Equestrian helmets may not be the biggest fashion sensation today, but there are some stories behind them. The distinctive style of the helmet, kept even in these days of modern materials and cutting-edge design, still reflects the tradition of conservatism proliferated by the early English riding headdress.
Unlike their predecessors, however, equestrian helmets of today serve a purpose beyond making people look good: safety. Not many people realize this, but competitive horse riding is a sport that can be fraught with danger. This is the reason why helmets of today are designed and standardized to make sure that a rider does not suffer serious cranial injuries when riding.
The helmet itself has an outer layer of plastic, which resists impact and prevents injuries in case of a fall. However, some helmets are designed with a cloth covering the shiny plastic in order to make the helmet look more attractive.
The brim of the helmet is designed to protect the eyes of the rider form the harsh glare of the sun. It also makes the helmet more attractive in terms of design. However, the brim is not made of the same materials as the “shell” of the helmet. Rather, it is designed to crumple during a fall. This makes the helmet safer in event a rider lands on the brim.
The inside of the helmet is designed with both comfort and safety in mind. Added padding makes sure that the helmet takes the brunt of the impact in case of a fall. The design is also very sport-specific: one of the reasons why an equestrian helmet is easily recognizable.
The design of the helmet makes sure that the whole head is protected. This is unlike bicycle or skating helmets, which focus the protection in the front and back of the head. It is also designed with the comfort of the rider in mind, with ventilation and positioning factored into the overall aesthetics.
There are many variations on the equestrian helmet based on the competition. Horseracing jockeys, for instance, wear helmets that are brimless and covered with a cloth matching the color scheme of their uniforms. Traditionalists frown upon the spreading use of brilliant colored helmets, but more and more people find the colors black, brown and gray boring.
There are also some varieties of equestrian helmets today that have been adapted to more “western” designs. These helmets, however, are yet to be embraced by riders in rodeos (where they are obviously more needed).
Standardization varies form country to country. However, a rider who joins a competition must have a standard helmet or that rider will not be allowed to compete. People who have performed a “conformity assessment” judge whether the helmet is up to standard
The conformity assessment is a series of tests that show how safe the helmet is. Some assessments involve various tests that simulate a rider falling from a horse and even getting kicked by a horse in the head.
Today, the equestrian helmet is not yet required for riders. However, they are becoming common practice. In fact, riding instructors today are required by insurance companies to make their students wear riding helmets in order to get an insurance policy. Some people may feel that equestrian helmets are uncomfortable and hot, but you should always remember that these helmets keep you safe.