British dressage rider Emile Faurie has introduced a “hats only” policy at his Oxfordshire yard.

Emile is making a stand for improved rider safety after injuries to several dressage riders, including Courtney King-Dye who is recovering from an accident schooling at home in Florida earlier this year that left her in a coma.

The FEI issued a “recommendation” for dressage riders to wear protective headgear while training and warming up at competitions, but riders seemed ambivalent (news, 1 July).

“My team and I decided it was time to put our safety first and get new hats,” said Emile.

“Even the most reliable horse can trip or spook. I don’t know why, over the years, we have thought dressage was any safer than the other disciplines — dressage horses can be explosive. No excuses now. If you are riding at Heath Farm, a hat must be worn.”

British Dressage (BD) has welcomed Emile’s move.

“It’s great to see a rider taking responsibility for the safety of themselves, their staff and clients, and we applaud Emile for taking such action.

“We would encourage all riders to wear protective headgear while riding and hope others will follow his lead,” said a BD spokesman.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (9 September, ’10)