British Dressage (BD) has responded to member feedback in its latest rules, allowing ear covers and fly fringes in outdoor summer competitions to protect horses from insects.

BD’s Claire Booth explained: “Ear covers are allowed under international rules at the ground jury’s discretion, but as most domestic competitions don’t run with a ground jury, the rule has been introduced in its place.”

The rule — which applies from 1 December — prevents riders plugging their horse’s ears to drown out distracting noises.

It states spot checks will be made “to ensure ear covers/fly fringes are not being used to muffle sound; any evidence of such will lead to elimination.”

The use of ear covers has been hotly debated on H&H’s website this summer. Last week, one forum member said the new rule is “a real step forward”.

Discreet nose nets — thought to help headshakers — that leave the mouth and bit visible are also now permitted.

The latest rules also enforce light-coloured gloves and allow riders who have not competed at their highest level for four years to apply to be downgraded.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (22 October, ’09)