All horseriders need a reliable and safety-approved helmet. Horse riding is a dangerous sport – there’s no getting around that. Horse riding accidents aren’t exactly a common occurrence, but when they do occur, they can be fatal. The danger of the sport can be mitigated significantly with a safe and securely fitting helmet.
The helmet is the most important piece of equestrian gear you’ll buy, so getting it right is very important – but which is the best horse riding helmet out there? To help you out, I’ve compiled this list of the 7 best riding helmets on the market today. I’ve also included a guide on what to look for when a buying helmet, and how to make sure the helmet you buy is the right one for you
The Top 7 Best Helmets
1. Best helmet overall –Charles Owen AYR8 Plus Helmet
When it comes to helmet manufacturers, Charles Owens has a reputation for being the safest on the market. It’s the chosen brand of many professional athletes, after all. The Charles Owen AYR8 is a great choice if you’re an experienced horse rider and are looking to splash out on a premium helmet.
While it’s expensive, it will give you optimum comfort and safety – plus, it’ll make you look extra stylish while riding.
This Charles Owen helmet has been awarded several safety certificates, including ASTM F1163-15, PAS015:2011, and VG1 01-040 2014-12.
The helmet comes only in black, but you can choose to make the centre panel either gold or silver. Overall, the helmet has a refined look.
The Charles Owen AYR8 is also recommended for horse riding in hot weather (although it is not as good as nr 2 on my list). The helmet boasts an impressive 12 ventilation slots that are each covered in breathable mesh. There’s also a heat-reflective centre panel that ensures your head stays cool on those long summer days in the arena.
2. Best for ventilation – IRH IR4G Gloss Vent Helmet
If standard helmets don’t keep your head cool enough, consider the IRH IR4G Gloss Vent Helmet. This helmet comes with an impressive front-facing gloss vent. Not only does this shiny feature look good, but it also keeps your head cool and comfortable while riding.
The velcro closure is easily adjustable and the chinstrap features a quick-release button. Both of these features allow you to fit the helmet comfortably on your head, and also quickly and easily remove it when necessary.
It’s a great option if you like the style and look of Charles Owens helmets, but don’t want to pay the price for one of them. Plus, it’s available in colours other than black (unlike more expensive equestrian helmets). You can choose between Black Suede, Black Matte, and Navy Matte.
This helmet also meets international equestrian safety standards, with multiple certificates to its name. Specifically, this helmet has an ASTM F1163-15/SEI Certificate and is CE certified to European EN 1384 Standards.
3. Best for kids – Troxel Spirit Schooling Helmet
This helmet is available in a range of sizes, from XS right up to L. The XS size is perfect for young riders; the bigger sizes are also a good choice for those who are new to trail riding or are simply learning the ropes of horse riding.
The colour range available will also appeal to young riders. These options include Pink Dreamscape, Purple Boho, and Tan Leopard. Each of these designs is guaranteed to add a touch of vibrancy to your child’s riding attire and will make wearing a helmet a lot more agreeable to them (we all know how fussy children can be).
In terms of safety, the Troxel Spirit Schooling Helmet offers full head coverage and features a drop-back design, which ensures maximum stability when in motion.
This helmet also comes with DialFit technology, which is a dial-fit system that allows you to customise the helmet to fit perfectly.
The Troxel Spirit Schooling Helmet is ASTEM/SEI certified, meaning it has been adequately tested and meets safety standards for young riders.
4. Best Western helmet – Troxel Rebel Western Helmet
The Troxel Rebel Western Helmet definitely has the most distinct design features out of all the equestrian helmets I’ve mentioned in this article. The bold cowboy-inspired graphics will certainly make you stand out at the rodeo, while the low profile mimics the front of a cowboy hat. You could even kit out your horse in matching gear to really complete the look.
You’ll be glad to hear that this helmet isn’t all about aesthetics: it also boasts several safety features that allow it to meet international standards. This ASTM/SEI-certified helmet features a SureFit Pro fit system, ensuring that the helmet fits safely and comfortably on your head. It won’t fly off like a cowboy hat would!
It also features Air-Channel technology and mesh-covered vents to ensure maximum airflow when riding. Plus, the FlipFold headliner is washable, allowing you to keep this helmet feeling fresh every time you wear it.
Overall, this Matte Duratec Finish-featuring helmet is ideal for those who like to make a statement while also protecting their head.
