Whether going on a relaxing trail ride, riding a fast and clean jumper trip, or finding the perfect distance to a fence, riding accidents happen. Head injuries are the most common reason among riders for admission to the hospital. Fortunately, there are ways equestrians can help keep themselves safe in the saddle, starting with a helmet.
Here's a step by step process that will help you not only with your future helmet purchases but also can serve as a guide to check if your current helmet fits.
Step By Step Helmet Fitting Guide
Step one: Measure your Head. Determine How Your Hair Will Be Worn.
Using a soft fabric measuring tape, place the tape measure snugly around your head at the widest point, about one inch above your eyebrows. Make sure the tape goes over the bump at the back of your head and that it is just above the top of your ears.
If you wear your hair in a hairnet, place your hair in the hairnet in the same style as you wear it at a horse show. If you try a helmet on with your hair down, it may not fit when you finally wear it up. The length and/or thickness of your hair and the way you place it on the top of your head may change the way the helmet sits. Make sure that your hair lies as flat on your head as possible before you try on the helmet. This will allow the helmet to sit lower, and not “on top” of your head, which is unsafe and incorrect. Once your hair is in place, place the helmet on your head.
The helmet that your friend wears, although fabulous, may not be the best option for you. Even if you love the helmet, certain helmets fit and look better than others depending on head shape and profile. Be open to the one that fits and compliments you the best. There are helmets that fit oval and round heads. An experienced helmet fitter will identify which one is best for you.
Popular options include:
First, place the helmet on your head with your hair down and check the overall fit. If the helmet does not fit with your hair down, move on to a different helmet.
Once you find a helmet that fits, put your hair up or how your typically wear it. The helmet should feel snug around the entire head with pressure distributed evenly but not uncomfortably. The side of the harness should frame the ears. The helmet should fit snug but not tight. If the helmet squeezes your forehead, it is too round for your head. If the helmet rocks front to back, it is too oval for your head.
Helmet shown on the left (top) is the wrong size, it sits too high and is too narrow on the rider’s head.
Helmet shown on the right (bottom) is a perfect fit.
*Style note- The model is wearing a Charles Owen AYR8 helmet. This conservatively styled helmet is very popular for any riding discipline.
A good test to check helmet security, is to bend over at the waist, lowering your head, to see if the helmet moves or falls off. If it does move, the fit is incorrect. If the helmet does not move, the helmet passes another safety check.
A helmet that falls off or moves when bent over is too large.
A helmet that does not move when bent over passes another step.
Step 3: Check the Brim
The brim should sit level on your head, covering your forehead. The visor’s brim should be about 1 inch (about the width of two fingers) from your eye. If the brim sits too low, it could obstruct the rider’s view.
Step 4: Adjust the strap.
When you have performed all of the steps above and found a helmet that fits perfectly, the next step is to adjust the chin strap. It should fit snugly under your chin and be sized so that one finger can be placed comfortably between your throat and the throat latch.
Once you find the perfect helmet, wear it around the store for at least 10 minutes. If it gives you a headache, it’s too tight. It should become less noticeable and more comfortable as you wear it. Helmets do break in, which is why the initial fit must be snug.
With hospital admission rates of equestrians exceeding those of major sports, wearing a properly fitting helmet should be a “no brainer”. The perfect helmet does not have to be expensive or fancy. It just has to fit correctly and compliment your look. Always seek the help of an experienced helmet fitter to stay safe in the saddle. It may save your life. Contact us at Chagrin Saddlery if you have any questions.
Dana Miller, Partner, Equestrian Stylist, Chagrin Saddlery