AS MUCH AS we love them, we all know our four-legged friends can be unpredictable and riding is never going to be risk-free. Head injuries present the most serious danger, so make sure you’re safe, not sorry, by wearing a protective hat that meets the latest safety standards, both for riding and preferably when handling your horse too. When it comes to safety there should be no compromise. Developments in materials and design mean that hats are now lightweight and well ventilated — just what you need when you’re riding — as well as offering the very best protection to your head in the event of an accident. While there’s no law saying you have to wear a riding hat (unless you’re under 14 years of age), we advise that you always do.
Choosing a hat
With such a vast choice of riding hats available, you need to consider what riding activies you are going to do. If you compete in certain disciplines, for example, you’ll need to check each discipline’s rule book so you buy the correct hat. Otherwise, it comes down to personal choice: whether you prefer a traditional-looking riding hat, a skull cap or perhaps one with a touch of bling.
Getting the right fit
Comfort and fit are essential and, as different brands offer varying styles and fittings, it’s important to use a qualified hat fitter to help you find a hat that suits your head shape. Only a properly fitting hat will provide you with the maximum level of protection in the event of a fall. As a guide, your hat should sit on your head, just above your ears and eyebrows. It should fit snugly all the way round your head but with no pressure on your temples. If, when the harness is fastened, the hat can be easily dislodged, it’s too big for you. Always ensure the harness is correctly fastened. This normally consists of two parts — a chin strap that sits under your jaw and another that fits round the back of your neck. Some hats have a dial adjustment to help you get the best fit. It’s this back strap that stops the hat from tipping forward onto your nose, and why it’s essential to fasten it correctly. If you’re in any doubt, pop into your local BETA-trained retailer and ask them to check the fit for you.