As any horse lover knows, your riding hat is an essential piece of equipment- in fact it’s probably the most important item of kit which you own.
Riders of all ages should ensure that they wear a correctly fitted and properly secured riding hat when mounted at any time, and this is doubly true for children, for whom riding on the road without a suitable riding hat is actually illegal.
Whether you’re just getting into riding or think it’s about time you upgraded or replaced your existing riding hat, there are a wide range of different types of hats on the market to choose between, and it can be difficult to know where to begin. Read on to find out about how to pick the right style of riding hat for you, how to make sure it is comfortable and a good fit, and how to take care of it properly.
While riding hats come in many different shapes, sizes, colours and styles, all of the riding hats you might be considering should have one thing in common- they should be certified as safe and fit for purpose. All riding hats sold in the UK and used in environments such as The Pony Club events or at an approved riding school must be notated with one of two safety standard numbers, being EN1384/BSEN1384 or PAS 015 respectively, and marked with the BSI Kitemark.
All riding hats fall into one of two basic style categories, with a significant range of options and variations within the two main types- but a good starting point is deciding if you would like to buy a riding helmet, or a skull cap (sometime called a jockey skull cap).
The types of hats known as ‘riding helmets’ are the traditional style riding hats covered in dark coloured velvet and with a peak built into the design of the hat. A skull cap is a plain unadorned lid- type riding hat, similar in appearance and shape to modern cycle helmets. You can then choose to buy a cover to go on your skull cap, which is known as a ‘silk,’ which gives your skull cap a more traditional appearance similar to the riding helmets mentioned above.
The decision as to which type of riding hat is right for you is largely down to a matter of personal choice. If you wish to take part in a lot of showing events, the riding helmet is considered to be more traditional, but can be harder to keep clean and looking good. A skull cap has the advantage of the wide range of interchangeable silks which you can buy to cover it, offering an almost limitless number of colours and designs to suit your mood or personal tastes! While the internal shape and fit of any type of riding hat can vary from range to range, some people generally find that one style of riding hat seems to be more comfortable or match the shape of their head better, which is of course the mot important consideration when making your final decision as to what kind of riding hat to buy.
When addressing the question ‘should I buy a new riding hat or consider a second hand one?’ the answer is very simple- Buy new. Your riding hat is the barrier that will potentially lie between you and a serious head injury. Riding hats are good for protection from one impact only- after a fall or a knock they should be replaced, even if no apparent damage is visible on the outside of the hat. The only way you can be sure that your riding hat is in good enough condition to protect your head in the event of a fall, is to buy new.
When buying your riding hat, unless you are replacing your current hat like for like with the exact same make and model as a hat your have owned previously, you are going to need to try several hats on to find the perfect fit. Even if you know your hat size, the internal shape and fitting of riding hats can vary greatly between ranges, so always try your potential new hat on before buying.
Large tack shops and country stores will generally have a trained riding hat fitter who can help and advise you. They should also have a wide range of display hats in every shape and size on sale for you to try on. You will need to wear your prospective new helmet for at least fifteen minutes to make sure that it remains comfortable and does not begin to pinch or slip, so make sure you choose a tack shop or seller who is happy for you to do this. Your riding hat is an investment in your future health and safety- it’s important not to cut corners.
Your riding hat should be a snug but not tight fit. When secured with the chin strap and adjusted correctly, the hat should not slip or move about on your head. You should only be able to move the hat very slightly by pushing or pulling it in any direction- if you can move it more than this, it is too loose. If the hat you are trying on gives you a headache, pinches or produces pressure points on the head, then it is too tight.
As mentioned, the shape and fitting of individual hats can vary between brands, so try several hats to find the perfect fit for you.
You must always replace your riding hat after a fall or impact. Riding hats help to protect the head by absorbing the force of an impact by degrading the inner padding. Damage to a riding hat is often not visible from the outside, so simply looking over your hat and thinking it seems ok after a fall is not good enough. You must replace your riding hat every time it takes a knock from a fall or an impact.
Similarly, take care of how you store your hat! Make sure it can’t fall off a high shelf or roll around loose in the car, as your hat doesn’t necessarily have to be on your head to become damaged from a knock or bump!
Even if you take impeccably good care of your riding hat and haven’t had a fall in years, replace your riding hat every two years, as the vagaries of the hot and cold weather and general wear and tear can compromise the effectiveness of the protective padding.
Stay safe and happy riding!