These days, safety is always a topic of conversation, especially when it comes to eventing. We talk about everything from jump safety, safety for our equine partners, rules that help ensure we’re as safe as possible when competing in our inherently dangerous sport, and so much more. So let’s take a minute and talk about our brains and head safety.
Wearing a riding helmet is a no-brainer (pun intended) for most of us these days, and of course it’s required at any show and almost every riding facility. But many people don’t wear a helmet all the time, and even those of us that do (yes, I’m a more recent convert to the helmet-every-ride believers) aren’t all aware of the ins and outs of helmet ownership that include how to wear, store, when to replace and more so here goes.
Quick riding helmet tips!
- Make sure your helmet fits properly. An improperly fitting helmet won’t protect you correctly in the event of a fall or impact. How to know if your helmet fits? It should be snug with the chin strap securely under your chin but not so tight it is uncomfortable. It should be snug around your skull and sit just above the eyebrows, which should wiggle if you move your head. If you turn your head upside down without the chin strap buckled, the helmet should stay on snugly, and it should fit evenly around your entire head.
- For best protection, your hair should be worn down and not tucked in or folded under your helmet – this is especially important with longer haired riders because having your hair inside your helmet not only affects fit, but adds another layer between your skull and your helmet that can move and shift when you ride! I know, I know…my former hunter eq trainers would be rolling their eyes at this one, but in the words of one of those very trainers, “form follows function not fashion” and in this case, those words are ever so true!
- Always replace your helmet after a fall or impact – this includes if the impact is you dropping your helmet, tripping over it, and then accidentally running it over with your tack cart while unloading your trailer after an event (this may or may not be based on a true story…). Helmets are designed to take one impact, and when it comes to your brain, it’s not worth the risk of assuming “it was just minor.” With your brain, nothing is minor!
- When not riding, store your helmet out of direct sunlight or extreme heat or cold, preferably at room temperature. That means don’t leave it in your trailer all year, and especially try to avoid extreme humidity. I once had a helmet shell separate entirely from the protective layer due to being exposed to heat and humidity. My answer back then was to buy some heavy duty double-sided tape and stick it back together because I couldn’t afford to replace it then. Years later, with ongoing neck and head issues that have lead to a slew of problems (migraines are just the tip of the iceberg), I look back on that and cringe!
- Keep your helmet clean. Just like anything else, dust and dirt can build up and make it grimy – but also can impact your willingness to wear it (who wants a stinky head?) and lead to the protective materials breaking down sooner than the standard timeframe.
- Speaking of, what IS the standard timeframe for which a helmet is expected to last? Most brands say between 3-5 years from point of purchase without being involved in a fall. For people who ride regularly including myself, I recommend the 3 year rule. Yes, helmets are expensive. But your brain is priceless!
So there’s 6 quick tips on riding helmets. Just realized that your helmet is more than 3 years old and suddenly panicking that you need to replace it? Uvex equestrian USA is doing a special promotion through 2/15 where you can get $50 off when you trade in your old helmet (any brand) for a new uvex helmet. Talk to a uvex equestrian USA retailer for details, but most importantly ride in a helmet – ANY ASTM/SEI equestrian approved helmet – that fits YOUR head and is comfortable to you. The best helmet in the world is no good if it doesn’t fit you properly or you don’t wear it, so I like to say the best helmet really is the one you’ll actually wear.