Riding helmets have come a long way in recent years — and that’s a good thing. According to Riders 4 Helmets, referencing NEISS data from 2007, 78,279 people visited the emergency room that year due to horseback riding-related injuries, with about 15% of those injuries to the head. Fortunately, wearing a certified helmet can greatly reduce your risk of traumatic brain injury due to a fall or other horse-related accident, and as further research and advancements teach us more, we can look forward to even safer, more protective helmets in the future.
Long gone are the days in which a rider’s options were limited to a few styles of black velvet hunt cap that did little to actually protect you: riding helmets, designed specifically for the kind of impact and height of fall that riders are most likely to experience on (or off) the back of a horse, come in a myriad of styles and shapes, discipline-specific and comfortable for every shape of noggin out there. As a western rider in particular, I’m particularly excited to see a variety of “westerny” helmets increasingly available on the market, from rugged, rustic trail or ranch styles to edgy racing stripe decals for the speed event set.
I remember accepting my standard riding helmet as part of my gear for the barn when I first started lessons at the age of eight and pulling on one of those iconic bubble-head white plastic riding school varieties — you know the one, you look like a big ol’ ping-pong ball bouncing around up there. I think our options at the time were white and black, and maybe blue. Similarly, my bicycle helmet that I wore around the neighborhood while pretending my bike was a pony (in between actual riding lessons) was a monochromatic purple. I don’t recall being particularly upset about this.
I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon… but kids these days have options that my generation never imagined. For one, you can get unicorn-print anything. Whether this is actually to satisfy the children or to satisfy my child-bearing generation’s weird obsession with unicorns I’m still not entirely sure, but it’s possible to get almost anything done up in unicorn from leggings to teapots to frappuccinos.
And also, apparently, bicycle helmets.
Jamie Massey Jennings, good friend of Horse Nation and beloved co-host of the Horse Radio Network’s Horses in the Morning daily podcast, recently found this little number on a recent shopping excursion. Her lament: “Clearly the bicycle community has one-upped the equestrian community in helmet design.”
I can hear readers now: “The equestrian helmet is traditional and stylish just the way it is!” “What would George Morris say?” “Can’t we just be happy with the helmets we have?”
Certainly, yes — again, the riding helmet has come a long way. But while I don’t recall ever pitching much resistance to wearing a helmet any time I was aboard a horse, there’s always an argument to be made that a little extra self-expression could be helpful in reminding kids that safety is cool.
Like, okay, I would definitely be okay with wearing this.
JAMIE YOU LOOK SO COOL.
Also, maybe this.
Just imagine how [email protected]$$ I would look driving my draft horses around the neighborhood like a centurion.
Okay, I guess it IS possible to take things too far. Spiderman doesn’t really need to be here.
And this one is… unsettling.
(I do like the pink hair though.)
And this one… this one is just plain terrifying. I don’t imagine a lot of horses would like it either.
Okay, maybe the equestrian community doesn’t need to get too much more inspired. I take it back. Classy and traditional? That sounds pretty good to me.
DISCLAIMER: Helmets are designed for specific impacts. As much fun as these bicycle helmets might be for the young rider in your family, bicycle helmets are designed specifically for falls from a bicycle — much different physics are at work when a rider falls from a horse. Please only use an ASTM/SEI certified equestrian helmet for horse-related activities.