Helmets

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Are you using your head when it comes to safety?

We all grew up with advice from our parents to be careful because ‘sport is dangerous’. But in the case of horse riding, particularly equestrian competition such as eventing, jumping or dressage, this is very true. There are of course many safety precautions that can be taken – however, falls and accidents still occur.

Wearing a helmet when riding could save your life.

You may think you have a valid reason for not wearing a helmet, but the truth is, there really is no excuse. Here are some common reasons given for not putting a helmet on:

“I’m willing to take the risk.”

Really? Head injuries can lead to permanent debilitation and you may have to rely on a loved one to look after you for the rest of your life – a big ask for simply not hearing a helmet.

“I’m a very experienced rider.”

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At the UK’s Badminton Horse Trials in 2011, three riders fell badly, despite being highly experienced – Elizabeth Power, Camilla Spiers and Ingrid Klimke were all taken to the local hospital, whose staff are presumably used to seeing riding boot-clad people pacing the wards each spring!

“Helmets are hot and uncomfortable.”

With the number of styles and fits now available, there should be a helmet to fit everyone. Horze has a number of adjustable and well ventilated helmets available.

“Helmets are expensive.” 

So are hospital fees! Horze sell a range of very affordable helmets.

 “I will get penalised in the ring if I wear a helmet.”

This is not the case. In the UK, protective hats are now mandatory when competing in dressage competitions. British Dressage (BD), the UK’s governing body, states that protective hats [to current standards as defined by BD] must be worn by all riders at all times when mounted at a British Dressage competition, including exercising, warming up and competing. Top hats and uniform hats are permitted as an exception to this rule only for Advanced to Grand Prix classes (including FEI Young Rider level) but only for the warm up directly prior to the competition and the competition test itself. Protective hats may be worn in place of a top hat at Advanced to Grand Prix and with both short jacket and tail coat. Hats and hat covers must be predominately black or navy blue or of a conservative dark colour that matches the rider’s jacket.

The helmet’s fit

• For adequate protection, your helmet must fit your head closely and the retention system must be adjusted to hold your helmet firmly in place.

• If the fit of the hat is too tight, the headache it causes means it may not be worn. If the fit is too loose then the hat can drop over the eyes and break the nose or can leave the temples (the thinnest part of the skull) exposed.

• When rocked back and forward or gently lifted from the head, you should feel your skin move.

• Remember to do up the harness properly. Tug it to check.

• The rim of the hat should run in a line horizontally approximately half an inch above the eyebrows, round to the knobbly bit at the back of the head.

After being subject to a severe blow, a hat should be replaced, even though there may be no visible sign of damage. You should change your helmet every five to six years, regardless of damage. This is especially important for competition riders in the fields of eventing and show jumping, who tend to experience more falls.

Many studies point to the fact that head injury is the most common reason for equestrian-related admittance to hospitals; famously, American dressage rider Courtney King-Dye fractured her skull after a fall from a horse in early 2010, when she was not wearing a helmet.

Wearing approved helmets has been shown to reduce the rate of injury, and American dressage guru Michael Barisone, a member of USEF’s High Performance Dressage Committee, has stated that: “Wearing a helmet… should be implemented anytime when mounted, all over the world.

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Anneli is Product Manager for all horse and stable products, as well as riders shoes, helmets and body protectors. From Sweden, she works from an office there, travelling to the head offices in Oslo and Helsinki at least once a month. A big horse lover, Anneli spends as much time as possible in the stable. She has had her own horses, but now tends to lend from her friends, because of her busy lifestyle.