Whether it’s dressage or eventing, your riding helmet is an essential, and arguably your most important piece of kit. Not only is it vital for your safety, but it can also give you the confidence to help you perform at your best.
When it comes to choosing your riding hat, there are a range of styles, features, technologies and price-points out there. All that choice is great, but how do you tell if it’s the right one for you? Don’t worry, we’ve put our own thinking caps on to give you some of our top tips and top picks for 2023.
Safety before anything else
First things first, you should start with the biggie – safety. Your helmet decision has the potential to save your life, so it should not be taken lightly. It’s not a good idea to cut corners, especially when you’re protecting your very important noggin. And while we’re on the subject, it’s worth wearing one at all times while handling your horse – it’s better to be safe than sorry.
You’ll need to have a good think about the level of protection a particular helmet gives you. Thankfully, there are a range of safety standards on the market that can give you peace of mind that a suitable hat is fit for purpose.
Three of the main safety standards to look for are the ASTM F1163-15, PAS015:2011 and the VG1 01-040 2014-12. They are the ones that you’re most likely to come across, but you may also see MIPS technology and SNELL E2016. Helmets that meet multiple safety standards can provide you with more comprehensive protection and cover a wide range of potential accident situations.
Different safety standards test for different types of accidents They may focus on things like head coverage, how a rider falls and onto what type of surface, how a helmet moves while you’re riding, and the severity of injury that a rider can expect to receive from a fall.
Your best option will be to choose one that has as many safety standards as possible. But you may have to weigh this up with other needs such as budget, or your individual preference. Also, keep in mind that if you compete, different disciplines will have their own rules of what can and cannot be worn, so you’ll need to be aware of these.
When to hang up your hat
You may have the headwear, but that doesn’t always mean you’re fully protected. Any riding hat will eventually need to be replaced down the line.
The recommended life span of a helmet is 3-5 years depending on how often it is used. After this amount of time, the protective liner and inner padding will start to wear down, especially with high use or poor storage.
You should also replace it if it has been involved in an accident or any type of impact as it is likely that the safety has been compromised. Although your riding hat may look fine on the outside after an accident, it’s the inside that counts. That’s also why we wouldn’t recommend buying one second hand.
Look after it, and it will look after you
Proper storage and care can greatly increase the lifespan of your riding hat and ensure that it’s offering you maximum protection.
Most importantly, it should be stored somewhere cool and dry, especially after use, so that the padding has time to properly dry out. A protective hat bag can help keep it cushioned and away from sunlight, but do not put your hat in there if it is still damp from use – let it dry overnight first. Do not allow your hat to be exposed to temperatures above 50oC or below -20oC.
Substance and style
Your riding hat is also an opportunity for you to express your personality and personal style. Once you’ve ticked all the safety boxes, there are a range of stylish helmets to choose from.
There are options to suit if you have a colour preference, are looking for removable headbands, want advanced ventilation systems or wide peaks, or you’re looking for a vegan alternative. The finishes are also varied to different tastes – from traditional velvet to a generous sprinkle of sparkle.
Our top hat picks for 2023!
Every hat is different, and every rider is too. That’s why you should always consider the type of rider you are when choosing your helmet.
But if you’d like an idea of some of our front runners, here are our current top 3:
Price from £370.50
Available in 3 colours
With 110 years behind them, this is a brand you can trust. Their next-generation Halo helmet is certified to 3 international safety standards, has a metallic ring for 360-degree ventilation and is extremely lightweight. Its custom liner is even infused with anti-microbial silver ions to help keep it fresh for longer – now that’s smart.
Price from £269.50
Available in 2 colours
Designed for everyday riding, but smart enough to wear in the ring, the Luna helmet gives you the best of both worlds. It adheres to 3 international safety standards, has 360-degree ventilation and has a slim, low profile look that is also comfortable thanks to its padded headband.
Available in 4 colours
Another triple safety standard winner, the Pro II Plus is a precision-fitting cross-country skull cap with a removable cup headband that can easily be replaced when worn down to extend the life of the helmet. With front and rear ventilation and a sized liner for customised fit, you’re in for a comfortable wear.
For the perfect fit…
Even the best riding hat in the world won’t be much use to you unless it fits properly.
Your helmet should fit snugly without feeling tight and be able to stay in place, even without the harness. It should go on with little pressure and not need any force. When on, you should feel an even pressure the whole way around. If you feel pressure in your temples when you flex your jaw, your helmet might be too tight. And if you rock it, it should move the skin on your forehead, not slide over the top.
When wearing your riding hat, your hair should be loose without any clips to avoid any lumps and bumps that may alter the fit. It’s also important to consider your harness and how it fits around the back of your neck. Those with lots of leather and lacing can be harder to fasten, but a well-trained fitter should be able to help.
How to accurately measure your head for a riding hat
To measure for your helmet, place a tape measure around your head just above your eyebrows. Leave one of your fingers against your head under the tape so that you have some space should your head get hot. Then with a size in centimetres, you’ll be able to work out your hat size and skull sizes.
When it comes to choosing your next riding hat, we hope you now have all the know-how to stay on the right track. But you have any questions, all you have to do is ask. Pop in store and we’ll help you find your perfect fit to enjoy everything equestrian while staying safe.