Each year, U.S. hospitals treat approximately 70,000 equestrian-related injuries, according to the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky. The study also says that three of every five equestrian-related accident deaths are due to brain injuries.
By now most horse owners know the importance of wearing your helmet. Organizations like Riders4Helmets have pounded that into our heads over and over. So, as you get ready to swing your leg over your favorite horse, you plunk your helmet on your head and go about your ride. But are you wearing your helmet properly?
First and foremost is understanding that you have the correct fit for your helmet. Borrowing a helmet does not guarantee that you will be safe—it’s best to purchase your own helmet that you have taken the time to find the right fit. To find the right fit for a helmet, use a fitting chart, which is usually provided by all major helmet manufacturers. You can use your hat size as a start, or measure around your head to get a size. With that number in mind, you can narrow down your selection of helmets.
A loose helmet will not be very effective in protecting you from catastrophic injury. A helmet must fit firmly, but still be comfortable. If the helmet is loose, it’ll shift, thus reducing the potential for protection should an accident occur. If the helmet is too tight, it’ll feel uncomfortable to you.
A properly fitting helmet will sit level on your head, with the front just above your eyebrows. If you can move it forward and backward without your skin moving, it’s too big. Choosing a helmet with customizing options, such as Troxel and One K, offers the best in protection because it allows for a more universal fit.
And don’t forget to wear your hair exactly how you would when you’re wearing your helmet all the time. Looking to stay proper in the hunter ring with your hair hidden? Be sure your helmet fits you with your hair up, and then plan to ride with that helmet that way all the time, since it could fit much looser with your hair down while schooling.
Find Your Style
Once you have your appropriate helmet size, make sure you find the style that’s right for you. If you’re a hunter/jumper riding the circuit, you might want the more classic and demur helmets. Western riders might want to add a little bling. Whatever your style, make sure it fits you and will encourage you to happily wear your helmet all the time.
That flappy thing on the bottom of your helmet? It’s not just for looks, it’s vital to your protection. Not only is it important for you to make sure you fasten your chin strap prior to mounting your horse, but you need to ensure that the strap fits properly.
Side glides of your chin strap should sit directly below your ear. Your chin strap should be tightened so it fits snugly under your jaw, with no discomfort. One trick to know if your strap is tightened enough comes from Troxel: If you yawn, you should feel the retention straps pull the helmet down on the top of your head more.
A Helmet is Not Forever
While your favorite ball cap might seem to last forever, your helmet will not. Helmets have shelf lives—experts believe you should replace your helmet at least every five years. If you’ve suffered a fall in which your helmet has absorbed an impact, you should replace it immediately, whether it’s two days old or five years old.
Once your helmet has taken a spill—either by you falling while taking a jump or if you accidentally dropped it on a concrete floor, the protective core in your helmet might be compromised. There is no exact way for the naked eye to see if this has occurred, so it’s important to note that buying a helmet secondhand is not a good idea.
Purchasing a helmet is a big deal—it’s showing that you’re serious about your health and your life. Plan to take some time at the local tack shop finding the best helmet for your lifestyle, budget and fit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the helmet companies and those helping you at the store.
To celebrate International Helmet Awareness Day 2017, Riders4helmets has teamed up with leading manufacturers to offer special discounts on safety headgear around the globe. Locate a retailer near you.