Thinking with Your Head About Your Helmet

You’ve seen those commercials talking about replacing your mattress after every eight years—after all, that’s a lot of dead skin cells, dirt, dust mites, etc., that gathers every night. And when it comes to your favorite pair of riding pants, you don’t think twice about replacing them when they’re starting to be worn thin, or maybe showing a little too much wear and tear. But do you even think about how old your helmet is?

Go ahead, take a moment from reading this to find your helmet and look at the tags inside. We’ll wait…

Did you see the date? Or is it so faded you can’t tell if that’s a three or an eight? Can you even remember when you purchased it? It might just be time to buy a new helmet.

As we prepare to celebrate the eighth annual Riders4Helmets International Helmet Awareness Day, we want to applaud everyone who don’t think twice about putting on a helmet before swinging their leg over a horse. They are the ones that know that wearing a helmet can help reduce the chance of a lethal head injury.

But if you’ve worn helmets most of your life, you might be the type to just pick up the same velveteen-covered helmet that has gotten through your junior rider years and onto your adult classes because…well, it’s “broken in” and more comfortable. But wearing a helmet that’s passed its limit of effectiveness might not fully protect you in the way an updated helmet can.

Did you know that helmet manufacturers generally recommend that you replace your helmet every four to five years (this cam be sooner depending on level of use)? Think about all the time you spend in the saddle—the liters of sweat, the coats of dust, and drenching from the rains all take a toll on your helmet and causes the Styrofoam inside to break down, reducing its effectiveness at protection.

If you’ve had an accident while wearing your helmet, no matter how minor it was (i.e., your head just barely hit the ground), that can reduce the effectiveness of the helmet’s protection. Damage to the helmet might not be visible to the naked eye, so you can’t assume there is no issue after a fall. Of course, any catastrophic incident can render a helmet useless and cause for an immediate replacement.

And when you do go to purchase a new helmet, take precautions when it comes to proper fit and ensuring the date of manufacture. When trying on helmets, be sure to wear your hair the way you would any time you ride—if you prefer a bun, wear a bun, if you prefer a ponytail, wear your hair in a ponytail—then go shop.

Also, check the manufacture date on the inside of the helmet, no matter if you’re purchasing new or used. Take caution when considering purchasing a used helmet, since the helmet may have sustained damage from a previous incident that you can’t see.

Don’t think that only children or novice riders should be the ones to wear an approved helmet—there has been no statistical correlation between skill level and the likelihood of an injury when it comes to equestrian sport. You can even have a catastrophic injury from falling off a horse that’s standing still.

If you like to think with your head, take a moment to consider your head first and wearing proper protection.

Content provided by Riders4Helmets.


The ASTM committee members work hard to develop standards that provide protection for specific sports use. The equestrian helmet committee includes equestrian professionals, end users, manufacturers and test lab personnel. The equestrian helmet standard is developed specifically for horse riding events and the testing is specific for hazards that may be encountered during horse riding. Of course, no helmet can protect against every possible hazard that may be encountered.

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The main differences are the helmet head coverage and the type of test anvils. Based on the test line in ASTM F1163, equestrian helmets need to provide more head coverage, especially in the back of the head. Bicycle helmets are mainly designed to provide protection during a forward moving event, so there is more protection for the front and side of the head. Equestrian helmets provide the same forward and side protection but also lower protection to the rear of the head for a rear fall, which is likely during a horse riding event. The equestrian helmet standard includes a hazard anvil test, which would simulate a horse’s hoof or a sharp rock. The hazard anvil is very sharp, and is the reason most equestrian helmets have a harder outer shell as opposed to the micro shell on most bicycle helmets. Most bicycle helmets may not survive a horse’s kick, but may break apart.

Info from:
Safety Equipment Institute