Head cams: for or against?

By Carole Mortimer on |



Not five minutes since the frangible-pin-non-negotiable-debate in eventing was sorted out, the head cams argument has surfaced again.

Last week Horse Sport Ireland followed the American Federation in lifting the ban on head cams – the small cameras that can be attached to the helmet in order to film the horse/rider experience around a cross country course. Currently under British Eventing rules head cams remain banned – a ruling was made last October.

At international competitions run under FEI rules head cams are allowed but only when agreed by the FEI. Which seems a little confusing. What will make the FEI decide whether or not to allow them?

The use of head cams became popular after American rider Peter Atkins first started to film his rides (in 2010) with HJ Hampton aka Henny. To see an example, click here

He subsequently dedicated a website to them – runhennyrun – which gained a cult following. Other riders followed suite, either for their own amusement, for promotional purposes or to enhance ‘spectator appeal’ on equestrian websites.

The practice was then banned in October last year for safety reasons: a head cam was purportedly implicated in the serious head injury sustained by world motoring champion Michael Schumacher in a skiing accident. Theories put forward were that the camera mounting caused the helmet to split on impact or perhaps the camera moved and hampered his vision.

I can well understand the reasoning therefore behind the ban of them in eventing.There are already has enough potential hazards for injury, without adding another.

BE’s reasons for the ban remaining in place is that there is a lack of information about the potential danger head cams pose. They want to wait until research has been carried out into their safety. It has since been reported, however, that there is insufficient funding for any meaningful research.

But as America and Ireland have lifted the ban, surely BE is under pressure from its members to revoke its ban too. Or have head cams simply been a craze that has now had its day?

Like many I have watched head cam videos of cross country. In the first one I watched while researching this piece, the rider was fiddling with his camera between the start and fence two as it wasn’t working. Is this a sensible distraction at the start of a four-star course? Riders often seem to have enough problems with technology via their stop watches without adding another.

Neither did the second convince me of their worth despite the introductory paragraph applauding the lifting of the ban by the American Federation: 50% of the screen was taken up by a black helmet therefore obscuring most of what was being filmed. The site claimed they were ‘anxiously awaiting new footage”. Seriously, this video was NOT worth ‘anxiously’ waiting for. The cameras can’t even capture a fall with any degree of drama…  it just looks as if someone threw the camera around.

As the saying goes, having seen one head cam cross country round (and in fact another three), you seem to have seen them all – that’s if you can get to the end without feeling dizzy. Nor could I say I learnt much. I am sure a film from the ground is much more meaningful into whys and wherefores of a round or a fall.

Riders who are in favour of the wearing of a head cam say that they can be educational and that technology has reduced the size of cameras and made them safer in the case of a fall. Their main argument however is, that ultimately to wear a head cam should be a personal choice not one governed by a body such as the FEI or British Eventing. Although it seems that few riders actually choose to execute this choice.

I can understand the reasons BE implemented a ban and at the same time see an argument for personal choice.

When I am indecisive I always ask one question; ‘what do you hope to achieve by this?’

Intriguingly it often clarifies the issue. The wearing of head cams therefore seemingly achieves very little of interest. It had been done.



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