In this article, we’ll be highlighting the crucial role helmets play in ensuring your safety in equestrian sports.
Numerous campaigns stress the importance of wearing helmets in equestrian activities. However, there remains a worrying trend in equestrian sports – indeed many sports – where riders choose not to wear them. So in today’s article, we’ll be highlighting the crucial role helmets play in ensuring your safety in equestrian sports.
A mentor of mine once shared something that stayed with me: “Riding is not a dangerous sport; when approached safely, it’s a controlled risk.” This holds true. You can take several simple, extra measures to enhance equestrian safety. Accidents can occur: the principles of Murphy’s law hold just as much relevance in the equestrian world. You can never predict when or why a fall or accident might happen. However, that shouldn’t deter you from riding and pursuing your passion. Speaking of Murphy’s law, one might say, “I won’t be using a helmet today because I won’t be jumping.” To this, my response would be, “What if your horse stumbled unexpectedly while you were riding?”
Equestrian safety: the stats
Did you know that approximately 70% of casualties caused by equestrian-related accidents are attributed to head and neck injuries? Even more important is that 2 out of 3 of these riding injuries might have been prevented with certain other equestrian safety measures in place. Another sobering fact is that horseback riding is the leading cause of sports-related brain injuries like concussions. Further to this, the most crucial point: wearing a helmet may have prevented 50% of those casualties. It’s a sad truth, but we, as equestrians, have the power to change that.
Of course, while wearing a helmet can save lives, injuries inevitably still occur. However, armed with the right information to invest in a durable and long-lasting helmet, you can take proactive steps toward ensuring your safety during your rides.
Helmets have a limited lifespan
No matter how good the helmet, like most protective gear, it has a finite service life. How do you know when it’s time to replace your helmet? Let’s take a look at the tell-tale warning signs.
- Age: Wear and tear limit the lifespan of helmets. Material degradation occurs over time due to sunlight exposure and other factors. Experts advise replacement every 3 to 5 years, even if they appear to be in perfect condition and have never been involved in an accident. Refer to your helmet’s manual or label for its manufacturing or expiration date to determine when it’s time for a replacement.
- Crashes or Impacts: If you experience an impact while wearing the helmet or if it suffers a significant fall while not in use, it should be replaced immediately. Helmets are designed to absorb impacts, and even a minor impact can compromise their effectiveness. Despite lacking visible damage, the risk isn’t worth it.
- Visible Damage: Replace your helmet if you observe any visible damage, such as cracks, dents, or deformations.
- Worn Straps or Buckles: If the helmet’s straps and/or buckles are worn, stretched, and unable to provide a secure fit, it’s a clear signal that it’s time for a replacement.
- Fading or Discoloration: These are symptoms of damage due to sunlight or other environmental factors like temperature changes. If significant fading or discoloration is present, it suggests material degradation and signals that it’s time to replace the helmet.
Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for replacing helmets. If you’re unsure whether a helmet should be replaced, it’s a good idea to contact the manufacturer or seek expert advice.
How the helmet fits
A helmet must be comfortable but fit in a way that effectively secures your head. Not all heads have the same shape, and although most models will adjust to your head, it’s important to choose an appropriate helmet. Another important thing is size; you should measure your head circumference just above your ears. Most helmets offer some degree of regulation that helps to adjust them slightly. You shouldn’t feel it uncomfortably tight or too loose. Loose helmets tend to tip to the front and block your vision. Besides, in case of an accident, a loose helmet can cause more harm than good.
The helmet should sit level on your head. The front rim should be slightly above your eyebrows, protecting your forehead. Besides, it should cover the top of your ears. When trying on a new helmet, shake your head gently; the helmet should stay securely in place without wobbling. If it does, it’s likely too loose.
It’s important to ensure you’re also adjusting the chinstrap properly. The chinstrap has to keep the helmet in place, without causing discomfort. You should be able to open your mouth naturally. The “Y” shape side straps are also crucial for securing the helmet, but they shouldn’t be excessively or uncomfortably tight.
Wearing a helmet is the way to practice equestrian safety and, wearing one won’t interfere with your riding skills. Even the most experienced rider could have an accident simply walking their horse; no one is exempt. But in case of a fall, it’s best to be protected in the best possible way. As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.