Emergency rooms see more head injuries from horseback riding than from skiing and motorcycle accidents combined. Even a mild concussion can result in short-term memory loss and long-lasting balance and coordination difficulties.

If you are uncertain about wearing a helmet, consider the case of Courtney King-Dye. She was one of the top dressage riders in the US, a rising star, a young mother with three young kids. One day she rode a young horse that tripped and she hit the ground, hard. She was unconscious for several weeks and has struggled with the results of traumatic brain injury ever since. Her YouTube video is a sobering look at the consequences: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awJDYBhBPzk

On her Facebook page, she writes frankly about her depression as she comes to terms with the changes this makes in her daily life and raising her children.

(FB- Courtney King-Dye)

Never use a helmet that is older than five years old. That’s because the materials deteriorate over time and do not provide adequate protection. Similarly, do not buy a used helmet or one that you found at a yard sale or in the attic. You don’t know its history or if it meets safety standards. Where your head and brain are concerned, this is no place to cut corners.

When shopping, make sure that the helmets are ASTM\SEI certified. Those are international agencies that test helmets for their ability to protect your head in a fall. If you are curious about the testing, check out these links.

This is a general explanation of what helmets are tested for https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z76EZo7N2Ik

This is specifically about ASTM\SEI testing. https://horses.extension.org/astm-sei-helmet-regulations-and-testing/

There’s new technology that surpasses the ASTM\SEI standards. MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) provides more protection by increasing shock absorption from different directions.

Here’s the link to an explanation of the MIPS technology: https://mipsprotection.com/

And a demonstration of the testing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeLQv1Ye_RU

Prices for helmets range from under about $100 for an excellent schooling helmet to several hundred for a top-of-the-line or bling-studded designer model.

Here are the most well-known brands. Most tack stores and online retailers carry them.

Champion www.championhub.com

Charles Owen www.charlesowen.com

GPA www.gpa-sport.com

IRH www.intecperformancegear.com

KASK www.KASK.com

KEP Italia www.KEPitalia.com

OneK www.onekhelmets.com

Ovation www.ovationriding.com

Samshield www.samshield.com

Tipperary www.tipperaryequestrian.com

Troxel www.troxelhelmets.com

Uvex www.uvex-sports.com

Back on Track\Trauma Void www.backontrackusa.com

Many of the manufacturers offer a replacement\rebate\discount for helmets that are involved in a fall. You often must fill out an accident form and provide proof of purchase date. Details are found on their websites. Among those offering that service in some form are: Charles Owen, GPA, IRH, Ovation, One K, Samshield, Tipperary, Trauma Void, Troxel.

Aside from the safety considerations, the other important consideration is the fit. There are dozens of styles, and you’ll need to try them on to find the perfect fit. It can be frustrating. A helmet that flatters one person looks like a mushroom perched on the head of another. The helmet should be snug enough to stay in place when you shake your head with the chin strap fastened. Here’s a good guide for fitting a helmet from Julie Goodnight, a top clinician and member of the Certified Horsemanship Association: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QkgQI-ByqQ

In addition, most of the helmet manufacturers have online tutorials on how to fit their brand’s helmet.

If you are a Western rider and cannot stand the thought of riding in an English helmet, there are options. Some English helmets have suede trim which gives them a more ‘Western” appearance, but the only “Western” safety hat is the Resistol Ridesafe hat. It features a thick gasket around the crown which provides protection. It is ASTM\SEI certified. www.resistol.com

The HellHat is a hybrid of a traditional Western cowboy hat and a hard hat\riding helmet. It was invented by Mark and Karen Plumlee, following a fall in which Karen fractured her skull. The crown of a cowboy hat is removed, and a hard hat is slid into its place and secured by glue. It’s easy to customize the hats to reflect your taste. Be advised that the warranty on hard hats\helmets is voided if they are used in a HellHat. That’s because the integrity of the hard hat can be compromised by the glue, other materials, or design in making a HellHat.

Karen’s HellHat Posse is their Facebook page. It includes instructions and how-to photos, as well as photos of completed projects. A companion page, HellHats for Sale, allows members to buy, sell, or trade HellHat-related items. The Plumlee’s can be reached by Private Message at “Mark Plumlee (and Karen)” or missionfarrierschool@hotmail.com

If you are arts-and-crafts challenged, you can have a hat custom-made. Sitt’nPretty/Ride Ready HellHats (FB) In addition to the Facebook page, they can be reached at sittnpretty@yahoo.com. RodeAppleHats (FB) www.etsy.com/shop.Rodeapplehats

Tami King Studio has a unique spin on HellHats. Not only does she make them, she customs paints designs on the brim and the helmet itself. View her work and contact her through Facebook. (Tami King Studio)

HelmetBrims is an Australian company that makes Western style brims that Velcro to your helmet. They ship internationally. They also make brims for kids’ helmets. www.helmetbrims.com

Troxel, which manufactures English riding helmets, is getting in on the game. It’s now selling a ‘helmet brimmer.’ Pitched as a sun and shade protector, it fastens around the helmet and has a decidedly “Western” shape. www.troxel.com

Several other merchants sell visors which fasten onto helmets. Depending on the style, they can have a “Western” look or just be a comfortable sun visor. DaBrim Equestrian Endurance Riding Helmet Visor (www.dabrim.com)

The Equivisor is an oversized removable sun brim that fastens onto your helmet. It’s not an effort to look “Western” It’s just a nice protection from the sun. Many online retailers carry it. Search for ‘sun visors’ at www.RidingWarehouse.com.


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