You only get one head - make sure you look after yours!
Rule 49 of the Highway Code states:
Safety Equipment: Children under the age of 14 MUST wear a helmet which complies with the Regulations. It MUST be fastened securely. Other riders should also follow this advice. (LAW H (PHYR)R)
There are a wide variety of riding hats and helmets available, all of which have been designed to ensure that the wearer is as comfortable as possible while also being protected to the recognised safety standards. Riding hats are designed to be as effective as possible to help minimise the possible head injuries involved with horse riding, but in keeping with any safety equipment, no riding hat can be guaranteed to protect every rider in all circumstances.
It is essential that the hat chosen fits the head that is to wear it, and as every head is a different shape, it may take quite some time for riders to find the perfect hat for them. But also important is that the hat must be fastened at all times when the rider is mounted on their horse. It is much the best option to go to a reputable tack shop and get someone who has had BETA training in hat fitting, to fit the hat to your head – and never be tempted to buy a second hand hat; it is impossible see with the naked eye if it has been damaged.
The current BHS recognised standards are:
PAS 015; ASTM F1163; BSEN 1384; EN1384 and SNELL E2001
Download BETA's Guide to Riding Hats to find out more
With care, a good hat will last several years. Do not be tempted to leave your hat in direct sunlight – the shelf in the back of your car is definitely not a place to keep it! Let it dry naturally if it gets wet and don’t be tempted to put it on the radiator. Don’t drop it, or kick it around the floor. Each time it receives any impact, some of the protective properties will be used up and just when you want them to keep you safe, you will find that they may no longer be there!
Manufacturers all make hats in slightly different shapes to each other, so there is something for everyone. Whether you choose a really fancy, top of the range hat is unimportant – it should meet one of the standards above and, preferably, it should also have a quality assurance mark firmly fastened on its inner alongside the standard that the hat is tested to.
If you buy a hat that has been designed specifically for a child, you are unlikely to have VAT included in the price. Hats for children are made in all but the very largest hat sizes, as children’s heads generally stop growing when they reach around 13 years of age. This information was identified by a survey undertaken on Eton schoolboys who are required to wear formal hats, as opposed to soft caps. There are also hats on the market that are very economical to buy – but do ensure that they fit the purpose for which they are intended and they meet a recognised standard. You only have one head – keep it as safe as you can and wear a hat that is fastened each and every time you ride out.
CE Mark: All hats MUST be CE marked – that is, declaring compliance with the regulations implementing the European Community Directive 89.626EC (Statutory Instrument 1992 no: 3139). All hats to the above standards will have a CE mark firmly attached inside them.
KITEMARK BSI (British Standards Institute): The Kitemark is the registered trademark of the British Standards Institute and can only be affixed to products certified by them. Kitemark certification is voluntary and can be withdrawn at any time. It is a Quality Assurance Mark.
BSI Kitemarked hats to the European Standards will be stamped BSEN1384. When the Kitemark is displayed on the hat it:
- Gives the user visible evidence of the helmet’s quality, safety and performance as defined in the specification.
- Shows the helmets are independently and regularly batch tested by BSI to the appropriate specification.
Hats tested elsewhere in the European Union may be tested to EN1384 standard; however, they will not carry the BSI Kitemark strongly recommended by the BHS and many insurance companies.
Quality Assurance: Any standard hat with a Quality Assurance Mark (such as a BSI Kitemark or an SEI mark) can be viewed as safer than a hat to the same standard without. (Statement taken from BETA ‘What to Wear’ publication)
Competitions and events: Riders competing under the rules of an equestrian discipline, the Pony Club or British Riding Clubs should refer to their respective rule books to find which standards are acceptable under their specific rules.