Sunday, January 4, 2015

Starter Kit for Riding Lessons - Part 1 of 3 - Helmet

Has your child convinced you to buy a block of riding lessons? Have you decided that you want to get into the saddle for the first time or back into it after time away? Great! Riding horses can be a fantastic adventure and a wonderful experience. When starting your lessons there are a few essential pieces of gear that you need to pick up to keep you safe in the saddle.

 #1. Helmet

Helmets are required at many of the lesson barns in the USA and Canada because accidents can and do happen. New riders who haven’t quite figured out their balance are especially prone to unscheduled departures so protecting your head is at the top of the list. Many riding schools have helmets students can borrow but I recommend buying your own as soon as possible because lesson equipment is often used and abused. If you have a fall and hit your head, even just a little bump, your helmet is compromised and needs to be replaced. They are not designed to take multiple impacts and really, helmets have gotten cheap and your brain is worth it. When choosing a helmet the fit is the most important thing to consider. A helmet that moves around will not protect you when you need it. This is where your local tack shop comes in. Go and try on everything to get an idea of your head shape and find something comfortable in your budget. If you don’t have a local tack store measure yourself and call the catalogue companies. I recommend SmartPak and Riding Warehouse as they have free returns on sized items and a great selection.

Now that you know your budget and what fits, let’s take a look at helmet features to consider.

Dial Fit: For children dial fits can be a great option as they can accommodate growth spurts. Devon-Aire, Ovation, Troxel, and IRH all make ASTM / SEI certified helmets in a wide variety of styles and colors. These are also great if you’re in-between sizes or decide to cut your hair.
Closeup of dial fit from the Troxel Spirit helmet

Ventilation: A helmet needs to be comfortable in all seasons, especially in the summer. Many schooling helmets on the market offer ventilation and they can be a real life saver on hot summer days. Consider a helmet with plenty of air vents like the Tipperary Sportage or the Ovation Protege. 
Tipperary Sportage
Ovation Protege

Colors: Helmets used to be black velvet and that’s all you got. Now, if you want a pink pony princess helmet for your daughter, or flashy with lots of bling for yourself it’s out there. As long as it fits, wear whatever color you like. I will add that if you plan on doing any starter horse shows you’ll want a traditional dark helmet. You can always purchase colorful helmet covers to personalize and change up your look. Helmet covers can also stretch your ventilated helmet through the winter months and keep you dry if you get caught in the rain.
Troxel Spirit in Pink
Casco Reithelme Spirit Peacock

Custom Samshield in black and gold with Swarovski crystals

Finally, make sure that the helmet you choose has a chin strap that fits you. All too often I see people that should know better riding around with the harness adjusted too loose. You need to make sure you strap it on your head properly. Shorten the chin strap so you can fit one to two fingers between the harness and your chin. If you can’t get the chin strap short enough the helmet doesn’t fit, move on to another option.

Next week I'll be featuring part two of the starter kit, paddock boots.  Make sure to check back every Monday for a new post. Until then, happy riding!

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