Do I Really Need to Wear a Riding Helmet?

Accidents happen in a split second, and lives are ended or change for the worse when equestrians choose to ride without helmets.

“Do I really have to wear a riding helmet?” This is a question heard over and over again. While some choose to ride their horses without helmets, statistics show that riding helmets make a difference. Here’s why.

Helmets Save Lives

Laws in many places require motorcycle riders and cyclists to wear helmets – and for a good reason: A traumatic head injury can happen in an instant, and if it doesn’t kill you, it will almost certainly have a negative impact on your future.

According to NEISS, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, approximately 78,000 people visited emergency rooms for horse-related injuries in 2007, and about 15% of those were head injuries. Break down the numbers and you’ll discover that about 12,000 riders sustained head injuries. Helmets would have made a difference.

Take a good look at an experienced equestrian’s favorite riding helmet, and you’re likely to see a few dings and scratches. “Brain buckets” as they’re sometimes called protect riders from being scratched and whacked by branches while trail riding, and they provide quite a bit of insurance against injury in the event you come off your horse.

But I’m an Experienced Rider!

There’s an old saying you might have heard in the past, and it does a great job of explaining why riders with more experience really need to wear riding helmets:

“New riders fall off. Experienced riders are launched!”

Think about it for a minute. New riders are typically learning on slower, more steady mounts. They’re not working tight patterns at a canter, they’re not jumping three-rail fences and they are probably not hacking out on extended trail rides far away from emergency help.

Experienced riders are moving faster, riding greener horses much of the time, and taking part in events that can easily result in accidental injury.

I’ve Never Been Bucked Off!

We’ve all heard stories about people who have ridden their entire lives without being bucked off. Many of us have had gut-wrenching moments but have managed to remain atop our mounts, calming them and stopping safely. Many of us avoid wearing riding helmets, thinking “It just isn’t going to happen to me.”

The truth is, it only takes a single incident that happens in a split second to end or change a life. Riders who are bucked off, have an equipment failure, or have a horse slip and fall are likely to suffer traumatic injuries when riding without helmets. In many cases, accidents like these cause riding helmets to crack, showing what would have happened to the rider’s head if not for the fact that he or she was riding without a helmet.

OK…So I guess I need a Riding Helmet. Are Some Safer than Others?

The most important factor in choosing a helmet is ensuring that it is ASTM and FEI certified. Be sure to avoid so-called helmets with tags reading “apparel only” inside. These will not provide the level of protection you need.

You have only one brain, and a single concussion is guaranteed to do damage. Once you’ve injured your head, there’s no going back to the way things were before. Rather than live a lifetime of regret or subject loved ones to a painful loss, pick a comfortable helmet and wear it every time you ride.