We all know that wearing a helmet will help protect our head in the event of a fall, but how many of us know that helmets have a limited life span of somewhere around ten years.
Did you know that if your helmet sustains any sort of impact at all that you should replace it with a new one?
Did you know that leaving your helmet in your car on a hot day is really a bad idea? Severe temperatures may cause damage to the polystyrene liner that will help to protect your head in a fall.
You may have seen the ASTM/SEI rating for riding helmets, but do you know what they represent? The ASTM, or American Society for Testing and Materials, is a government-funded organization that sets the safety standards for design and materials in a variety of sports equipment. They establish guidelines by which all riding helmets will be made. The SEI, or Safety Equipment Institute, assures that manufacturers are complying with the ASTM standards by testing and performing inspections on final products.
Today, there are so many cool and comfortable helmet designs that riders have run out of excuses not to wear one. New, lightweight versions keep equestrians comfortable. Helmets come in an array of colours and silhouettes to satisfy even the most relunctant customer. From hot pint to steel blue, black velvet to silver titanium – there’s something for everyone. Wearing a helmet is as much a fashion statement as the colour of breeches.
Most helmets made for pleasure riding and active competitions are vented, allowing heat to dissipate, helpng keep the rider cool during competition. No more unbearably hot “helmet head!” Flexible peaks provide added comfort, as do new dial, down features for a comfortable fit. Manufacturers of show helmets offer low profiles, a tailored fit, soft rounder edges, and oh-so-soft deerskin harnesses.
Youth helmets are made with removable inserts so the helmet can grow with young equestrians. Lightweight designs, cooling vents, fashionable colours, and washable liners make these helmets easy for kids to wear. Youth and adult helmets alike come with ponytail ports and easy-to-fasten buckles.
Recreational helmets have smooth, durable finishes that are resistant to cracking from exposure to the elements. They also come in a great array of colours, styles and designs.
Fitting and Showing
It is relatively easy to find a proper fit, but it must be done in person. If you do buy through a catalogue without trying the helmet on first you will want to make sure your new helmet meets these simple tests:
1. Place the helmet on your head without fastening the strap. Your helmet should feel snug side to side and front to back, but not uncomfortably tight. The helmet should sit square on your head, neither tipped back nor forward.
2. If your helmet seems to fit better in some areas than others, the helmet design may not be for you. Most helmets do come with pads that attach to Velcro inside the helmet, but if you require a lot of pads, find a new helmet. The fit just isn’t right for your head.
3. Fasten and adjust the harness. The harness should be snug against your chin. Make sure you adjust the harness at the ear, too. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Improper harness adjustment can and will decrease the helmet’s ability to stay in place in the event of a fall.
4. Bend over and touch the floor. Wiggle your head around and try to shake the helmet loose. If the helmet moves, you may have to readjust the harness or find a different model.
Have you ever wondered why you can’t just wear your bicycle helmet while riding? Aren’t they both pretty much the same thing? The ASTM has invested a lot of study into the types of impacts typical for equestrians. Falls from a horse very often involve impacts to the back of the head, while bicyclists tend to fall forward. Additionally, falls from horses involve more height than the typical fall from a bicycle. The teardrop design of the bicycle helmet is simply not going to protect your from a horse-related injury.
It isn’t a good idea to swap helmets or use a group riding helmet either. Helmet fit is extremely important. Understand that even good riders have falls. Those that have sustained injuries from a fall never planned on falling.
The video “Every Time, Every Ride” available through the United States Pony Clyb and narrated by William Shatner, demonstrates the need for SEI approved headgear. This is a must see for anyone who isn’t convinced helmets are necessary.
Some manufacturers offer coupons to riders with helmets that have sustained an impact, thereby offering further incentive to replace them. Teach children not to play with their helmets. A helmet that have been tossed and dropped is no longer something you want to put on your child’s head. Invest in the futre and replace it.
So, go ahead....buy a helmet and make a fashion statement. Go high tech or low key. Choose a subtle black or a wild leopard design. Go for muted blue or all the colours in the rainbow. Be safe and be comfortable!
Adapted from an article in Equine Journal, April 2006 by Karen E Baril.
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