In our recent article about top Christmas gift picks for equestrians, helmets were one of the items suggested. There are so many on the market though; how do you pick, and what are the differences?
Safety-wise, most horseback riding helmets are subject to the same safety requirements before they can be approved and certified. A riding helmet has more stringent impact tests and must cover more of the back of the head compared to other sports-related headgear. A bicycle helmet, for example, would be inadequate for horseback riding as they do not have ample coverage by the temples or the back of the head. They are also not designed to sustain an impact from the height of a horse, which in most cases will be much higher than coming off a bicycle seat. Make sure that you’re purchasing a helmet that is approved and designed specifically for horseback riding.
How about fit? If possible, have the wearer measure around their head. The Horse Channel website has terrific instructions for getting the best possible fit on a riding helmet. Some manufacturer’s sizing allows for adjustments and a bit of personal customization (Tipperary, most Troxel models) whereas others (Charles Owen) have more exacting sizes that demand a specific measurement.
Ventilation varies. One of the reasons why the Tipperary Sportage is so very popular is that it offers optimum ventilation at the front, back and sides of the helmet. The vents are large and visible, with mesh coverings. If you prefer a more classic look, the Charles Owen helmets have discreet ventilation ports beneath the fabric covering. The specific discipline that the rider enjoys will help determine the style of helmet that will be best for them. Dressage and hunter/jumper riders generally like a traditional look and understated colors (black, navy, brown). Trail and endurance riders along with barrel racers often opt for sporty designs and some even enjoy bright colors. Troxel has many colorful options and (as of February 2016) will have several fun selections available in their Fallon Taylor lineup. Fallon, a fashion-forward barrel racer, has been a pioneer in pairing style and safety since she (donning a glittering helmet) and Baby Flo first ran down the alley way at the Thomas and Mack at the 2014 NFR.
Weight matters. Luckily, helmets designed in modern times are very lightweight and (no kidding) comfortable. Along with ample ventilation, they’re constructed with sturdy materials that don’t weigh much at all, and the sleek, low-profile shapes and interior padding enhance protective features with a secure, cozy fit. If you run across someone who balks at the idea of excessive weight, heat or general discomfort, it’s likely that they last strapped on horse-riding head gear in the 90s and haven’t yet enjoyed the marvels of efficiency that are now available.
Consider the costs. You can find a nice helmet that will do its job efficiently for as little as $40 (check out Ovation and the entry level Troxel models). Your middle of the road options will offer added vents and lighter weight materials; expect to spend $60 – $90 in this range. Look at Tipperary and Troxel. On the higher end, top quality designs from popular manufacturers like Charles Owen will come with a price tag of $300 on up. Without getting preachy or hopping up on the pro-helmet soap box, it’s worth mentioning that even one trip to the ER with a severe concussion will run you several hundred dollars, so comparatively, any horseback riding helmet is a bargain.
Buy locally. If you wish to take the intended helmet wearer along to try things on, that will help ensure that you get a good fit and that they’re receiving something to suit their personal tastes. AA Callister’s on Redwood Road (near 3600 South, on the east side of Redwood) has a good selection and helpful staff to assist you. Horse Crazy in Draper carries a few different brands and is a top choice for Salt Lake-area dressage and hunt seat riders. Other large livestock supply stores (IFA and Cal Ranch) often carry lower end Troxel helmets. You will not find proper riding helmets at a general department store.
Easy online shopping is a great option if you’re sure of the size and design needed. Riding Warehouse has a good selection, affordable and fast shipping, and great customer service. Dover Saddlery and SmartPak are well known sites, too (SmartPak often offers free shipping); neither is particularly speedy though. Look at Jeffer’s Equine for special deals and low prices on safe, comfortable selections. Valley Vet is another online retailer that carries several quality helmets.
With a little effort, you’re sure to find just the right helmet! Happy shopping, and happy riding.