Mythbuster Monday: Helmets Are Only Rated for One Hit

On Mythbuster Monday, we tackle a variety of equestrian myths to either bust or confirm. Today’s discussion: Are helmets only rated for one hit?

It’s Mythbuster Monday, where Horse Nation dives into different equestrian myths and provides research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: Are helmets only rated for one hit? Is this a marketing strategy? Do the helmets actually get damaged? Read further to find out!

Myth:  Helmets are only rated for one hit

Myth or Fact: Fact


Horseback riding helmets are tested and designed to protect an individual’s head in the instance that a rider has an incident where she hits her head.

When many equestrians start their riding careers it’s not uncommon to hear that they borrowed a helmet, someone they know gave them an old helmet or they spent minimal money at a flea market for an older model.

While this sounds like an understandable decision, helmet’s should not be a piece of equipment to take the cheap route on.


Horse trainer and riding instructor Ellison Hartley wrote an article titled, A Beginner’s Guide to Riding HelmetsIn this article she stated the importance of purchasing a new helmet due to the constantly evolving of safety standards and technology. She also goes on to explain that helmets are only made to sustain one impact. Then they should be replaced. Hartley refers to helmets as, “one hit wonders.” Even if the helmet doesn’t look damaged, once you hit your head, you need to throw the helmet away and purchase a new one.


Ross Stockdale, a team expert at Horse Tack Co., states that it doesn’t matter which discipline you ride, any time you experience an accident you need to buy a new helmet. He states that even though you may not be able to see the damage, any time you hit your head most likely the foam lining in the helmet has cracked or been crushed, so the helmet has then lost its shock-absorbing ability.


An article by Horse Illustrated states the fact that the most common reason equestrians are admitted to the hospital are head injuries. The shocking fact they provide is that 12,000 equestrians go to the emergency room per year for head injuries.

Horse Illustrated goes on to write that you need to replace your helmet after each fall you experience. Defects could be invisible to the eye but if you fall with the same helmet twice, you will not have the protection needed for the impact.


In an article by Chronicle of the Horse, Dr. Barry Miller presented research from the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. In this article the statistic is given that one in five equestrians will suffer a serious injury at some point in their riding career. Dr. Miller goes on to state that equestrians should prepare to pay for their safety.

Dr. Miller shares Virginia Tech’s objectives in their helmet lab. The biggest objective is to design a tool that will reduce the risk of a concussion with the use of a helmet. Statistics show that one in every 600 rides an equestrian has results in a visit to the emergency department. He also shares the statistic that novice riders are between three and eight more times likely to obtain an injury while riding.

The preliminary research at Virginia Tech showed that there is a huge gap in performance between football helmets and equestrian helmets and that equestrian helmets trailed far behind. While football helmets can withstand many impacts, equestrian helmets can only handle one hit. Miller believes the gap can be bridged but equestrian helmet manufacturers need to adopt technology to better their product.


After diving into the research, it appears that equestrian helmets are only rated for one hit. Research shows that a equestrian helmets, whether damage is visible or not, should be replaced after one episode of contact. Technology is evolving every day so this may change in the future but for now, equestrian helmets are only rated for one accident.

Do you have an equine myth you’d like us to tackle? If so, send it our way! Email your suggestions to [email protected]. Put Mythbuster Monday in your subject line.