Honoring Equestrian Headgear On International Helmet Awareness Day


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Honoring Equestrian Headgear On International Helmet Awareness Day

Morgan Murphy

Honoring Equestrian Headgear On International Helmet Awareness Day

July 12 signifies the yearly event of International Helmet Awareness Day. This important campaign, launched by Riders4Helmets and promoted throughout the USA, Australia, Canada, the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland, educates horse lovers on the importance and benefits of wearing a helmet when riding. Your head is very precious, housing the center of your nervous system, and so protecting your skull and brain from injury during a high-risk sport makes a lot of sense! 

The campaign was founded following a 2010 accident in which US Dressage Olympian Courtney King-Dye sustained a brain injury after falling from a horse while not wearing a helmet and was consequently left in a coma for one month. King-Dye’s rehabilitation is ongoing and she has since dedicated her time to encouraging riders not to make the same mistake as she did, but to instead wear a helmet at all times when on horseback to minimize and/or avoid sustaining injury to such a delicate and important part of the body.

Wearing a helmet is a sensible choice*

Whatever discipline you ride, but particularly for those riders undertaking high-risk activities such as training young horses, cross-country trials, hunter-jumper courses or trialing a new horse, it is important to wear a correctly fitted helmet.   Here are some important things to consider when purchasing and using your essential headwear:

  • Helmets should conform to ASTM/SEI standards. Approved helmets are usually labeled as such but you can find a full list of helmets which conform to the current standard (ASTM - F1163-04a) at  SEI’s website.

  • When choosing a helmet always ensure that it is fitted to your head by a professional. The fit must be accurate in order to provide the best level of protection; research on cyclists conducted by Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center suggests that a correctly fitted helmet offers twice as much protection as an ill-fitted one. A properly fitting helmet may feel tight but it should be secure and not move. It is highly recommended that you invest in your own helmet, regardless of whether or not you own a horse, if you ride on a regular basis.


  • In addition to wearing a correctly fitting helmet, you must have the harness correctly fastened. If the harness is not snug, the helmet can rotate in the event of a fall and thus be unable to protect your head correctly.


  • If you have had any type of blow to the helmet you should replace it straight away. It is not always possible to see damage that has occurred as it may be internal.


  • A little-known fact is that, even without damage, you should replace your helmet every 4-5 years. Over time the interior of your helmet deteriorates from sweat and heat from the head and thus becomes weakened and liable to fracture. The padding within the lining will also become compacted which will affect the fit of the helmet and in turn reduce the protection it offers.


  • Never purchase a secondhand helmet or share one with another rider - you cannot be sure that the helmet has never been dropped or involved in an accident and any such action could jeopardize your safety.  Similarly, if you purchase your helmet online it is important to check the fit with a professional and evaluate whether any damage took place during transit.


  • Depending on your hair and how you wear it, adjust the fit to accommodate your style. If you have a ponytail or a bun for riding ensure you try your helmet with your hair in this style prior to purchasing, hence guaranteeing the correct fit.


  • Handling a horse on the ground can be just as risky as riding, with approximately 20% of accidents which result in a head injury happening while the person is on the ground. Injuries obtained from a kick or accident during ground work may be as severe as those sustained during a fall, so it is a good idea to wear a helmet at all times when dealing with equines, particularly if the horse is young, a protective dam or a stallion. 


  • It is important to remember that there is no statistical correlation between skill level and injury likelihood. As sadly evidenced by Courtney King-Dye’s accident, professional riders are equally at risk of injury as less experienced or infrequent riders.


  • The risk of injury from a fall is great – even a fall from a standing horse can be dangerous, but the risk is increased by the height of the drop and the speed at which you become unseated. A well-fitting helmet will not move at high speed and will remain in place during any fall, so if concussion occurs you are offered the highest level of protection possible.


  • If you do fall, remember always to consult a medical professional or visit the emergency room. Even with an appropriately fitted helmet, head injuries can be dangerous, even unnoticeable at the time of the accident, and worsen over time. It is better to be safe than sorry so be sure to check with your local ER if the worst does happen.

For more hints and tips on riding visit Spalding Labs again soon. 

*Image courtesy of "Mac n Fiona" by Heymistdowns - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mac_n_Fiona.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Mac_n_Fiona.jpg.

  • Such good advice , I wear my helmet all the time after what happened to Courtney it isn't worth risking