Your riding hat is the single most important piece of equipment you will buy while riding horses. Never get on a horse without one as they can quite literally be a lifesaver. When learning to ride you can borrow one but it is always better to buy your own. Always make sure the hat fits properly. Not only does it protect your head in a fall from the horse, but it also gives you protection should the horse kick you while you are on the floor.
Types of HeadgearThere are several different types of protective headgear for riding horses but they fall largely into two broader categories – riding helmets and skull caps.
Riding helmets are the traditional type of hard hat. They are sometimes covered in velvet or may be plastic. They usually come in dark colours.
Skull caps are like the type of headgear which jockeys wear. They can be personalised with coloured silks – peaked covers in bright colours which fit over the cap.
FittingYou should always buy your riding hats from somewhere with trained fitters. They will help make sure you buy the best hat for your head and that it fits correctly.
When trying a hat, adjust the integrated chin strap – which all hats have – before the strap at the rear of the hat. Once you have found a hat which feels right, leave it on for about 15 minutes so you can see if it is going to give you headaches should you wear it for long periods of time.
The measurements you will need will be your head circumference which should be measured above the ears. This measurement will correspond to a hat size. The hat should sit on your head and be secure but comfortable. Do not be tempted to buy one which is too tight – it needs to be comfortable.
SafetyNever buy a second hand hat – you do not know what has happened to it before you. Any hat that has been involved in an impact – even dropped onto a hard surface – must be discarded.
No hat will prevent serious injuries in some circumstances but the best hats will offer the highest levels of shock absorbency.Every country has its own set of safety standards and the British Horse Society will advise on the safest hat at any one time. Manufacturers are constantly updating their products to make them even safer. Some bodies will only allow riders to ride if they have the minimum standard hat and there is a legal requirement for under 14s to wear one on the road – again the BHS will advise as to which hat they should be using.
A riding hat could save your life – it is no exaggeration. Get the best one you can and never compromise safety. The standards will change regularly so always check what the latest is before investing in a new hat. Report any accidents you and your hat are involved in to the BHS so they can add it to their database of how hats perform – to help with the future of safety hats. But most importantly, do make sure any damaged hat – even if there is nothing visible – is thrown away and a new one bought.