Lifesaving Helmet Tips for Equestrians

Think about the last time you fell off your horse. Most likely, you were doing an ordinary activity when the unexpected occurred. That’s why it’s a good idea to wear a riding helmet every time you work around and ride your horse. You never know when and how an accident will occur.

It’s a good idea to wear a riding helmet every time you work around and ride your horse. You never know when and how an accident will occur | Photo by Heidi Nyland Melocco

Today’s helmet manufacturers are designing better and safer, helmets than ever before in an ongoing effort to reduce the number of head injuries. This is important, because according to the Equestrian Medical Safety Association (formerly the American Medical Equine Association/Safe Riders Foundation), head injuries account for 20 percent of all equestrian injuries; 60 percent of fatalities occur from head injuries.

Here are six handy helmet tips that can save your life.

? Know your risk of injury. The danger to your head in a fall isn’t just the possibility of cracking your skull or sustaining a gash if your horse’s hoof hits your head. Many head injuries are actually injuries to the brain. When you’re moving and your head meets a solid object (usually the ground), your brain doesn’t immediately stop its motion. It continues forward, often hitting the opposite side of your skull from where the impact occurred.

? Look for the ASTM/SEI hangtag. When shopping for a riding helmet, look for one that conforms to ASTM/SEI safety standards. That mean’s it’s passed tests by the Safety Equipment Institute based on standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials. These tests are designed to emulate impacts that can occur in a fall from a horse. The helmets meeting these thresholds have an outside shell built to resist impact coupled with cushioning material inside the helmet to protect your skull and brain.

? Make sure it fits. Proper fit allows the helmet to do its job. Not only do you need to find the correct size, everyone’s head has a different shape. The brand of helmet that fits your friend’s head may not be right for you. The helmet should sit comfortably on your head. When you hold your head still and rock the helmet, your scalp should move with it.

Note: If your head is an in-between size, you can replace the pads inside the helmet with the thicker or thinner ones the manufacturer often provides.

? Wear your hair down. If you have long hair, fasten it at the nape of your neck rather than putting it up under the helmet. Too much hair under the helmet can affect its fit and function.

? Fasten the harness strap. ASTM-approved/SEI-certified helmets have a sturdy harness strap bolted on to secure the helmet to your head. Properly latch the harness strap at all times. If your helmet goes flying off your head before you hit the ground, it won’t do you any good. Fit the harness strap under your chin snugly yet comfortably.

? Watch the safety video. To encourage equestrians to use a helmet, the Washington State University Cooperative Extension and the Washington State 4-H Foundation have produced a 20-minute video, narrated by William Shatner, called Every Time?Every Ride. It blends interviews with video of horses in many sports, showing the benefits of wearing a proper helmet and the consequences of riding without one. To order the video, click here.

So wear a riding helmet, no matter what activity you plan with your horse today. It only takes a minute, and it could save your life.

What did you think of this article?

Thank you for your feedback!