As every experienced rider knows, a good riding helmet can save your day, and even your life. The old fashioned velvet-covered caps may have looked charming, but they did absolutely nothing to protect against head injuries. Many novice riders avoid donning their helmet until just before mounting and that can be a major mistake since 20 percent of all horse-related injuries occur on the ground.
Falls while jumping or when a horse spooks are common. Other preventable head injuries occur when a horse throws its head against yours in gladness at your arrival, when a horse kicks or starts an altercation with another horse, and when a person is ‘bumped’ by a horse into a wall, fence, or vehicle. As large and powerful as horses are, it doesn’t take much for them to become dangerous, even when it is not their intention!
The United States Equestrian seikatsusuidosos Federation & Barn Regulations
The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) is the governing body that determines the dress and other requirements for hunter, jumper, hunt seat equitation, dressage, and other equine competitions. Currently, all riders must wear an ASTM/SEI certified helmet when competing in hunt seat equitation, hunter, jumper, hunter hack, and any other classes that involve jumping. All riders under the age of 18 must wear am ASTM/SEI approved helmet in any hunt seat discipline. While not always required, helmets are permitted as optional headgear at all sanctioned horse shows.
Cross-country riders are required to wear approved helmets and safety vests, due to the rugged nature of their sport. Nearly all sanctioned endurance-riding events require an approved helmet. Riding helmets are now even worn in some dressage classes. Although this is not required, it is certainly safer. Most barns require the use of an approved helmet whenever a person rides a horse, both for safety and insurance reasons.
For a helmet to become ASTM/SEI certified, it must pass rigorous tests designed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and conducted by the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI). Approved helmets exhibit an ASTM F-1163-04/SEI certification sticker.
Approved helmets are made from a hard plastic or rosin shell and offer substantial padding on the inside and an attached, adjustable harness to provide a secure, safe, and comfortable fit. Many helmets today feature a sun visor and ventilation strips. Moisture-wicking materials make these helmets far more comfortable. For anyone who intends to ride horses, an ASTM/SEI approved helmet is a necessity.
Finding The Right Fit
Sizing a helmet is simply a matter of measuring the circumference of the widest part of your head, at the forehead level. Sizing charts are available online, using metric and standard measurements, to provide riders with a well-fitting riding helmet. Of course, a riding helmet must fit properly to be effective. Too loose, and it can cause more harm than it will prevent. Too tight and, well, that one’s pretty obvious!
Choosing The Right Style
The style of helmet selected depends largely upon the style of riding being done. If the more rugged and risky forms of riding are to be pursued, a heavier duty, better protecting helmet is called for. In the show ring, style must be combined with function to maintain the required image of form and elegance. Whichever direction you intend to go with your riding activities, the crucial point is to wear a properly fitting, ASTM/SEI approved helmet whenever you are working around horses. Bicycle helmets simply will not provide adequate protection.
Fun And Fashion
Horseback riding isn’t just about skill. It’s also about looking good. English riding, in particular, features a sleek, elegant appearance, whereas cross-country riders enjoy adding a little color to their ensemble with a matching helmet cover to go with their riding shirt, and sometimes they even have boots to match! Some new helmet cover product lines offer colorful, removable strips that can be used to decorate the ventilation strip of a helmet while still allowing the much-needed ventilation.
A plastic helmet cover can also protect your helmet from dust, mud, and rain. Each riding event will have many of its own rules and regulations regarding your riding helmet and helmet cover. Be sure to read the rules carefully to avoid becoming disqualified for something as simple as the wrong color helmet.
Riders can look and feel good while staying safe with the careful selection of a certified riding helmet and a few fun helmet covers, just because you can!
Anne Coyle is a writer for The Equestrian Corner. They provide everything riders need to select the very best riding helmet and helmet cover for style, safety, and comfort.