It’s one of the most common questions that we get: \”Do you provide riding helmets?\” My answer used to be \”yes, discount hospital \” but now it’s \”no.\” Here’s why my policy has changed.



\n\nThe fit of a riding helmet directly affects its ability to prevent injury. If the helmet is too big, here ed or too big in places (on the sides, in front, all around, etc.), when the helmet strikes the ground during a fall, the rider’s head has a secondary ricochet reaction inside the helmet. This can be really bad news. Sometimes ill fitting helmets also ride up and expose the rider’s forehead, leaving the front of the brain unprotected during a fall. If the helmet doesn’t fit, it doesn’t work.\n\nFitting a riding helmet is not as straightforward as you may think. Riding helmets come in an endless array of sizes. In addition to standard hat/helmet sizing, which measures the circumference of your head, the helmets also come in a number of different shapes, like \”oval,\” \”long oval,\” and \”round.\” Additionally, each brand of helmet has a slightly different shape and size. For instance, I may wear a 7 1/8 narrow Charles Owen helmet, but a 7 1/8 Troxel may be too big/small/narrow. When I used to provide helmets, I had about 15 for riders to pick from. Everyone wore a helmet that fit \”pretty well.\” But I thought for a while about having helmets that fit \”pretty well\” and offering head protection that was \”pretty good,\” and the more I thought about it the more uncomfortable I felt. \”Pretty good\” just isn’t good enough when it comes to the safety of someone’s head.\n\nIf you or your child is going to ride a horse, you want a helmet that fits REALLY WELL. If you’re located in the Chicago area, the best way I know of to get a helmet that fits REALLY WELL is to go to Ann Hubbard’s Tack Shop (123 Waukegan Rd in Lake Bluff, IL–closed on Sundays) and let them fit you. Every person who works at that store is experienced and completely professional, their safety standards are second to none, and the helmet they sell you will fit, and it will fit REALLY WELL.\n\n\n


\nI didn’t make that phrase up–really.\n\nA helmet is a little bit like an airbag in a car. Both are designed to protect you against one major impact. If you fall off a horse and hit your head, the exterior of the helmet may be completely unharmed, but the interior padding will condense like the bumper on a car in order to shield your skull from the impact. They call this the deformation reaction.\n\nSometimes this damage is impossible for us to detect. Other times the helmet may just seem a little bit loose after an impact. Many of the major manufacturers of ASTM/SEI approved helmets have a program that allows you to mail them a damaged helmet after a fall, and they will send you back a coupon towards the purchase of a new one. They like to study the ways that the helmets absorb shock and impact in order to make their products better year after year. It is really important to replace your helmet if at any point you believe its integrity may be compromised.\n\nThis is interesting, you may be thinking, but what does it have to do with loaning helmets? A while back I saw a rider’s little brother throw a riding helmet across the room during a tantrum. It hit the wall, before falling down onto the concrete floor. The parent picked it up, and put it neatly back into the pile of helmets. I honestly don’t know whether this impact was significant enough to affect the safety of the helmet. I mentioned my concerns to the parent, who told me he was sure that \”it was fine.\” I wasn’t so sure. And I realized that I really can’t vouch for the safety of the helmets that sit on a shelf in the clubroom at my barn, despite my best efforts.\n\n\n


\nSo the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s really, truly, not my job to determine what level of cranial protection you want for your self or your child; it’s not my job to get that helmet properly fitted to the rider’s head; and it’s not my job to supervise the maintenance and care of that helmet over time. I don’t want to be the one to make these decisions; also, I am not the best person to make these decisions. You will do a better job than me when it comes to caring for your child’s helmet. The fine folks at Ann Hubbard’s (see above) will fit the helmet to your child’s head better than I would anyway.\n\n\n


\nYou can buy a good ASTM/SEI certified riding helmet for as little as $50. A helmet that is not ASTM/SEI certified is not guaranteed to provide any measure of safety or protection–they are decorative items only, like the hat someone might wear on Easter. DO NOT BUY ONE OF THESE HELMETS.\n\nMany parents tell me they just want to borrow a helmet for the first few lessons, and then if their child decides to \”stick with\” riding they will buy their own. If the $50 or $150 investment to get a helmet is really a financial strain, postpone the first riding lesson and use the money that would have gone towards the lesson to buy the helmet. If the idea of being wasteful is a concern (buying the helmet and then only using it once), there are many ways to sell used helmets. Yes, you will buy several different helmets if your child decides to ride through many years of growth. You will probably end up throwing a couple of these away, or giving them away instead. Maybe you’re resourceful, and you’ll post an ad on Craigslist or on eBay. But whatever you do, don’t skimp on the helmet.\n\nDon’t skimp on the helmet.\n\nAnd try to avoid the shiny plastic ones. They’re ugly. 😉