You wouldn't dream of getting on a horse without checking the girth first, so why ride without a properly fastened chin strap? It doesn't matter how hi-tech, expensive or good-looking your hat is - if it isn't fastened properly, it won't be able to do the job it was designed for, namely to keep you safe. It's crucial that a hat remains firmly in place so that, if you do have a fall, it remains in place.
It's common sense, really, but loose or unsecured chin straps and retention harnesses are a safety issue seen time and time again by the British Equestrian Trade Association as it promotes rider welfare at key events throughout the year.
Visitors come along to the BETA stand, bringing hats to be checked. A wide range of problems includes.
- - Loose chin straps.
- Loose retention harnesses.
- Badly fitting hats that rock front to back and side to side.
- Chin straps correctly fastened but loose rear harnesses.
- Hats that are very old.
- Hats that have suffered impact damage.
Badly fitting chin straps
An increasing number of riders have had their hats professionally fitted but then don't bother to secure their retention harness once they leave the shop. Retention harnesses feature a small, running loop, which should be pushed up against the base of the fastening clip to prevent micro-slippage.
Some people mistakenly believe the loop is there to contain the excess strap material and slide it to the wrong end to stop the extra piece of material from flapping around. Without the loop in the correct place, the strap will loosen with wear and as it is being carried around.
Fastening the retention harness
You should remember that a retention harness has two sections to it. There is a strap under the jaw and one at the back, which need to be done up firmly enough so that it wraps around the rider's neck and comes into contact with the one at the front. Care must be taken to ensure it is not too tight, as it will cause the strap to bend back or dog-leg.
BETA's experts often see the chin strap correctly fastened, with the back forgotten - and that's the one you need to help prevent the hat from tipping forward on to your nose. Some harnesses are trickier than others because they have lots of leather and lacing, so, if you are really confused, just pop along to a BETA-trained retailer, who will be happy to check it for you free of charge.
The right hat for your head
Getting your harness correctly fastened is one half of a two-part hat-fitting process - the other is ensuring that you find the right hat for your head, which can vary in size and shape from one person to another.
Hat styles and brands can differ considerably, so it is important that you try a few models to find the hat that is best suited to you. You also need to think about just what you want your hat for - are you going to be taking part in cross-country or dressage, or just enjoying a hack with friends?
A well-fitting hat should sit firmly on your head, above the eyebrows and ears. It should not rock backwards and forwards or from side to side. It should be close-fitting, but never uncomfortably tight, and there should be a small space between the temples. Finally, the hat should fit all the way round the head, with no large gaps.
Past its sell-by date
People often tell BETA's experts that they are thinking about returning to riding after a number of years away and ask for their hats to be checked. The main problem with an old hat is that, over time, the foam padding inside will have deteriorated - even if it was left in a cupboard, unworn, for 10 years. The safety standards might also be out of date and it could have been dropped or the rider might have had a fall.
It is extremely important that a hat is replaced after any incident, as impact can cause damage that only becomes visible when the hat is taken apart for inspection. For these very reasons, BETA always recommends that you invest in a new hat, rather than a secondhand one.
Finding the perfect hat
If your riding hat is getting on a bit and has suffered impact such as a kick or fall, it is probably time that you bought a new one - or had it checked, at the very least. The BETA iPhone app can direct you to your nearest BETA retailer. To obtain your download, log on to:
Apple Store: itunes.apple.com/gb/app/beta-directory/id393334362?mt=8
If you do not have an iPhone, go to the member directory on the BETA website, www.beta-uk.org, where you will find your nearest trained hat fitter.
Top tips for buying your riding hat
- Try a range of brands and styles.
- Wear the hat round the shop for a while before you buy to see whether it remains comfortable.
- If you wear specs, keep them on while trying on hats becausee they can make a big difference.
- Avoid wearing hairclips.
- Kids' heads are still growing, so remember to get them checked on a regular basis.
Up to standard
Modern technology has enabled manufacturers to reproduce hats that are very strong, lightweight and extremely comfortable to wear. All hats and skulls must be fitted with an integral adjustable nylon harness and must conform to a minimum of EN 1384.
Standards that exceed this include PAS 015, ASTM F1163 & Snell. In addition to standards proving that a hat offers the appropriate level of protection, there are also quality marks that indicate ongoing monitoring by independent bodies that the hats continue to be manufactured to a high standard.
Many people don't realise that, once a hat has passed a standard, there is no further requirement for the manufacturer to be monitored. A quality mark, therefore, gives you added assurance that the hat continues to meet the standard. Examples of quality marks are the kitemark and SEI. By law, children aged 14 or younger must wear a riding hat to at least EN 1384 when riding on the road.
If you would like further advice about riding hats, fitting or general safetywear, including high-visibility garments and body protectors, contact Tina Rogers at BETA, telephone 01937 587062 or log on to the BETA website, www.beta-uk.org