Horseback riding is not a sport free from injury. In particular, head injuries are a serious concern because of the speed and height of a fall. An unprotected head during a fall can suffer severe traumatic brain injuries.
Traumatic brain injuries can be fatal. If you survive the injury, you may suffer from several other complications:
- Memory Problems
- Loss of Consciousness
- Balance and coordination issues
Altogether, the extent of traumatic brain injuries is difficult to fully understand. However, the symptoms are deeply concerning.
All horseback riders should wear a helmet to avoid or greatly reduce injury. A significant amount of design and scientific study has gone into creating helmets that will best protect your head in case of a fall.
How Horse Riding Helmets Work
Helmet manufacturers design their helmets for a specific activity. Therefore, horseback riding helmets are crafted to perfectly match the potential risks. However, all manufacturers will handle the challenge differently.
The exterior shell is mostly for appearance. Riders can choose this look based on preference and style. The shell can be constructed from plastic, velvet, or leather. This layer also protects the inner padding from the elements.
Directly below the exterior shell is a layer of fiberglass. The fiberglass wraps around the entire helmet to disperse any impact energy. At this point, manufacturers vary in technique. Manufacturers will choose foam or polystyrene to add additional impact protection.
Finally, the helmet’s interior contains materials to wick moisture and sweat and provide comfort. Comfort and style matter, but the interior layers protect the rider from head injuries.
Which Horseback Riding Helmet is Safest?
The most important concern for safety is that the horseback riding helmet fits. Otherwise, the answer is not clear-cut. Helmets are designed differently based on the type of riding you do.
Multiple organizations regulate horse riding helmets. These organizations include ASTM, SEI, BSI, SAI, and European Union Commission. If they have reviewed and approved of the helmet’s safety features, the box, and helmet will be labeled appropriately. Many helmets achieve approval from multiple organizations.
A bike helmet is designed for cycling. The falls and speeds are lower than horseback riding. Therefore, a bike helmet is not an acceptable substitute for a horse-riding helmet.
Which Horseback Riding Helmet Should You Choose?
There are thousands of horseback riding helmets on the market today. Determining which is the best for you may prove difficult. Choose a helmet that fits your activity level. Additionally, research the leading manufacturers for helmet design and helmet safety. Finally, helmets with multiple certifications are excellent options.
How Do I Know if My Head Is Oval or Round Shaped?
Not all brands are designed the same. You may find one brand fits your head well while another never seems to fit right. Identify if you have a round head or an oval head. Online research will tell you which brands are better suited for each shape.
To determine if you have a round or oval head, it is best to have some help. You will want a friend to look at your head from the top. You have a round head if the measurements from left to right and front to back are similar. If the measurement from front to back is larger than the measurement from left to right, you have an oval head.
Fit Comes First!
You will need to perform some measurements to ensure the proper fit of your riding helmet. Using a soft measuring tape, measure around your head an inch above your eyebrows and around the top of the ears.
Manufacturers offer their size charts for you to find the perfect fit. The size chart may vary for different styles of helmets. The sizing chart will lead you to a fit of small, medium, or large or a specific number size. If you fall between sizes, choose the larger size.
You will need to take your hairstyle into consideration and keep it consistent when you ride. An updo will change the fit of your helmet.
The comfortable fit of your helmet is also important. Altogether, the padding should be snug around your head. Secure the straps to a snug fit. You will want to confirm your helmet is not too loose as you move around.
When to Replace Your Riding Helmet
Besides choosing the correct helmet, you need to know when is the right time to replace it. There are a few instances in that you must immediately replace your helmet.
You need to replace your helmet anytime you experience a fall. Additionally, you should replace your helmet if you find any chips, cracks, or deep scratches on the surface of the helmet.
Depending on the manufacturer, your helmet will expire in 3 to 5 years. The owner’s manual will inform you of the expiration. Over time, helmets wear from use. Moreover, technology in safety greatly improves.
Sizing a helmet for a child may feel like a difficult challenge. The fit of a helmet can be unusual for a child. Also, children grow quickly and will need a new helmet frequently if you choose to buy a specific size. Thankfully, manufacturers design many helmets with dials to fit a wide range. This will allow the helmet to grow with your child for many years.
As mentioned previously, bicycle helmets are not an acceptable substitute for a horseback riding helmet.
Comfort, Style, and Technology
Manufacturers have added style and comfort to their riding helmets through the years. Some comfort items manufacturers have added are:
- Soft padding
- Moisture wicking
- Sun-shield brim
- Lightweight material
Of course, helmets come in various styles and colors to match your uniform. Additionally, most manufacturers choose low-profile designs to feel like you are not even wearing a helmet.
Finally, manufacturers constantly improve their technology to increase protection and comfort. If wearing a helmet is seamless and comfortable, most riders don it without a second thought.
Are they Required?
Helmets are required in many situations, but it is not completely mandated. Any property owner who allows you to ride can require you to wear a helmet for liability issues.
Moreover, most horseback riding instructors require all students to wear helmets. This requirement is mostly implemented to teach good riding habits and protect novice riders. Competitions may mandate helmets for liability issues and safety.
MIPS Equestrian Helmets
How Does MIPS Protect Riders?
The MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) is a safety feature many brands utilize. This system protects riders from rotational impacts. The most common cause of traumatic brain injury or concussion is from a fall with rotational force.
The MIPS adds an extra layer to the helmet to redistribute force after an impact.
Safety Testing for MIPS Riding Helmets
Over 50,000 safety tests have been performed on helmets with MIPS features. Impacts from multiple directions and with rotational force all distributed the weight across the helmet.
Common Riding Helmet Issues
One of the first signs that a helmet is not fitting well is discomfort. Pressure may be distributed unevenly around your head, causing pain. However, not all ill-fitting helmets are uncomfortable. You will also need to watch your helmet for excessive movement. A helmet that is too loose will wobble as you move your head.
Common Riding Helmet Fit Issues
You have likely chosen a helmet designed for the wrong head shape. The pressure around your riding helmet should be even. If a person with a round head wears a helmet designed for an oval head, the sides will add more pressure to the head compared to the front and back.
A perched helmet feels like it is sitting on your head. It may appear as if the helmet is too tall on your head. In this case, the depth of the helmet may not match your forehead size. You will need a helmet with a deeper seat.
Helmet Rides Too Low
This is the opposite of a perched helmet. If your helmet is too close to your eyes, you may need a helmet with a shallower seat.
Riding Helmet Care and Maintenance Tips
- Regularly remove liners and wash them.
- Do not put helmets in the dishwasher or washing machine.
- Wipe off any dirt or mud.
- Allow your helmet to dry properly if you ride in the rain.
- Do not store your helmet in a place that is too hot or cold.
How Do I Clean and Deodorize My Riding Helmet?
If your riding helmet has a removable liner, remove it regularly and wash the liners. Allow them to dry completely before placing them back in the. helmet. Spray deodorizers will help you if you cannot remove the liner in your helmet.
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