Dressage riders have a new incentive to ditch their famously cavalier attitude to hat safety.

Top names Matthias Rath and Emile Faurie have already committed to training in proper headgear and now a new, high-tech top hat allows riders to be stylish and safe in competition.

The hat looks like a standard top hat, but has a crash hat inside and fastens with a chin-strap. It was launched by Dutch hat manufacturers L’Hiver at a trade show at ’s-Hertogenbosch in March.

“As far as we are aware this is a world premier,” Boy de Winter from L’Hiver told H&H, adding the hats have been approved to meet EN1384 safety standards by assessors TNO and Tüv.

“We have taken our first orders and they will be available in June,” he added.

He said there has been a lot of interest, from all levels of riders, especially from the USA.

“We’ve been working on the hats for five years, but sped up due to public demand after Courtney King-Dye’s accident,” Mr de Winter said.

American dressage rider Courtney King-Dye suffered a serious brain injury on 3 March 2010 after falling hatless from a horse while schooling at home in Florida. She suffered a fractured skull and small brain bleeds and fell into a coma.

Since last month hard hats have been mandatory in all US national dressage competitions and all under-18s must wear an approved helmet at FEI competitions in the US (news, 3 February).

Adults do not have to wear safety helmets in international classes, although they are “strongly recommended” to do so by the FEI (news 1 July 2010).

Dressage riders welcomed this innovation.

“L’Hiver should be congratulated,” said H&H dressage columnist Richard Davison. “Apart from the straps, I can’t see any difference and if it improves rider safety that has got to be a good thing.”

Laura Bechtolsheimer agreed: “Safety is being taken increasingly seriously in the sport — being safe is more important than looking good.”

Fellow rider Steph Croxford had a more measured view: “In principle, it’s a great idea, but people may be put off by the chin strap and how it looks.”

Lyndsey White from safety campaign group Riders4Helmets said: “The price may limit its market to top-end competitors [the hat retails at 1,500-4,000 Euros (£1,330-£3,882)], but L’Hiver seems to have produced a top hat that incorporates safety features that is also visually pleasing, which has been an issue in the past. Any approved headgear is a positive step for the future of equestrian sport.”

The FEI and British Dressage confirmed that the hat can be worn in competition.

Find out what riders think of the new top hat in Horse & Hound magazine (7 April, 2011)