Head protection is a critical element of rider safety. According to the Equestrian Medical Safety Association, 60% of equestrian fatalities are caused by head injuries! While equestrian helmets are far safer than they used to be, if your helmet doesn’t fit, it can compromise your safety.
I see far too many people riding with helmets that are obviously too large — they move around too much on the rider’s head. I’ve also heard people complain that their helmets leave indents on their foreheads or give them headaches — indicating the helmets are either too small or the wrong shape for their heads.
Helmet fit is very individual. I know that I can try on multiple helmets that are technically the same size only to find that I don’t like how most of them fit — even when they are just different models from the same company. That’s why it’s better to try a helmet on at a tack store, rather than order one from a catalog or website before you’ve assessed fit.
To determine whether a helmet fits, you should start with a helmet that is ASTM/SEI certified (if you’re in the U.S.) and then go through the following checklist.
- Is you hair the way you intend to have it when you ride. Helmet fit is profoundly influenced by your hair — to the point that if you change your hair style significantly you might need to re-evaluate how your helmet fits!
- Place your helmet on your head. The hat should sit level and the brim should be 3/4″ to 1″ above your eyebrows.
- Before fastening the harness, gently rock the helmet back and forth. The helmet should be snug enough that the skin on your forehead and your eyebrows should move along with the helmet.
- Fasten the straps. The side straps should come to a point right in front of your ear lobes.
- When the harness is fastened, it should be snug enough to keep the helmet from tilting forward.
- The harness should snap under your chin and should be snug, but not tight.
- If possible, wear the helmet for about 10 minutes to assess whether any pressure points start to appear, especially across your forehead.
- Don’t forget to replace your helmet if you have a fall where you hit your head. While the helmet might look fine, the internal padding may have been compromised.