SO WHAT IS ALL OF THIS ABOUT THEN ?
The fuss is all about a rather sudden change in the acceptable standards for riding hats. Newer designs have been introduced that offer greater protection to the rider's brain, sothe BHS and BRC have changed the requirements for all riders competing in activities organised by BHS or BRC. There is a loophole that allows clubs to use their own discretion as to whether or not to insist on the better hats for other activities, rallies, clinics etc. To deal with that quickly now, of course the club must insist on the better hats being worn for anything connected to the club. From a moral point of view, never mind the obvious legal and insurance aspects, how could any club be seen to be condoning the wearing of inadequate protective headgear.
Just because you have a hat on your head, it does not make you immune to head injuries. Despite all of the improvements in rider safety, with improved headgear, inflatable jackets, jumps that collapse, and all such things, riding still remains the popular sport with the highest rate of death and serious injury. Head injury remains the leading cause of permanent disability resulting from riding accidents. Also as we all know, you dont have to be competing to have a nasty fall, in fact a substantial proportion of the serious injuries that have happened to people that I know. have happened whilst schooling or in a stable.
It can be a long way down from the riders head to the ground. If anyone other than me is sad enough to do this calculation, they will find that in a free fall, from the height of an average person's head, when sitting on a 16.2hh horse, gives a velocity of 7.21 meters/second by the time it hits the ground. 7.21 m/s equates to 26 km/h. I stress that this is for a free fall, from a stationary horse, not in any way accelerated by the horse having bucked, pecked, tripped or anything else. So this could be regarded as a minimum, as in quite a few accidents the horse will not be stationary.
Now if it were my head about to hit something very hard at that sort of speed, personally I would be out there getting myself the best protection that I could afford.
WHY THE CHANGE ?
The reason for bringing in the new rules, is to improve rider safety, and for no other reason. Contrary to rumour, there is not some dastardly conspiracy, cooked up between BRC and the hat manufacturers, to boost the sales of new hats.
Fifteen to twenty years ago, the so called "hard hats" that riders wore were flimsy things offering little to no protection to the rider's brain. When out hunting, it was the done thing to wear a bowler hat, though some more anxious riders wore a little velvet covered job with bit of cardboard inside. The posher alternative had a very thin wooden layer instead of the card, none of these hats had a proper chin-strap. In the unlikely event of his hat still being on his head by the time he hit the ground, one of these hats would offer the rider little, if any protection. One thing that the hats with wood in were very good at, was driving splinters of wood through the skull into the brain. Quite a lot of riders felt that the hats were ugly, and that as they offered no real protection, threr was no point in bothering at all. Some riders felt that visually, the hatless rider looked cool, a bit like James Dean, did you ever see him in a motorbike helmet ?
In more recent years technology and riders headgear finally met up, resulting in hats that offered real protection. The horse world responded by requiring riders to wear an approved hat if they wished to compete at any level, or to participate in virtually any organised activity on horseback. Hat wearing soon was seen for what it is, a sensible precaution to help to reduce the numbers of brain damaged riders. There was also a shift in attitudes, in that a rider without a hat was not seen as looking cool, so much as looking like a dick-head.
Proper head-gear has greatly reduced the toll of head injuries, but there is still a long way to go. Sadly brain damage remains the leading cause of long term disability arising from a riding accident. Whilst some poor souls sustain some truely horrible injuries of other bits, they normally mend. Eventually, and not that many people are left with life-long disability. Sadly brain damage frequently does not mend, people may recover from the initialdamage and get back to some sort of normality, but for so many of these people intellectual capacity is reduced and there is subtle ( or not so subtle) personality change. They are just not the same person, and this is life long.
If hats can be made that help to further reduce the toll of brain injured riders, what possible reason could there be for not insisting that people wear them? Because they are more expensive, because some people may have to replace an almost new hat or because if someone wants to take a risk, that is their right. Well these points are easily answered. Nobody ever said that riding was a cheap hobby, The cost of a new hat, compared to the cost of keeping a horse for the three years that a hat can be expected to last, is a drop in the ocean. If someone really can not afford a safer hat then what on Earth are they doing trying to keep a horse that they plainly can not afford. If you want a cheap safe and predictable hobby then perhaps knitting would be more suitable.
As to those who feel that they have the right to damage their own personal brain if they so wish, no they do not. Whilst their sole concern is themself and how they look, they are forgetting the other people involved. The driver of the car that accidentally spooked your horse, he may now have a death or a person with permanent brain damage on his concience and his driving record. For many people the inevitable driving ban would mean loss of their job. The husband, or wife and children at home, were they consulted about this decision to not reduce the considerable risk of injury from horse riding. Then there is the financial ruin suffered when a dead or seriously injured riders life, or personal injury insurance company, refuses to pay the claim as the rider chose not to take the reccommended precautions. The last point is one that people really need to wake up to. These days insurance companies are getting expert at finding reasons to challenge claims. If a insurer gets so much as a sniff of a claimant not having taken all reasonable precautions to prevent injury, then the claim is dead in the water. This happens frequently. You have been warned !!!