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Why wear horse riding hats?

By David Bartram
Why wear horse riding hats?

The most important piece of equipment for any equestrian is the riding hat, also called an equestrian helmet. A horse riding hat’s hard shell and protective lining will protect the wearer’s head if they fall from a horse or are kicked by one. It’s crucial to always wear a riding hat, not only when you are riding a horse, but whenever you are handling a horse from the ground, for example when lungeing.

There are a few important things to remember when buying a horse riding hat, hats are mandatory for children under 14 and hats must be kitemarked to PAS 015 or EN 1384, you must wear a safety hat at nearly all competitions with the exception of some high level dressage (please see BE and BD rules for further info). Most importantly hats save lives!

You should never buy a second hand hat and should always make sure that your hat is fitted or checked by a professional. Whilst trying hats on it is important that not only is it within your budget but that it fits comfortably. If you do not want the hassle of a shop assistant hovering you should measure your head on a level around the forehead to give you an idea of size. Then try several on in the shop until you get one that you like the feel of, you should get a 'pfft' noise when putting on a well fitting hat, this is the air escaping so that the hat fits closely and the safety design can work.

Make sure you wear your hair as you would for riding to ensure that best fit. It is important that the chin strap is comfortable once tightened so that you can fit a finger in between it and your chin and that the straps at the back of the head stop the hat from slipping forward, it is worth looking like a loon and shaking you head around a bit to see if the hat moves, if it does it is too big! Once you have found one you like then get a professional opinion.

One idea to help you stay within a budget is to check if you fit into child sized hats, as they are a legal requirement for children they have no VAT on so are cheaper, if you don't mind a cartoon on the inside lining they are a bargain. Another is to have one hat for all disciplines but several silks (covers for a skull type hat), you can get all colours and materials, including velvet for smart dressage, coloured to got with cross country colours and many many more.

If your riding hat takes an impact it is imperative to replace it or send it to the manufacturer to be checked.

The hat may look fine on the outside but may have sustained structural, internal damage which cannot be seen but may reduce the protection that the hat offers...Is is really worth your life not to?

Riding hats are specially designed for horse riding, providing the kind of protection that an equestrian needs. Helmets designed for another sport, e.g. cycling helmets, should not be worn while horse riding or handling horses. A cycling helmet, for example, offers most protection to the front and back of the head, but a riding hat provides the all-round protection that is needed when horse riding.

Equestrian helmets must meet a number of safety standards. You should always check the safety standards that a riding hat meets before you buy.

Damage, wear and tear
Severe impacts can damage the padding in a riding helmet, so you should replace your helmet if it suffers a heavy impact, regardless of whether there is any obvious damage. For the same reason, you should never buy a second-hand riding hat, even if it seems to be undamaged. The padded lining in a riding hat is compressed over time, reducing the protection that the riding hat offers. For this reason, riding hats should always be replaced every 3-4 years.

Putting on a horse riding helmet
When putting on a horse riding hat, make sure that it fits securely and the chin straps are properly adjusted and fastened. If your riding hat fits well and is securely fastened, you should be able to give your head a brisk nod without the hat moving.

Types of horse Riding hat 
The classic riding hat, with a velvet surface and a hard peak, is styled after the traditional English hunt cap. Historically, hunt caps consisted only of a thin shell, which offered little protection to the rider. Modern riding hats in this style offer full protection as well as the classic appearance of the hunt cap.

Skull caps, also known as jockey caps, are peakless riding hats. They are famously worn by jockeys, but are also a very popular hat among people who ride for leisure and competitors in other equestrian sports. The skull cap itself is decorated with a peaked cover known as a silk. Silks come in a variety of styles. A velvet silk will give the impression of the classic riding hat, while brightly-coloured silks give the appearance of a jockey’s cap. Silks are highly customisable with a range of colours, patterns and designs, offering a range of stylish choices. Jockey caps are a great choice for children as a large range of silks with novelty patterns and fun designs are available.

In addition, there are riding helmets available which are designed for endurance riding. These resemble cycling helmets, and in addition to providing protection they are especially well-ventilated and designed for use over long periods and in warm weather, ideal for endurance riding.

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