I was working on an article about Victoria Winter’s impressive WEG-qualifying results at Blainville; since I didn’t make the trek to la belle province this year I went online to watch videos of Victoria and her American rivals who came (finally) across the world’s longest unguarded border in their own hunt for WEG qualifying scores. Both Lauren Sammis and Sue Blinks were wearing helmets in the show ring, which leads me to wonder if the entire American WEG dressage team will be sporting brain bowls in Kentucky. The helmet frenzy following Courtney’s accident continues unabated. You can barely crack open a magazine these days without a helmet promotion ad jumping out at you. I wonder if the waves of helmet advocation will eventually lap against the shores across the Atlantic. Would Edward Gal wear a grey one to go with his frock coat? Would we see the likes of Isabell and Hubertus forego the elegance of the top hat for the safety of a GPA? Even the FEI has voiced its support, and in typical FEI style. On June 21 Mission Control issued a ridiculously behind-the-times statement of support for wearing helmets in the warm up and while schooling at competitions. “Riders still have the choice of wearing protective headgear in the competition arena,” it concluded. Well, yeah. That seems pretty bloody self-evident doesn’t it? I mean, why would the FEI jump on the helmet band wagon for warm ups while at the same time ban their use in the show ring?
I actually don’t mind the look of a helmet in competition. Sure, it’s not as pretty as a top hat, but it kind of makes dressage look more sporty. And dangerous. Maybe helmets in competition will make more people want to watch. Certainly for the 99.999% of the population world wide who know less about dressage than brain surgery, top hats look a tad old fashioned and not just a little pompous. A helmet says ‘this is a serious athletic pursuit’ in a way that a hat that was fashionable in the 18th century just doesn’t.
And will the helmet craze stick? It’s finally summer for real here in Vancouver, which means wearing a helmet – even a fancy vented Charles Owen like I have – will lead to copious perspiration and seriously bad hair. I must confess I did think twice before slapping the helmet on last night – but after a few months of wearing it every day I’ve become addicted to the feeling of safety it gives me – so on it went.