Dressage is a complicated sport. Training your horse and yourself to reach full potential encompasses an incredibly wide variety of topics, ranging from fitness and biomechanics to health care and sports psychology. But there’s one very important, yet often overlooked, component of dressage that makes the rest of the training possible: safety.
But it’s time to change that. It’s exciting that helmets are now making regular appearances at the international level and even the world’s best riders are choosing to wear protective headgear. However, safety goes far beyond just simply choosing to wear a new helmet. Join us over the next few months as we take a closer look at safety in the saddle in this new column-series. For our first column, we’ll start with the basics—fitting a helmet properly.
“The safest helmet is the one that best fits your head,” said Roy Burek, managing director of Charles Owen, a leading British manufacturer of riding helmets. “A helmet’s ability to stay in place in the event of a fall should be the Number 1 priority.” Keep in mind that every model of riding helmet fits differently, even within the same helmet brand, and it’s important to try on several helmets. A qualified helmet-fitter will take the following steps to ensure that each rider is equipped with a correctly fitted helmet.
First, consider what type of riding you do and at which level you compete. What are you looking for in a helmet: how much ventilation, what style, what type of fit, how comfortable it is? Also, do you wear your hair up in a helmet or down? It’s an important question to ask as this can affect fit.
Next, have someone (preferably an experienced helmet-fitter) measure your head. He or she should approach you from the side and, with the centimeters side pointing toward them, wrap the tape measure around your head where the helmet would lie: 1 centimeter above the brow and around the occipital bone that forms a bump at the back of the skull. Once it has been determined which range of sizes you will fall into, begin by trying on the largest helmet in that range, then move to the next one smaller so it is possible to feel the difference in snugness after seeing why and how the larger one moves. After you find one that you think fits well, notice how easily it goes onto your head. Take the helmet on and off three times before purchasing it to allow the helmet an opportunity to mold to your head shape. While the helmet should still be snug and firm, similar to an elastic band, on the third time, it should feel comfortable with no pressure points or specific areas that cause sensitivity or discomfort.
Lastly, test the fit. Run your fingertips along the edge of the helmet where it meets the head to test that it fits evenly. Next, check the helmet’s ability to tip forward by applying gentle downward pressure above the ears and rotating the helmet forward and back.
Dressage Today thanks the experts at Charles Owen for providing the safety information included in this column. For more information, visit charlesowen.com.