While horse riding, safety should always be our first concern. Read this article to know why protecting yourself using a helmet is so important.
Horse riding is certainly a fun and exciting sport. Whether it’s a hobby or a profession, the question is: Are you riding safely? As thrilling and exciting it is, it can quickly get dangerous and accidents are not uncommon.
Breaking a bone or scratching your knee will likely heal quickly, but head injuries are not the same. A hard blow can leave permanent damage and even be fatal! Small bumps can oftentimes lead to serious long-term problems too. Protecting your head with a helmet while riding is one of the most crucial precautions to take.
While a lot of people challenge whether a helmet is really important, some countries made it a law to wear one while riding. You might want to save money or worry too much about your newly styled hair. After you are done with this article, we hope you change your mind. We have also gathered information on where you can find the best riding helmet!
Precautions Against Head Injuries
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), horseback riding is the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) among sports-related recreational activities. Given the high amount of risk, don’t you think it is a good idea to focus on your safety while enjoying your hobby? A good helmet will ensure that even if you fall, your head is well protected. A serious head injury can also cause permanent damage to your nerves and reflexes, and even make you paralyzed! So, it’s always better safe than sorry.
Accidents Don’t Care About Experience
You might think that you have been riding for more than twenty years and you know how to handle your horse so that you don’t get caught in an accident. But accidents never come with an invitation! You always need to be prepared for the worst. Even some of the top professional horse riders, like Courtney King-Dye and Silva Martin, suffered from TBIs due to horse riding accidents.
Think You Know Your Horse?
You have known your horse since you were a child. You practically grew up with it. So you assume you know everything about it: when it gets mad, when it is hungry, when it is tired – you know it all. Here’s an interesting fact: horses can be very unpredictable! Therefore, getting involved in an accident is more likely than you think. Wearing a helmet will at least save you from serious injuries. Some accidents can occur when the horse is not in its best condition. Are you making sure that your horse is healthy? Know when to take your horse to a vet.
Riding is Dangerous
Horse riding might be your favorite hobby or it’s a profession. But let’s be honest, it is indeed quite a challenging task. It can be more dangerous than riding a motorbike and even skiing. So if most people wear a helmet for these activities, it makes sense that you should wear a helmet for riding.
The Cost of Helmets
The cost of a riding helmet may throw you off. But want to know what is even more expensive? The cost of head injury treatment. Yes, treatments are way more costly than a $100 helmet. Also, there is always a risk of permanent damage with head injuries.
Jumping Only Causes 20% of Accidents
You might think that you don’t do jumping activities with your horse much so you are safe from head injuries. But guess what? Only 20% of head injuries related to horse riding are due to jumping. You must have seen at different sports shows that most of the accidents happen when the horses jump. So naturally, you may think this is only when most serious accidents happen. But the other 80% of cases are unrelated to jumping and they come unexpectedly. So wear your helmet and be prepared.
Read about the most common type of horse riding accidents and how to avoid them.
Protection From Sharp Objects
A riding helmet does not only protect your head from hitting the ground hard, but it also protects you from sharp objects. You may hit a tree branch while riding. This may sound trivial but at fast speeds, hitting a branch can be pretty dangerous. But your helmet has got your back – or your head in this case. It has a strong outer shell that protects it from sharp items. The expanded polystyrene lining beneath the outer shell absorbs and disperses any impact.
How to Get a Helmet
Now that you know why it is an absolute necessity to wear a helmet while riding, let’s get you started with choosing the right helmet for you. It is important to check if the helmet you are eyeing to buy is American Association of Testing and Materials (ASTM) approved (you’ll find the label inside). There is a decrease of around 50% of head injuries related to horse riding when an ASTM-approved helmet was worn properly.
ASTM is an organization that works with a team of hundreds of volunteers to ensure that the material that they are testing is safe and effective. Their team consists of engineers, physicists, and doctors. For horse riding, you need a helmet that is SEI certified and meets the ASTM F1163-90 standard.
Know Your Fit
You must get yourself a helmet that fits you properly. One that is too tight will cause you discomfort while one that is too loose will not give you enough protection. So how do you know the right size?
- A well-fitting helmet will let you move your eyebrows. If the helmet feels tight on the forehead and does not let you wiggle your eyebrows, it’s just too tight.
- Try shaking your head slowly. If the helmet fits well then it should not move around when you move. It should be stable and still.
- Try the five-minute method. Wear the helmet for 5 minutes and then take it off. If there are any indentation marks on your forehead from the helmet, it is too small for you. A suitable helmet will be comfortable and not leave marks.
- The helmet should be covering your entire head, including your forehead, but not too loose to come down and cover your eyes.
- With the harness fastened, try opening your mouth. A good helmet should feel comfortable doing this. But with a small-sized helmet, you will feel some pressure around your jaws.
Remember: Different people have different sizes. This is one of the reasons why you cannot rely on the helmet that you borrowed from your friend. If your friend’s helmet does not fit you well then it won’t do its job.
How Long Can One Helmet be Used?
One helmet is not a lifetime friend. You need to replace it eventually. If it is broken or there are cracks here and there, get a new one. Some people suggest that it is better to replace them every 5 years even if there is no damage. This is because the UV rays from the sun, temperature, and sweat gradually decrease the quality of your helmet, making the materials not “protective” enough anymore.
How is a Horse Riding Helmet Different?
Unfortunately, for horse riding, you cannot use a bike helmet. This is because they are made differently. When you fall from a bike, the falling distance is way shorter than when you’d fall from a horse. So the impact force is quite smaller than the latter. Bike helmets are just not designed to protect your head from a horse’s backfall.
Also, bicycle helmets don’t cover your entire head. The back of the head, which is the most sensitive part, is left exposed. So just get a separate, well-fitted, ASTM-approved helmet for horse riding.
Companies Manufacturing Approved Helmets
Below are a few companies that manufacture approved horse riding helmets.
- Troxel – only makes approved helmets
- Equine Science Marketing, Ltd.
- Australian Holdings
- Lexington Safety Products, Inc.
- Del Mar Helmet Co., Inc.
- Charles Owens & Co. Ltd
- International Helmets
A helmet will not protect you 100% from horse riding accidents but it will likely save you from a lot of injuries. You should also ensure that you are wearing the correct footwear, using safety stirrup irons (with the safety stirrup iron always in a horizontal position), and checking all the equipment thoroughly before you go for a ride. Finally, you should, in no way, be tied to the horse.
Follow all these instructions and keep practicing. Who knows, you might be the next gold medalist in horse riding next season! Happy and safe riding!