize lists.

In warmup or schooling areas, riders should be courteous and aware and stay on the extreme outside while talking on their phones. Better still, go to a corner and stand while the conversation takes place.

While there are no specific FEI rules regarding the use of cell phones, any blue tooth devices may only be used with one earbud in the jumper warm-up, or two in dressage, and neither discipline allows usage in the competition arena.

Helmet cams are becoming increasingly popular, especially in eventing, as a way to share the experience online. EC rules state that safely-mounted helmet cameras may be worn by an adult in the jumper ring with the permission of the steward. However, it is interesting that footage from a helmet camera is not considered official video recording and cannot be used for determination of a rule protest. In some cases in some venues, advertising and publicity rights could be implicated, so before a steward would ever give permission, they would first confirm the wishes of the organizing committee.

FEI rules state “the use of cameras on athletes or equipment shall not be permitted, unless otherwise specifically agreed by the FEI. An athlete’s decision to wear a camera while competing shall always be voluntary and at the athlete’s own risk.” In eventing regulations, requests to wear cameras are referred to the technical delegate in consultation with the organizing committee for approval.