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Should you replace a horse helmet after each fall?

It can be really frustrating after you have spent a significant amount of money on a new riding hat to have to throw it away after you fall off in the first few weeks of wearing it.  But it is accepted industry practice and recommended by every manufacturer that you replace your hat after a fall.

Why should you replace it after a fall?

Even if there are no outward, visible signs of compromise, hats can be damaged internally after a fall.  It is impossible to assess the integrity of a hat just by looking at it.  The internal layers of the hat are designed to provide shock absorbency and withstand impact and once you have had a fall and hit your head then the hat has done its job and should be replaced.  It is likely that the internal structures have been damaged or weakened in the fall and will not be able to perform their function again to maximum effect in another fall.

Send your hat back to the manufacturer

Some manufacturers are keen to examine hats after a rider fall as this can inform them about design and the performance of the hat in certain situations.  If you have a fall then contact them and see if they would like to have your hat back for examination and testing.  Some of the regularly published photographs can be quite horrifying when you see what the fall has done to the internal structure of the hat when outwardly it may appear undamaged.

Keeping yourself safe

It is important to buy a hat that not only bears the most up-to-date safety standard but one which is correctly fitted.

Always use a BETA – British Equestrian Trade Association – trained hat fitter who should offer you a free fitting and carry a range of riding hats for you to try.  The way to check is to become familiar with the BSI Kitemark for the current standard, PAS015 (1998/2011).  This sits in the coloured silk inside the crown of the hat and this standard will not only offer you the maximum safety possible but also ensure compliance with all the modern sporting disciplines.  Hats are routinely checked at certain competitions and then tagged on the strap with a small coloured sticker to indicate that they comply.

The CE mark is a European brand to indicate compliance with a Personal Protective Equipment Directive – it is not a haft safety standard and is not interchangeable with the BSI kitemark and PAS015 approval.

Different manufacturers’ use varying templates for hat design so one maker may not suit your head shape at all whereas another will.

What influences the price of riding hats?

Cost can be one reason why some riders are reluctant to replace what could be a relatively new hat after a fall or riding accident.  Hats vary hugely in price but a cheaper hat doesn’t necessarily offer less protection.  The main influencers of price include:-

  • Whether the hat is for a child or an adult – the same hat size in the child range will be cheaper as children’s hats do not attract VAT
  • Make can be a factor – there are some designer brands which attract a premium price tag solely because of their name and the appearance of the hat – if it complies with PAS015 then the higher cost does not mean a higher standard of safety
  • Many manufacturers will offer a more everyday or budget range and a high-end to their brand for competition riders. This is because good hat safety should be for everyone regardless of their spend

Fitting a riding hat

Many saddleries offer an appointment system as not every staff member will be BETA trained and so they might not have a qualified hat fitter available if you just turn up on spec.

For ladies and girls, make sure you do not have hair jewellery or clips or scrunchies which could affect the fit of the hat.  At the very least, these can cause uncomfortable pressure points and could affect how the hat fitter does their job.  If you have a ponytail or a bunch or a bun then make sure it sits low enough on the nape of the neck not to push the back of the hat up when it is in place.

Looking after your riding hat

It can be very annoying if your hat has a fall from height onto a hard surface when it is not even on your head and you feel you must replace it.  Some people routinely leave their hat on the ground when they take it off because it has nowhere to fall but it is easy for it to get knocked or kicked by both horses and people.

Try to have a designated place for your hat when you take it off after riding.  Many people keep their hat in its box as it protects it from dust and sunlight and it is a good way to transport it in a car or lorry to stop it rolling around.

Riding hats are not just for riding

Risk assessments at many commercial yards indicate that there are occasions when the rider is not mounted but which indicate that it is best practice to wear a riding hat.  These include:-

  • Lungeing a horse – this is a requirement for British Horse Society exams
  • Loading horses
  • Leading difficult or exuberant horses
  • Clipping a horse or handling for the vet

Statistically, many more accidents occur when the rider is dismounted and you can be just as vulnerable when you work in close proximity to the horse as when you are on his back particularly if you are engaging in an activity with which the horse is unfamiliar or is frightened of.  Remember, for a hat to do its job properly, it should always be done up with the harness at the correct tension otherwise it can easily become dislodged even when you are on the ground.

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