Importance Of Wearing A Helmet While Riding A Horse

Riding helmets can be quite a controversial subject sometimes with people frequently arguing over whether you should or shouldn’t wear them. Everybody’s got their own opinion on whether they should be worn or not and with it being a legal requirement in some countries but not in others this only makes the argument more controversial. I know that not everybody enjoys wearing them but when you consider the safety benefits of wearing one it’s a compelling argument.

How does a riding helmet protect your head?

Riding helmets reduce the risk of serious head and brain injury by limiting the impact of a collision on the head. They do this by acting as a barrier between the skull and whatever’s causing the impact. It then disperses the force of the impact over a wider area, preventing a concentrated impact in one area. At the same time, the helmet is absorbing the energy of the impact and therefore reducing the force that the skull and brain feel.

At the same time as absorbing the impact, riding helmets are also designed to reduce the risk of penetration by a sharp object. They have a hard outer shell that protects the head from sharp objects. This outer shell covers an expanded polystyrene lining that absorbs and disperses the impact. To work properly in a fall you must also make sure that they fit properly and that the chin strap is fastened securely.

Do riding helmets really work?

If you’re not sure whether wearing a helmet is a good idea or not you might want to consider that the most frequent cause of death or serious injury amongst horse activities (both mounted and dismounted) are head injuries with 60% of them resulting in death. That’s a scary thought and when you consider that most deaths from a head injury can be prevented by wearing a riding helmet that conforms to the current standards it’s shocking that only 20% of riders wear a helmet every time they ride.

How long is a riding helmet good for?

Just like any item of clothing riding helmets don’t last forever and do need to be replaced from time to time. There’s no hard and fast rule as to when you should replace them but most people will say that they should be replaced every five years. You might think that if you’ve not had a fall it doesn’t matter how long you keep your helmet for but there are a number of reasons why you should replace it regularly. Things such as sweat, temperature, rain and even UV rays can all help to reduce the effectiveness of your helmet over time. To make the most out of your helmet make sure you follow the care instructions that came with it.

Do I need to replace my riding helmet if I have a fall?

Absolutely yes!! Even if you can’t see any marks or cracks in your helmet you should replace it straight away. Each helmet is made up of multiple layers that aren’t all visible so a crack, no matter how small, in any of them will prevent your helmet from giving you proper protection.

What is a horse riding helmet made of?

While the original riding helmets were made of little more than felt and cork today’s hats are far more sophisticated and much more lightweight. The outer casing of the helmet is usually made from glass fiber or ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic while the absorbing inner layer is made from polystyrene. The reason polystyrene is used is because its construction has lots of air pockets that burst on impact and therefore protect the rider’s head. The polystyrene is then covered in a foam pad to provide extra comfort to the rider.

Equestrian riding helmet cross section - Horse Factbook

How do I choose a riding helmet?

In order to get the right helmet for you the most important thing is to measure your head, while most tack shops and saddleries will do this for you it doesn’t hurt to know what size helmet you need beforehand. To measure your head use a dressmakers tape around the widest part of your head (approximately an inch above your eyebrows), this will give you a size that you can use to compare against the manufacturer’s size chart. Each manufacturer will have their own size chart and there will be some variations between them, not just with some giving their measurements in cms and others in inches.

Once you know what size helmet you need you can then begin to try them on, a correctly fixed helmet should sit snugly, cover your entire skull and have even pressure all around. There shouldn’t be any gaps and the helmet shouldn’t ride up or fall down and the brim of the helmet should be around two fingers above the eyebrows.

If you’re happy that the helmet fits properly it’s time to adjust the chin strap, it should fit comfortably under your chin and hold the helmet in place. If you do it too tight then it’ll become uncomfortable against your throat pretty quickly. Some riding helmets also allow you to adjust the harness so that it fits comfortably around your ears.

Can I borrow a friend’s helmet?

In theory yes you can use a friend’s helmet if their head measurements are exactly the same as yours although I personally wouldn’t. Not because there’s anything wrong with borrowing a hat that fits you, I just like to know exactly how my helmet has been treated. If I only wear my own I know that it hasn’t suffered any impacts and that it has been well looked after.

Can you wear a cycling helmet for horse riding?

While they may look like they offer a similar level of protection they both conform to very different standards. When horse riding you’re considerably higher off of the ground than you are on a bike and it’s this height that can make all of the difference, then there’s the speed as well. A cycling helmet will protect your head from an impact but a riding helmet will also protect the back of the head and can also withstand being punctured by sharp objects.

Different helmets are designed and tested for different purposes so its important to make sure you’re using the right helmet for the sport you’re participating in. 

Do you have to wear a helmet while riding a horse?

Every country has it’s own set of laws detailing the requirements to wearing a riding helmet around horses, to see the laws in your country or region click on the relevant link below:

A brief history of riding helmets

If you’ve ever wondered when we first started to wear riding helmets you might be surprised to know that the riding helmet as we know it today is actually just over a hundred years old. That’s not to say that riding hats of sorts weren’t used before then, in fact as far back as 1797 all hats with flat crowns and broad brims were widely used. Sometimes called ’toppers’ this style of hat is no longer used for riding today unless you’re competing at advanced level dressage. 

It wasn’t until the invention of the derby hat or bowler hat some fifty years later that the design of the riding hat changed again. Created for a British soldier and politician, the derby hat, had become extremely popular in the United Kingdom. The riding hat we know today began life at the start of the 20th century when hat makers Charles Owen started to make cork helmets for the military, this cork helmet was later covered in harder material and the riding helmet was born.

Do I need a special riding helmet if I want to compete?

If you’re wanting to compete, especially internationally then you’ll need a helmet that conforms to the latest standards. The chart below shows the latest standards that are allowed for competition.

United States & Canada ASTM F1163
United Kingdom PAS 015, BS EN 1384, ASTM F1163
Europe EN 1384, EN 14572
Australia & New Zealand AS/NZ 3838:2006

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