Showing judges who do not want to comply with a new Sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain (SHB(GB)) rule on hard hats can opt to sign a disclaimer.

However, a warning has been given to any judge considering this route that he/she may not be covered by the society’s insurance in the event of an accident.

“We have given people the option of signing a disclaimer stating that if they choose to wear hats other than those in the 2006 rules, then in the event of an accident they may not be covered,” said Catherine Burdock, general secretary of SHB(GB).

“The emphasis is on ‘may not’: we are not saying they will not, because until a claim is made and all the circumstances are taken into account, we do not know what an insurer would decide.”

The rule, which came in at the start of 2006, states that judges must wear a skullcap or hat and safety harness that meets the current approved BSI or European standard.

It means made-to-measure hats that do not meet current approval — in particular, bowlers and silk hats worn in ladies’ hunter classes — are not deemed acceptable for judges in light of advice given by the society’s insurance brokers.

Some judges asked the society to think again and welcomed the offer of a disclaimer. Lucy Killingbeck, a competitor and judge, said she could not wear standard safety headgear because an injury sustained in a car accident meant she suffers severe headaches if she wears anything other than made-to-measure hats.

Mrs Killingbeck said she had spoken to 90 out of about 120 judges on the SHB(GB) panel and found only one in favour of hats to BSI or European standards being mandatory, with the rest believing judges should be given a choice to assess risk factors for themselves.

“It isn’t about vanity or arrogance, it’s about freedom of choice and comfort,” she said. “There have been no recorded incidents of judges sustaining head injuries in the ring in the UK.

“When you’re judging, you can sometimes be in the ring for 3hr or more, and safety hats aren’t designed to be worn for such long periods.”

Miss Burdock said judges who signed the disclaimer must realise they may still have to comply with individual shows’ rules.

“If a show states that all judges must wear hats to approved safety standards, judges must comply even if they have signed our disclaimer,” she said.

In the light of the SHB(GB) controversy, the British Show Hack Cob and Riding Horse Association has also looked at whether safety headgear should be made mandatory for judges, but has decided not to change its rules.

BSHCRHA board member Lynn Russell said: “The matter was brought up at the last board meeting but it was decided it should continue to be left to judges’ discretion for the time being.

“But judges and competitors need to remember that individual shows and societies have different rules and they must make sure they comply with them.”

  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (2 March, ’06)
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