You’ve probably seen bike helmets and horse riding helmets and wondered if you can use the one for riding the other. While it is not uncommon for people to wonder whether you can use a bike helmet for horse riding, there are many things to consider when answering this question. Short answer:
Although there’s nothing stopping you from wearing a bike helmet when riding a horse, it is not advised. Equestrian helmets are designed according to different specifications to provide safety to a rider in the event of specific equestrian-related accidents, whereas a bike helmet will not provide the same safety in those situations.
Let’s take a deeper look into the differences between these helmets and whether you should be using one for the purpose of another and if it really matters that much in the end.
Do horse riders have to wear helmets?
Firstly, the wearing of a helmet while horse riding is totally up to you if you are by yourself, on your own land, practicing, or any other situation where there are no legal requirements to do so. However, it is strongly advised to wear a helmet at all times when riding a horse.
By far, the biggest reason why horse riders wear helmets while riding is for safety. A helmet is designed to minimize the impact on the head and protect you, to a certain extent, from severe injury in the case of a fall or any other situation where you would sustain possible a blow to the head.
The question, however, is whether it is mandatory to wear a helmet while horse riding.
Aside from all the benefits of wearing a helmet while riding, safety being the main one as just mentioned, there are some legal requirements to wearing a helmet while riding as well as regulations for competing in equestrian events and competitions.
Law regarding wearing a helmet while riding
According to Highway Code Rule 49, children 14 years and under are required to wear a helmet that is securely fastened while riding on public highways and byways, whether on a bike or horse. Although adults are encouraged to follow the same regulation, they are not legally obligated to.
FEI (International Federation for Equestrian Sports) rules for wearing helmets
As the international governing body for all equestrian sports, The FEI requires all competitors to wear a helmet when competing or participating in any of their equestrian events. The type of helmet that you wear also has to comply with the either one of the following standards:
- European (EN)
- British (PAS)
- North American (ASTM)
- Australian and New Zealand (AS/NZ)
Can you wear a bike helmet for horseriding?
As mentioned in the opening of the article, it is entirely possible to wear a bike helmet while horse riding, in most situations, but it is not recommended.
Both helmets are designed according to different specifications and standards related to the various functions and specifics that each sport or activity entails. Thus to ensure optimal safety and protection in the event of a fall or injury, it is better to wear a horse riding helmet while horse riding and a bike helmet while riding a bike.
A bike helmet would also not comply with the standards as per the FEI requirements if you want to compete in any of their events.
What is the difference between a horse riding helmet and a bike helmet?
Although bike helmets and equestrian helmet look and feel very similar because they serve similar functions, there are some distinct differences in how they are designed and the specific purposes they need to fulfill.
Here are some of the main differences between equestrian helmets and bike helmets:
- Design specifications. Equestrian helmets are designed according to different specifications and regulations than bike helmets because they serve different functions and levels of protection to different areas.
- Fall height. Equestrian helmets are designed to protect against impact from a fall from a horse from a height of 9-10 feet, whereas bike helmets are designed to protect against impact to the head from a fall of 5 feet.
- Head coverage. Equestrian helmets are designed to protect different areas of the head, specifically the back of the head, whereas bike helmets offer more protection from falling forward.
- Equestrian related accidents. Equestrian helmets are also tested for retention of the chinstrap and designed for specific equestrian related accidents like penetration by sharp objects and the absorption of impact.
What is a horse riding helmet made of?
Let’s look at what a horse riding helmet is made of and how that impacts the safety of the helmet.
Outside of the helmet
The outside of an equestrian helmet is comprised of an outer shell, designed to withstand impact in the event of a fall. This is usually made of plastic or resin that is impact-resistant. The impact-resistant plastic or resin shell is usually covered on the outside with a cloth to make it look more ascetically pleasing.
The brim is made to be extremely flexible in order to give way if a rider lands on it in the case of a fall.
There are also materials used under the shell that’s designed to absorb the impact in case of a fall or a situation where the rider experiences a blow to the head.
Inside of the helmet
The interior lining of the helmet is usually comprised of some form of padding in order to make the helmet more comfortable when wearing it while riding.
Then there is the chinstrap or harness that’s designed to ensure the helmet stays safely secured on a rider’s head while riding, as well as in the event of a fall or blow to the head.
Last but not least, ventilation is crucial in wearing a helmet while riding and is usually incorporated into the design of any specific helmet to ensure proper ventilation.
How long is a horse riding helmet good for?
When you purchase an equestrian helmet, the helmet offers maximum protection in the way it is designed and the materials used in the manufacturing process. These materials, however, degrade over time, and you should replace the helmet as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
You should replace the helmet regardless of whether you use it on a regular basis or just left it on a shelf, untouched. This is due to the natural degrading of the materials, as just mentioned.
According to manufacturers, equestrian helmets “expire” and should be replaced after 5 years from the purchase date of the helmet, regardless of its aesthetic appearance or condition.
Certain factors like the amount of use, storage conditions, etc. all have an impact on the lifespan of any helmet, which should be taken into consideration, and you should regularly examine the condition of your helmet. There are many reasons and situations in which you should replace your equestrian helmet, even before its expiration date.
Here are some reasons to replace your helmet before its expiration date:
- If you were in an accident or bumped your head in any way while wearing your helmet
- If your helmet experienced any kind of impact
- If you improperly stored your helmet for an extended period
- If your helmet has any cracks in it or looks visibly damaged in areas
- If your helmet does not fit properly and snugly on your head
So if you’re thinking of using your bike helmet to go horse riding, please don’t. Although it is possible and there’s no law from preventing you from doing so in most situations, in the unfortunate event of an equestrian-related accident, you will not be protected in the way equestrian helmets are designed to protect. You might suffer much more severe injuries than if you were wearing an appropriate helmet for riding a horse.
Feel free to check out our recommended helmets here for beginners and professionals alike and always ensure that you are fully protected while enjoying the outdoors with your horse!