As burgeoning equestrians get started in the sport, one piece of equipment trumps all others: the riding helmet. Here is a step-by-step guide to finding the right fit.
Riding Helmets: How to Find the Proper Fit
Horseback riding, both recreationally and professionally, is a wonderful experience. However, having to work with such a large animal with a mind of its own carries the risk of accidents and injuries. As an injury-prone sport, equestrianism requires specialized, high-quality safety equipment to provide protection when least expected.
Although they can increase comfort, accessories such as boots or breeches are not essential riding equipment for a person getting first started in horseback riding. In the beginning, riders can wear leggings and other shoes with 1/2-inch heels, but particular attention should be paid to the equipment designed to protect us while riding horses, in particular riding helmets.
A helmet is the most crucial piece of equestrian equipment. It is designed to protect the rider’s head, face and neck (to an extent) during a fall, as well as to absorb the shock created during impact. Not just any helmet will work. Riders should avoid getting on a horse wearing a bicycle or ski helmet, as these have a different shape and each helmet is designed specifically for its actividy.
When purchasing a helmet – especially for the first time – it’s ideal to visit an equestrian store where you can be sure to find reliable products designed for horseback riding. Moreover, the possibility to try on several models of riding helmets is important because each manufacturer provides an individual helmet sizing chart.
When choosing an equestrian helmet, start by determining the price range you can afford. Then, decide on the type of helmet you want to buy. If it is for a child, you may want to choose an adjustable helmet with a size range that is wide enough to adjust the circumference to the child’s head and does not become too small in a short period of time.
Measuring Riding Helmet: What to Pay Attention To
Do you know how to measure your head circumference and fit the helmet to your head shape?
Helmet sizing can be done at home with no special tools. All you need is a soft fabric measuring tape, and the measuring itself is best done with the help of another person. Measure just above the eyebrows in a straight line to the ears and all around the head. It is recommended to round up the obtained measurement, because otherwise the helmet may be too tight. For example, for a 56.5 centimeter measurement, you might want to choose a helmet size of 57 centimeters for a non-adjustable helmet, or 55-57 centimeters for an adjustable one.
When measuring a riding helmet, pay attention to whether it offers a snug fit to your head shape, especially to the widest part of the forehead, your temples. Wear your hair as you would normally do while riding and wear the helmet for a few minutes before deciding if the size is correct. The temples and the back of the head are the most common pressure points in a helmet, so if it is too tight, you will experience discomfort or even pain. On the other hand, the shell of the helmet must not be too loose because the helmet will shift on your head and in the event of a fall will not perform its function.
The perfect helmet adheres to every part of the head, does not shift around and does not impede the rider’s visibility while riding.
What Parameters Should You Consider When Choosing a Riding Helmet?
First of all, pay attention to whether the helmet meets all the safety certificates that riding helmets are subject to. Currently, there are three international safety standards: ASTM F1163: 2015, VG1 01.040 2014-12 and PAS015: 2011.
Some equestrian helmets comply with all these safety standards (e.g., Charles Owen), but the vast majority of helmets are subject to the VG1 01.040 2014-12 standard; this applies to Samshield, Uvex and KEP, among other brands.
In addition to the aforementioned standards, there are several other significant aspects that are responsible for the comfort of your equestrian helmet. First and foremost is ventilation. Proper ventilation of a riding helmet is the foundation for a comfortable ride.
Uvex helmets have large, characteristic vents, carefully installed so that air circulation is constantly ensured. Samshield helmets are characterized by their elegant design, so their vents are located all around the shell in a way that is both decorative and non-obtrusive.
Besides the ventilation, particular attention should be paid to the wide visor. Apart from being trendy and often chosen by riders, it serves a very important role — to protect the rider’s eyes and face from the harsh sun and, in extreme conditions, also the rain. The wide brim is found mainly in women’s helmets.
Different Types of Adjustment
The adjustability of the helmet should also be given some thought. Why? Each of them adjusts slightly differently. For instance, Uvex helmets and other brands are adjustable with a knob located on the back of the head, which gives a wide range of adjustment. However, for some people it may look unaesthetic or may be uncomfortable. The helmets produced by Charles Owen, for example, are made in a specific size and adjustment is not possible, so the rider needs to be certain of their size when choosing this type of helmet.
Another way of adjustment is to regulate the size of the shell with special liners, which, depending on the thickness, make the helmet significantly larger or smaller. This type of adjustment is used in Samshield brand helmets.
In addition to these basic characteristics, you might want to find out what special features and certifications the helmet has. Besides meeting the required standards, companies use various technologies in their helmets to increase riding safety.
Samshield helmets have a polycarbonate shell that absorbs the vast majority of the impact shock, offering maximum protection to the rider’s head. In their new helmets, Uvex has incorporated the MIPS technology, which minimizes the rotational motion of the helmet on the head and protects the skull from excessive stress.
Dressage Chin Strap vs. Regular Chin Strap
The chin strap theoretically is a subordinate feature of an equestrian helmet, but the characteristics of some equestrian disciplines required certain features. This applies particularly to dressage riders and has led manufacturers to create discipline-specific dressage chin straps, i.e. with a raised back, so that the hairstyle fits easily under the helmet.
Regular chin straps protect the rider’s occiput, but their shapes vary depending on the manufacturer, helmet and shell shape.
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Manufacturers offer helmets to fit different head shapes, so if you experience any discomfort when wearing a particular model, don’t underestimate it. Try out models from different brands and make sure the chosen helmet fits your head properly.
The best helmet ensures the safety of the rider in any extreme situation, so the overall fit must be snug and account for the rider’s head shape and its most vulnerable points. Pay attention to features responsible for extra protection, as well as those that offer a comfortable fit.
Finally, think about the style and design of the shell and answer the question of whether the helmet is suited to your riding discipline. When purchasing a kids helmet, go for one that you can adjust.