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Horse Riding Hat Buying Guide

Feb 08,2017 | Kim Horton

Riding Hats Buying Guide

It’s no exaggeration to say that a riding hat could save your life. For all riders, it’s the single most important piece of kit that you will ever buy. So here is the EQUUS Buying Guide on everything you need to know about buying the best riding hat to suit your needs. 


The Basics

When do I need to wear a riding hat?

Always wear a hat whenever and wherever you ride. If you work or handle a horse on the ground, you should also wear a hat as it’s very easy to get kicked in the head if a horse strikes out. It’s a requirement for grooms at some livery yards, racing stables and studs to wear riding helmets when turning out or bringing in, or even putting a horse on the horse walker. Handlers of young horses should wear hats as youngsters are often not in complete control of their legs, excitement, or their behaviour!

Wearing a hat carries no disgrace and it’s certainly not a reflection of ability.

Race Horse Training

Do I have to wear a riding hat by law?

Currently there is no legal requirement for adults to wear a hat when riding. However, Rule 49 of the Highway Code states: Children under the age of 14 MUST wear a helmet which complies with the Regulations. It MUST be fastened securely. Other riders should also follow this advice. See Law H (PHYR)R. Most riding establishments require riders under the age of 18 to wear a helmet at all times when handling or riding horses.

Horse Riders Wearing Helmets While Handling a Horse

How does my riding hat work?

A lot of riders believe that it’s the hard, outer shell of a riding hat that protects their head in the event of a fall. However, this is not the case. It is actually the protective inner shell that does all the work of protecting your head. The liner is made of high grade polystyrene which is a bit like microscopic bubble wrap! On impact, the hat does two things. Firstly, the shell diffuses the impact over the whole helmet area. Then the inner shell reduces bruising to the brain by increasing the length of time it takes for the shock to meet your head and you to stop. The bigger the impact, the more layers of bubbles will burst. So it’s the hat's inner shell that collapses, not your head. Now you can see why if the hat suffers a severe impact, even dropping it on the concrete floor of the yard, it needs to be replaced.

Riding Hat Construction Cross Section

What does a riding hat consist of?

A riding hat consists of four parts.

Part of riding hat... What it does...
An outer shell made from ABS plastic or glass fibre

The outer shell serves two purposes:

  1. To stop any sharp objects from penetrating the hat, or worse, the skull
  2. To spread the energy from an impact over a larger surface.
A polystyrene inner shell The polystyrene shell absorbs the energy from the impact as outlined in detail above.
Foam padding The foam padding provides comfort for the wearer.
An internal fabric lining The fabric lining that goes against your head makes the hat look neat and tidy on the inside, and absorbs moisture when you sweat.

Riding Hat Dos and Don'ts

Do replace your riding hat immediately if it suffers an extreme impact.

Do buy the best riding hat you can afford and never compromise on safety.

Do throw away a hat that has sustained a significant level of impact, even if the damage isn’t visible.

Do report any accidents you and your hat are involved in to the British Horse Society as they maintain records of how riding hats perform.

Do replace your riding hat every 3 years - the padding compresses with wear and factors such as sunlight can break down its construction.

Don't get on a horse without a riding hat on.

Don't buy a second hand hat as you do not know what has happened to it in the past.

Riding Hat On The Ground

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Types of horse riding hats

Skull caps and riding hats

Equestrian safety hats fall into two broad categories: fixed peak riding helmets/hats, or skull caps. What type you need depends on what sort of riding you plan to do. Skull caps are mandatory for eventing as they don’t have a fixed peak. Some hunts also insist on skull caps too – check with your Hunt Secretary before you go. Skull caps are also worn by jockeys. They can be personalised with coloured silks. These are peaked covers in bright colours which fit over the cap.

Champion Evolution Diamond Riding Hat

Shop Fixed Peak Riding Hats  

Champion Pro-Lite Deluxe Helmet

Shop Skull Caps

Riding helmets or hats are typically more widely used than skull caps. They traditionally come in dark colours, but more modern designs have brighter colours, delicate patterns, and even glitter panels. 

Materials of horse riding hats

Once upon a time, riding hats were only made of velvet. But nowadays different materials are widely available. Velvet, leather-look, suede and matte are all options, as long as they include the correct safety rating. For competitions, check the requirements beforehand to ensure your hat meets the required criteria as you may be eliminated.

HKM Lady Shield Riding Hat

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Measuring for a horse riding hat

Measuring for a riding hat is probably one of the most important safety tasks you’ll ever undertake. Taking time and good care are vital to ensure that the measurement is taken correctly.

Step 1 – Measuring your head

Before you measure your head, remove all hair clips and slides and then do your hair how you’ll be wearing it when you wear your hat. This is important as a ponytail, clips, headband, or other style can change the size of the hat you require.

If you wear glasses when you ride, put these on for the hat fitting.

Use a flexible tape measure or a piece of string that you can measure against a ruler afterwards. You can do it yourself or ask a friend to help you as it is important that the tape stays flat and even around your head for an accurate measurement. Place the tape measure one finger’s width above the eyebrows, skim the tops of the ears and take it round to the widest part of the head.