The times they are a-changin’. Five years ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single helmet on dressage day at an FEI competition. Now more and more big-name riders are strapping on their crash hats as helmet awareness grows within the sport. But there’s still a sizable disparity between helmet use in the States and here in Europe. Consider this stat from Rolex: 57 percent of riders wore helmets in dressage this year, or 35 out of 61 rides. Here at Luhmühlen, just six riders (22 percent) wore their helmets today on the first day of competition.
Boyd Martin was the first of the day to wear a helmet, which is particularly notable because it’s the first time he’s worn one at a CCI4*, and I imagine it meant a lot to Silva that he took #mindyourmelon to heart today. French rider Rodolphe Scherer wore a helmet next, followed by Millie Dumas of Great Britain, Natalie Blundell of Australia, Alice Naber-Lozeman of the Netherlands and Malin Petersen of Sweden. Malin’s decision especially stood out considering her mount, Sofarsogood, a rather feisty Irish Sport Horse mare, melted down toward the end of the test and looked ready to head for the hills as they tried to exit the stadium.
That’s six riders out of 27 who chose to forgo a top hat, less than half of the final percentage of riders who opted to protect their noggin at Rolex. Of course, that number could rise tomorrow — and for the sake of the #mindyourmelon movement, I’m curious to see if it does — but the stark disparity between helmet use at North America’s biggest event and a very prominent event in Europe, which also serves as the German Eventing Championships, highlights the simple fact that the tradition of the top hat is much more firmly ingrained across the pond.
Change happens over time. Indeed, look at how far the helmet awareness movement has come since Allison Springer first ditched her top hat at Rolex back in 2010, the only rider to do so in the entire competition. Four years later, big names like Mary King are following suit at events like Badminton, and Boyd also took the helmet plunge today. The decision to wear a helmet remains a personal choice, and while EN has always remained a strong advocate of the “every ride, every time” philosophy, we won’t lambast riders who choose to carry on the top hat tradition.
Instead, we’ll celebrate those who choose otherwise, especially at a major event like Luhmühlen. To Boyd, Rodolphe, Millie, Natalie, Alice and Malin: Thank you for setting a good example for other riders. Your decision to buck the trend might one day encourage others to do the same. Until then, #mindyourmelon, and Go Eventing.