5. Best skull riding hat – Charles Owen MS1 Pro Skull Cap
If you’re looking to take part in some horse racing, you need a skull-riding hat. Given the high-risk level of the sport, it’s important to ensure your skull riding hat is as safe as possible. So, why not buy one from the most trusted brand? The Charles Owen MS1 Pro Skull Cap is also surprisingly affordable, given the brand’s sterling reputation.
Exceeding the brand’s excellent standards, this helmet keeps your head comfortable and cool during races. This is due to the 10 ventilation holes and the padded harness.
It’s super easy to keep this skull cap clean, thanks to the removable and washable headband. At the end of each race, you could easily remove this to give it a quick clean and keep your helmet fresh.
Designed with a deep-fit ABS outer shell, this helmet also delivers a high level of comfort when riding.
Best of all, it’s one of the few jockey hats on the market that features MIPS technology. This adds an extra layer of protection in the event of an accident. Thanks to the high level of safety offered, the MS1 Pro Skull Cap has been awarded several international safety certificates, including ASTM F1163-15, PAS015:2011, and VG1 01-040 2014-12.
6. Most affordable riding helmet – IRH Equi-Lite DFS Helmet
If you’re looking for a basic helmet sold at an affordable price point, look no further than the IRH Equi-Lite DFS Helmet. Despite its low price, this equestrian helmet delivers a high level of comfort and safety.
The dial fit system and extra padding found within make this helmet suitable for all head shapes. One simple dial turn could have the helmet comfortably hugging onto your head. Not that you’ll notice it’s there – after a while, you’ll forget this lightweight and breathable helmet is even on your head!
This helmet also features 9 venting points to keep riders cool while on horseback.
Plus, the helmet has been tested against international safety standards and has been ASTM F1163-04A/SEI Certified.
Overall, the IRH Equi-Lite DFS Helmet is a great choice for the casual rider or for someone who’s just getting started with horse riding.
7. Best velvet riding helmet – IRH Medalist Hunt Helmet
The IRH Medalist Hunt Helmet is perfect for the show ring and doesn’t break the bank. This helmet manages to look exactly like traditional equestrian helmets while also meeting modern safety standards. It features a three-point harness which keeps the helmet safely in place at all times. The geometry is low profile, and the helmet doesn’t look bulky on your head.
It also feels a lot more comfortable than classic velvet riding hats. This is partially due to the grade-A materials used in its construction, as well as the addition of top and rear ventilation. This keeps fresh air coming in and reduces the risk of your head overheating.
Plus, the velvet outer cover looks and feels top-quality – normally, you’d have to pay much more for this high-grade material. The premium velveteen also gives the helmet a high level of durability, ensuring you can use this helmet in the show ring many times.
This helmet meets multiple safety standards while maintaining the refined look of traditional equestrian helmets. Specifically, the helmet has an ASTM F1163-15 certificate.
Key Features of a Horse Riding Helmet to Consider
When buying a helmet, there are certain features that I’d definitely recommend looking out for. These features include:
MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. You should have this technology featured in your helmet as it provides an extra layer of protection should you fall off your horse. MIPS is included to protect your brain from concussion and trauma.
While this technology is more commonly associated with bike, ski, and snowboard helmets, it can also be found in horse riding helmets.
It comes in the form of a low-friction linear layer found within the helmet. Upon impact, the MIPS technology moves slightly to reduce and absorb energy.
Rotational injuries are common in the world of horseback riding, so it would be a good idea to look out for a helmet that comes with MIPS technology.
If the helmet you’re considering lacks this technology, ensure that it features another type of impact absorption.
Dial fit system
It can be difficult to find a helmet with a secure fit on your head. That’s why you should look out for helmets that come with a dial-fit system. This system allows you to both subtly and majorly adjust the size of your helmet. This ensures that your helmet fits both the size and shape of your head properly.
Not only does a dial-fit system make your helmet more comfortable, but it also ensures your safety. It doesn’t matter if a helmet meets multiple safety standards if it’s too big and easily slips off your head!
The comfort of your helmet is mostly defined by the internal padding. This is the layer on the inside of your helmet that comes in direct contact with your head. Not only does this padding help keep your head comfortable, but it also absorbs sweat on those extra hot days.
If the helmet comes with poor-quality padding, then your helmet is likely to be uncomfortable and sweaty. Depending on your discipline of choice, you could be on your horse all day. So, checking the padding quality is of paramount importance.
While internal padding helps reduce sweat, it’s not enough to keep your head cool. For this, you need a helmet with a good ventilation system. A helmet with front and rear ventilation would be the best option, as this will significantly reduce the risk of overheating.
