Helmets have become increasingly popular as they are encouraged- or even mandatory- across disciplines. Ranging vastly in size, style and price, a trip to your local tack shop can leave you overwhelmed.
Here are a few tips to find the helmet that fits you- and your budget.
1.Focus on Fit
It is important to determine what shape your head is. A wide selection of helmets ensures you can find a helmet with a shell that is the same shape as your head. A helmet may be the correct size but wrong shape- pinching at your temples or gaping in other areas.
These two helmets are the same size and brand. As you can see, they have drastically different shells to accommodate different head shapes.
You can test if the helmet is the right shape simply by using your finger:
The Troxel Liberty ($79.99) in size small fits Christine properly, sitting one finger width above her brow. I can fit the very tip of my finger between the side of the helmet and her temple. I can barely fit my finger between the back of the helmet and her head.
Let’s take a look at Christine in a similar helmet. The Tipperary Sportage ($89.99) in size extra small appears to fit her correctly.
A finger check reveals it is not the right shape for her head. I can fit my entire hand between the helmet and her head. This means it isn’t contacting her head properly. Because of this, it will not provide sufficient protection in the event of a fall.
2. A Snug Hug
Once we’ve determined your head shape, we can focus on size. While comfort is important, the right helmet should fight tighter than a ball cap, toque, snowmobile helmet, or even any helmet that had been previously fitted to you. The right helmet fits snugly, with even pressure all the way around your head. Safety and comfort go hand in hand- if the helmet is uncomfortable, it likely won’t provide the coverage you’ll need in the event of a fall. Helmets take a brief period to “settle”, so if it’s slightly too tight in the store, when the padding packs down and moulds to your head it should fit just right.
The Tipperary Sportage fits Alison correctly. Notice how even a vigorous shake doesn’t move the helmet off of her head. The chinstrap was intentionally left undone- a properly fitting helmet will stay put without it. Chinstraps ensure the helmet stays on in all events, but doesn’t affect the fit of the helmet itself.
3. Price Doesn’t Equal Safety
The helmet that fits your head will keep you the most safe. If a helmet doesn’t fit your head shape, regardless of how expensive it is, it won’t provide the coverage necessary to protect you in the event of a fall.
The GPA Speed Air retails for $739.00, but would not provide Christine sufficient protection because it doesn’t fit properly.
There are a number of helmets in the $100 range that reach all of North America’s safety standards. These standards are set in place by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and are independently tested by the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI). All helmets that reach these standards have an ASTM/SEI seal of approval on the helmet. Tack shops rarely carry helmets that aren’t approved, but look for this seal to be sure.
The shell of your helmet is comprised of thousands of micro- bubbles. These bubbles burst to absorb the impact of a fall. Because of this, your helmet will protect you for one fall only. Even if you can’t see any outer damage, the shell may be compromised and will not protect you in the future. It’s smart to replace your helmet every 3-5 years even if it hasn’t taken a fall. Dust, sweat, and exposure to heat can also compromise the shell.
A comfortable and properly fitting helmet will grant you the confidence and safety to fully explore your equestrian ventures.