Top hats and beaglers are to be consigned to British Eventing’s (BE) history books following the announcement today (9 December) that riders will no longer be permitted to compete in either at national level events in Britain.

Previously it was compulsory for riders competing below BE novice level to wear “protective headwear” for the dressage phase. But those competing at BE novice level and above were allowed to wear hunting caps or beaglers, while those competing at BE advanced intermediate or above were allowed to wear top hats for the first phase of competition.

This update, which will come into play in time for the start of the 2017 eventing season, states that protective headwear that meets the required standard must be worn by riders whenever mounted anywhere at a BE event.

BE’s sport operations manager Chris Farr said: “While it is understood that the place of top hats and riding hats in the dressage has been a part of eventing tradition for decades, it is clear that these hats offer incredibly limited protection to the rider should they have a fall. As with other national federations, BE decided that it would be the correct and sensible step to require all members to wear protective headwear in all three phases of the sport.”

This rule applies to national events only. Currently the FEI rules on headwear for international classes remain unchanged allowing riders to compete in top hats for the dressage when competing in CCI and CIC competitions.

BE’s 2016 rules for protective headwear state that hats must be either PAS 015 or VG1 01.040 2014-12 and both must have either a BSI Kitemark or Inspec IC Mark with a visible current BE hat tag.

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Equestrian Sport New Zealand (ESNZ) was the most recent national federation to ban top hats from all competition. The ESNZ rule was released in July this year. It was described as a “bold step”, but the federation stressed that safety “is always a critical concern”.

For reaction to the new BE headwear rule, see Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 15 December.