How to Choose the Right Helmet
Before buying, you should also figure out the following:
Measure your head correctly
To measure your head correctly, take a tape measure and wrap it around the widest part of your head. This is normally around 3/4 inches above your eyebrows. Take note of the circumference of your head. You could either do this in the mirror or get a friend to help you.
You’ll then be able to measure a riding hat accordingly.
Know what type of helmet you need
There’s a reason why horse-riding helmets come in all different shapes and sizes.
Each horse riding discipline has its own standard for the type of helmet you need to wear. If you don’t have the right helmet, you won’t be able to enter competitions for your discipline – on top of the fact that wearing the wrong helmet for the wrong discipline is unsafe.
Here are all the main types of horseback riding helmets and the disciplines you need them for:
Velvet riding hats
Velvet riding helmets are the most traditional and classic-looking type of riding helmet. They’re most commonly used in the show ring, particularly for dressage, showing, and show jumping. They’re also commonly worn for horse riding lessons, although this depends on the type of lesson.
Skull riding hats
Skull helmets – also known as “jockey skull caps” – are used in extreme equestrian activities. They don’t come with a fixed peak, so riders are less likely to injure the front of their head when falling. These extra-hard riding helmets are made using expanded polystyrene (EPS) which provides a good degree of shock absorption.
Specifically, skull riding hats are required for horse racing and cross-country horse riding. British Eventing and FEI enforce that all participants must wear a skull riding hat.
Skull riding hats are normally fitted with a hat cover to make their heads look less like a BMX helmet.
You also have polo helmets – sometimes referred to as standard riding hats – that sit somewhere in between stylishness and safety. They offer high safety to protect polo players, and also a wide brim to help them see.
Western helmets look similar to polo helmets but are designed specifically for Western horse riding disciplines. This includes rodeo and trail riding. Western helmets normally come with distinct design features that reflect the attire of traditional Western riders.
Horse Riding Helmets Safety Certificates
There is a wide range of horse riding safety certificates that you need to be aware of before you purchase your riding helmet. The certificate awarded to each helmet will depend on the country where the helmet is manufactured. For example, you need to look out for a different safety certificate when reviewing UK-made helmets than you do with US-made helmets.
Here’s a brief description of the safety certificates you need to know:
British Standards Institution
Pas 015:2011 is the British standard certificate of safety that’s awarded by the British Safety Institute (BSI). The BSI awards a BSI Kitemark to all helmets that pass the institute’s rigorous safety standards. In a batch of 800 to 3,200 helmets, the BSI will test 1 in every 200 helmets. If all helmets meet their safety standards, a BSI Kitemark will be awarded to the helmet type.
However, if one of the helmets fails to meet their safety standards, every helmet in the batch must be destroyed.
If a helmet is made and sold in Europe, then it needs to be CE (Conformité Européenne)-marked. This means that the helmet complies with the safety standards of the European Union.
However, it’s worth noting that a CE mark doesn’t mean the helmet has been tested by a third party. It simply means that the manufacturer deems that the product complies with the European Directive 89/686/EEC for Personal Protective Equipment.
Certificates awarded by this committee will start with “EN” or “VG1”.
ASTM International/SEI (Safety Equipment Institute)
The SEI tests horse riding helmets in the US to check if they comply with ASTM International (Formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) standards. All products need to pass an initial design test before they can be sold commercially. After this initial testing, the SEI will test a batch every 12 months to ensure that the quality is being maintained.
“ASTM F1163-15” is the safety certificate awarded by ASTM International.
In addition to SEI testing, helmets can also be tested by the Snell Foundation in the US. Horseback riding helmets will be tested against the Snell Equestrian Standard (SEI). If a helmet is Snell-certified, it means it’s definitely safe.
What helmet does Charlotte Dujardin wear?
Olympic gold medalist Charlotte Dujardin is known for wearing Tack Shack Bespoke helmets which are designed by Charles Owen. Charles Owen is a premium horseback helmet brand that is worn by many notable Olympians and other horse-riding professionals, including Charlotte Dujardin.
When should you replace your riding helmet?
You should immediately replace your helmet after you’ve been involved in a fall or another form of accident. Although your helmet may appear to be in good condition, it’s unsafe to use a helmet that has already protected your head against a fall. If you haven’t been in a fall, you should replace your helmet once every 3-5 years. This ensures that you keep up with the latest in helmet safety standards.