Helmet Use Clarification
Effective October 1, 2009, youth under 16 riding horses on public land (roads, parks, schools, public trails, etc.) are required to wear a helmet according to the state law. It is suggested that everyone read the original bill (see also: Summary from DOE) and be sure to understand its inclusions and exceptions.
You will notice that "shows" are excluded from the requirements in the bill. However, the Florida 4-H Horse Program will continue to require helmets at Area and State Horse Shows just as it has for many years now. And similarly, Counties and local riding organizations may continue with their existing helmet policies, as long as their events fall into the "exceptions" of the law. Of course, if an event fits into what might be included in the State law (maybe fun rides, clinics, trail rides, etc.), then the law dictates that youth should wear helmets. It seems that the biggest effect of the new law is at the family level - the day in and day out riding along roads and/or trails on public land.
As you address helmet use in the County, keep in mind that just because the State law does not require a helmet be worn in a given situation, it does not preclude 4-H or any other organization from continuing to set safety policies which are more strict than what is addressed in the State law.
The Florida 4-H Horse Program's helmet rule for the Area and State 4-H Horse Shows:
All exhibitors are required to wear an SEI or SEI/ASTM approved safety equestrian helmet with fastened chin harness in all classes and all warm-up and make-up areas. Additionally, appropriate footwear and approved helmets must be worn, with harness fastened, at all times when mounted. This pertains to the entire show grounds from the time of arrival until departure. Failure to comply may result in disqualification. (SEI - Safety Equipment Institute, ASTM - American Society of Testing and Measures)
More background on setting County 4-H Horse Show policies ...
The rulebook we publish each year specifically applies to only the Area & State horse shows. We encourage Counties and local shows to adopt at least the safety rules, but you are not required to use the whole book as your rulebook. In fact, we prefer whatever group is in charge of the open show to come with and share their own set of rules instead of using blanket statements like “the 4-H rulebook will be used.” That way certain general rules can be pulled from the Area & State book, and other rules can be added which apply more specifically to that particular show and showgrounds. That gives you much more flexibility in the number and kinds of classes that can be offered.
The distinctions between “4-H” shows, “open” shows, and “4-H sponsored” open shows are sometimes fuzzy. “4-H” shows are available only to 4-H members, while anyone may organize or compete in “open” shows. Rules for 4-H shows and events at the County level should be set by a County Advisory Committee, or if there is not such a group, by the 4-H Agent and/or CED.
It is always a good idea to use the Area & State book for reference. Therefore at the county and local level, it can be decided to adopt the book verbatim, or base the local rules on it, or start from scratch. But one would hope that Counties adopt the basic guidelines so there are not huge differences in the requirements between local and Area shows, as that gets pretty confusing for the kids.
The helmet rule is something that is specified only for Area and State 4-H horse shows. And it is also the rule just alluded to about hoping counties adopt similarly. But we cannot begin to set rules for every club activity because they are so varied and different from county to county. The current rule in the Area and State book is:
All exhibitors are required to wear an SEI or SEI/ASTM approved safety equestrian helmet with fastened chin harness in all classes and all warm-up and make-up areas. Additionally,
appropriate footwear and approved helmets must be worn, with harness fastened, at all times when mounted. This pertains to the entire show grounds from the time of arrival until departure.
Failure to comply may result in disqualification. (SEI - Safety Equipment Institute, ASTM - American Society of Testing and Measures)
The simple translation is that they have to wear a helmet at all times when mounted, whether it’s in a class or just out for a stroll. Plus, a helmet is required when they are showing in-hand (halter/showmanship) and when leading/holding the horse in the busier warm-up and class gathering areas. It does not extend to handling the horses in the barns or leading around the showgrounds. The idea is for them to be protected against kicks from other horses when in close quarters. Well, at least protect their heads if a horse is inclined to kick that high or rear.
Counties may copy that, ignore it, or use a less stringent version such as only requiring a helmet when mounted. Keeping consistency in mind as the youth advances through the levels, we would hope that if we (4-H/extension professionals) think it is important to use helmets at the larger shows, then it is a good idea to be in that practice at smaller shows and even at home. But again, it is up to the county to lay out local policies about when and where to use a helmet. And, of course, if it is a situation in which the State law is in effect, then that law overrides everything.
Other rules that fall along the same lines of hoping for consistency would be the tack allowed – specifically the bits. One might think a little thing like a bit would be a minimal concern, but it is amazing how many youth get to the Area shows and find out their bit is not allowed and are surprised because they use it for everything else.
An example of a rule that would probably be relaxed at smaller shows would be attire. The Area & State rulebook is pretty specific about what youth have to wear in each division. Many of those outfits are impractical for the new showman, and therefore many local shows allow showing in jeans and a nice polo.
As you and/or the show committee read through the rulebook with your local goals in mind, you will start to get an idea of what should be used as is, what could be amended/relaxed, and what can be skipped all together.