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The US Polo Association (USPA) has written specific, across-the-board standards for protective headgear into its rules. It is the first governing body of polo to follow the lead of other horse sports in doing so.

The new rule was adopted at its autumn meetings in Virginia in September. It will take effect from 2012, giving manufacturers time to make improvements in polo helmets in order to pass rigid, polo-specific safety tests set by the American organisation.

Dr Timothy Nice, chairman of the USPA safety committee, said he has already discussed helmet improvements with some manufacturers.

“Only two models passed the tests we have opted for,” said Dr Nice. “One is no longer made and the other has proved to be unpopular with players because of its design.”

He added: “We hope they will come through with better models that will pass our tests.”

Until now, rules of the USPA, the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) in the UK, the Federation of International Polo (FIP), and other bodies have only required players to wear “protective headgear”, without giving any minimum standards.

By contrast, regulations of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) allow disqualification of a competitor who does not wear a hat meeting one of the several acceptable standards listed in its rules. Racing and polocrosse have similar regulations, spelling out what headgear is acceptable.

For more on this, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (16 October 2008)