Thinking With Your Head About Your Helmet Before Riding Your Horse

Wearing helmets while riding horses on the beach.
Wearing helmets while riding horses on the beach. Ed Dunens

Newsdate: Wednesday August 1, 2018, 8:30 pm
Location: LEXINGTON, Kentucky

You’ve seen those commercials talking about replacing your mattress after every eight years—after all, that’s a lot of dead skin cells, dirt, dust mites, etc., that gathers every night. And when it comes to your favorite pair of riding pants, you don’t think twice about replacing them when they’re starting to be worn thin, or maybe showing a little too much wear and tear. But do you even think about how old your helmet is?

Horseback riders wearing updated helmets.

Horseback riders wearing updated helmets

Wearing a helmet can help reduce the chance of a lethal head injury, but wearing a helmet that's passed its effective date might not fully protect you.
© 2018 by Shutterstock

Go ahead, take a moment from reading this to find your helmet and look at the tags inside. We’ll wait…

Did you see the date? Or is it so faded you can’t tell if that’s a three or an eight? Can you even remember when you purchased it? It might just be time to buy a new helmet.

As we prepare to celebrate the ninth annual Riders4Helmets International Helmet Awareness Day, we want to applaud everyone who don’t think twice about putting on a helmet before swinging their leg over a horse. They are the ones that know that wearing a helmet can help reduce the chance of a lethal head injury.

But if you’ve worn helmets most of your life, you might be the type to just pick up the same velveteen-covered helmet that has gotten through your junior rider years and onto your adult classes because…well, it’s “broken in” and more comfortable. But wearing a helmet that’s passed its limit of effectiveness might not fully protect you in the way an updated helmet can.

Did you know that helmet manufacturers generally recommend that you replace your helmet every four to five years (this can be sooner depending on level of use)? Think about all the time you spend in the saddle—the liters of sweat, the coats of dust, and drenching from the rains all take a toll on your helmet and causes the Styrofoam inside to break down, reducing its effectiveness at protection.

If you’ve had an accident while wearing your helmet, no matter how minor it was (i.e., your head just barely hit the ground), that can reduce the effectiveness of the helmet’s protection. Damage to the helmet might not be visible to the naked eye, so you can’t assume there is no issue after a fall. Of course, any catastrophic incident can render a helmet useless and cause for an immediate replacement.

And when you do go to purchase a new helmet, take precautions when it comes to proper fit and ensuring the date of manufacture. When trying on helmets, be sure to wear your hair the way you would any time you ride—if you prefer a bun, wear a bun, if you prefer a ponytail, wear your hair in a ponytail—then go shop.

Also, check the manufacture date on the inside of the helmet, no matter if you’re purchasing new or used. Take caution when considering purchasing a used helmet, since the helmet may have sustained damage from a previous incident that you can’t see.

Don’t think that only children or novice riders should be the ones to wear an approved helmet—there has been no statistical correlation between skill level and the likelihood of an injury when it comes to equestrian sport. You can even have a catastrophic injury from falling off a horse that’s standing still.

If you like to think with your head, take a moment to consider your head first and wearing proper protection.

To find out more about International Helmet Awareness Day, visit riders4helmets and learn how leading helmet manufacturers around the globe are offering special discounts to help keep you safe in the saddle this year.

For more information on the Riders4Helmets campaign and more information on rider safety, visit You can also follow the campaign at,, and

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