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How to correctly fit an equestrian helmet

Follow these steps to find a safe, comfortable riding helmet.

By Leslie Potter
Photos Lesley Ward
| May 2011 Extra

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Wearing a helmet isn't just a requirement for jumpers and dressage riders. It's good common sense for any rider. Whether you're looking for a cool, comfortable schooling helmet to wear on the trails or a sporty model for the show ring, protective headgear is most effective—and comfortable—if it fits properly. Here's how to find a helmet that will fit you correctly.

Equestrian Helmet Fit Step 1: MeasuringStep 1: Measure
Using a flexible fabric measuring tape, measure the circumference of your head one inch above your eyebrows. You can do it yourself, or recruit a friend to make sure the tape stays flat and even around your head for an accurate measurement. Your measurement in centimeters corresponds to a hat size. Consult individual manufacturer's websites for a size chart, or use the hat size conversion chart below as a starting point.

Equestrian Helmet Fit Step 2: Preparing the HelmetStep 2: Prepare the Helmet
Some styles of helmet have a built-in fitting system, such as a dial or a ratcheting mechanism in the back that will help the helmet fit snugly. Before trying it on, open the fitting system to its widest setting. Let the chin strap out far enough so that you will be able to buckle it, and then tighten it once you have the helmet on. Some helmets also have padded liners that can be adjusted for a more custom fit. If you're not sure how it will fit, try the largest setting first, then add more pads later.

Equestrian Helmet Fit Step 3: Positioning the HelmetStep 3: Position the Helmet
Place the helmet on your head. If it is wobbly or uncomfortably tight, try a new size. If it seems okay, tighten the fitting mechanism, if applicable, and the chin strap. Make sure the helmet isn't tilted. The brim should be about an inch above your eyebrows and level across. You should feel even pressure around the circumference of your head. The chin strap should not be loose at all, but not so tight that you cannot move your head up and down comfortably.

Equestrian Helmet Fit Step 4: Checking the Helmet's FitStep 4: Check the Fit
Shake your head side to side and up and down. Your helmet shouldn't wobble at all. You may be able to make some adjustments to the fitting mechanism or the pads to correct an imperfect fit, but any major sliding or wobbling means you need to go down a size or try a different model. Your helmet should feel snug enough that it won't move if you hang your head upside down, but if it gives you a headache, try a different one.

Things to Remember

  • Make sure your helmet is approved by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the Safety Equipment Institute (SEI). This ensures that the helmet has been tested for equestrian use. ASTM/SEI approved headgear is required if you are showing over fences or in dressage at United States Equestrian Federation competitions.
  • Using a tape measure will give you an idea of the correct size, but everyone's head is shaped differently, so even if you find the correct size, it may not be a comfortable fit.Try on a few different helmets before you decide which one to purchase.
  • Helmet manufacturers are always improving the safety and fit of their products. This means that even if you just want to replace your old helmet with a new version in the same make and model, you should still try one on, if you can.
  • When you go to try on helmets, wear your hair the way you will when you are riding. A ponytail might put you a size up from what you would wear with your hair down. If you are purchasing a helmet for show, try it with your hair up and under the helmet or in a bun, depending on how you will wear it when you're competing.
Helmet Size Conversion Chart
Head Size (Inches) Hat Size Alt. Size
20
6 ½ X-Small
20 ½ 6 5/8 X-Small
21 6 ¾ Small
21 ½ 6 7/8 Small
22 7 Medium
22 ½ 7 1/8 Medium
23 7 ¼
Large
23 ½ 7 3/8 Large
24 7 ½ Large
24 ½ 7 5/8 X-Large
25 7 ¾ X-Large
25 ½ 7 7/8 X-Large
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How to correctly fit an equestrian helmet

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Reader Comments

Ellie    Rainham, AS

10/5/2014 4:09:15 AM

thank, you for the good advice i also agree with cynthia to encourage purchases of local tack shops, x

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

8/13/2013 11:13:47 PM

Good advice.

PKL    Somewhere, WY

8/11/2013 5:35:28 AM

I agree with Cynthia, Everyone should support local tack shops, rather than buy helmets on line. But this was a nice article to learn about fitting.

Cynthia    Boise, ID

1/21/2013 12:43:43 PM

I sought your advice for fitting instructions before visiting my local shop to purchase a helmet. Shame on you for encouraging folks to save money if they want to visit their local shop, try their helmets on, and then order it online. If you want your local shop to have to close down due to lack of financial support, this will surely do it. I was sorry to hear this advice. Please change it.

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