Great article from MyHorse.com:
Everyone has an excuse for not wearing a helmet when they ride: “I’m not going to jump; I’m just going for a trail ride; my horse is perfectly safe; I’m only going to let my horse stretch his legs for a few minutes; I’m not going to do anything dangerous.”
Now think back to the last time you came off your horse. Were you jumping a high fence on a strange horse after an hour of hard work? Probably not. You were more likely doing an activity you do every day with your horse and the unexpected occurred, something you never could have anticipated.
That’s why it’s a good idea to wear a helmet every time you climb on a horse. You never know when and how an accident will occur. We work with our horses to minimize spooking, runaways and other dangerous situations. But we can’t anticipate everything. And if we’re challenging ourselves and our horses athletically, eventually we’re likely to attempt something that will cause a fall.
Fortunately, helmet manufacturers have been working to design better and safer helmets. So if you wear one and do fall, you’re much more likely to avoid a head injury than ever before. That’s important because, according to the American Medical Equine Association/Safe Riders Foundation, head injuries account for 20% of all equestrian injuries and 60% of fatalities occur from head injuries.
The danger to your head in a fall isn’t just the possibility of cracking your skull or sustaining a gash if your horse’s hoof hits your head. A lot of head injuries are actually injuries to the brain. When you are moving and your head meets a solid object (usually the ground), your brain doesn’t immediately stop its motion. It continues forward, often hitting the opposite side of your skull from where the impact occurred.
Many of today’s helmets conform to ASTM/SEI safety standards, meaning they have passed tests by the Safety Equipment Institute based on standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials. These tests are designed to emulate impacts that can occur in a fall from a horse. The helmets meeting these thresholds have an outside shell built to resist impact coupled with cushioning material inside the helmet to protect your skull and brain.
These helmets also have sturdy straps bolted into the helmet so that once you secure the strap under your chin, they are unlikely to come off. It is important to wear the harness strap properly latched every time. If your helmet goes flying off your head before you hit the ground, it won’t do you any good.
Proper fit will also allow the helmet to do its job. Not only do you need to find the correct size, everyone’s head has a different shape. The brand of helmet that fits your friend’s head may not be right for you. The helmet should sit comfortably on your head, and when you hold your head still and rock the helmet, your scalp should move with it. If your head is in between sizes, you can replace the pads inside the helmet with the thicker or thinner pads that the manufacturer often provides. Be sure that the harness strap fits under your chin snugly yet comfortably. If you have long hair, fasten it at the nape of the neck instead of trying to put the hair up under the helmet.
Many equestrian organizations and some states now have rules or laws in place that require wearing helmets when riding, especially for children. Groups such as the U.S. Equestrian Federation and many states’ 4-H organizations will prohibit a rider from competing in events where a helmet is required unless the rider has one that meets or exceeds ASTM/SEI standards.
In an effort to encourage equestrians to use a helmet, the Washington State University Cooperative Extension and Washington State 4-H Foundation have produced a 20-minute video narrated by William Shatner called “Every Time…Every Ride.” It blends interviews with video of horses in many sports, showing the benefits of wearing a proper helmet and the consequences of riding without one. The video notes that it’s the height that puts a rider at risk, and points out that an unprotected head can receive more than 1,000 g’s of force in any fall at any speed.
So strap on that helmet no matter what activity you plan with your horse today. It only takes a minute, and it could save your life.
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