How old is your riding helmet?

Sometimes I’m A Numbskull

I hadn’t asked myself about my riding safety equipment in a long time. Not that it’s an excuse, but I didn’t ride consistently after college, so the state of my riding helmet never dawned on me.

My parents graciously purchased a Charles Owen Hampton Hat for me during my freshman year of college. It was a gorgeous black velvet, fit me like a dream, and looked awesome when I was all done up in my hunt coat, clean Tailored Sportsmans and spit-shined tall boots.


That was all awesome at the time, buuuut I graduated from college in 2006. Nearly 10 years ago! That meant my helmet was purchased 4 years before THAT, which, by the transitive property, meant my helmet was really frigging old, worn out, and extremely unsafe. I was especially ashamed of myself because I’d argue that a helmet is the most important piece of equestrian equipment you need, and it was careless of me to forget about it.

The facts of this matter dawned on me a few weeks ago, so I finally took a good look at my helmet. I didn’t take pictures, but I wish I had.

Here’s the skinny: if it was made from foam or padding, it was crumbling. If it was made from fabric, it was stained and smelled terrible. The chin strap, which started as a nude color, was blackening with years–nay, more than a DECADE of sweat/oil/tears. The velvet was in good condition; but it wasn’t a consolation because the velvet has zero impact on the effectiveness of the helmet.

In short, it was a pretty sorry state of affairs. I can’t believe I kept putting that disgusting thing on my head. Worse? If you recall, I fell off of Oliver wearing the very same helmet a few months ago. I didn’t bang my head, but what if I had? Not good. Not good at all. I should have tossed it long ago.

The ol’ Chuck Owens served me well and I can’t complain about that, but that thing went straight into the garbage.

In its place is a brandy-new IRH Elite. It’s my first foray into the product line of IRH, but I’m happy so far! I love the vents, the chin strap is comfortable and super-adjustable, and gosh darn it, the helmet looks really nice too. Far more important–my skull is a lot happier and safer.


Protecting Your Noggin

If you’re a rider, such as myself, and it’s been a few years since you gave your helmet a good inspection, do yourself a big favor and check it out. If you can’t remember when you bought the helmet (which might be a good indication that it’s time for a new one), there’s a little tag inside the lining that should have the manufacturer’s date on it.

Aside from age, any kind of material degradation, mold/mildew or rust, or significant compression of padding is bad news. Staining of the lining is forgivable, but can lead to further breakdown if steps aren’t taken periodically to clean it. There are tons of sprays for day-to-day use, or you can check out the care recommendations provided by your helmet’s manufacturer.

There are lots of companies and options available for riding helmets, so keep in mind a few key factors when you’re shopping around:

  1. Compliance with ASTM standards
  2. Intended use (specific discipline and standards, amount of use, etc)
  3. Proper fit! The highest-rated, safest, most excellent helmets are useless if they fit poorly. Have a friendly associate at your tack shop of choice help you determine if a helmet fits you properly.

It goes without saying that if you’ve fallen from your horse and/or struck your helmet on ANYTHING, you need to get a new one. No ifs, ands, or buts. You’ve got one braincase and it would behoove you to be very careful with it at all times.

Happy riding!

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