On April 17, Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes announced legislation that would prohibit the sale of “apparel only” riding helmets.
The Christen O’Donnell Equestrian Helmet Act is named for a 12-year-old Darien, Conn., girl who was killed when she was thrown from her horse while wearing an unapproved helmet.
“Unfortunately, many horse riders unknowingly purchase ineffective head gear for themselves or their children thinking it is a real helmet. I am pleased to introduce this bill to help prevent tragedies like Christen’s from ever happening again,” Himes stated.
The bill will use the ASTM/SEI standards we are all familiar with, as these ASTM/SEI certified helmets are required by the U.S. Equestrian Federation for riders in dressage, combined training and hunter/jumper disciplines. Many states also have laws requiring these helmets for all riders under the age of 18.
A quick look at major online retailers turned up no apparel-only riding hats for sale, however, that doesn’t mean local tack stores or small online retailers don’t have them available. As always, we advise you to check inside the helmet you’re considering for the ASTM/SEI label. If you're not sure, ask the retailer for verification.
In addition, anytime you’ve had a fall, your certified helmet should either be replaced or returned to the manufacturer for inspection to ensure it continues to offer maximum protection (there may be fees associated with this).
If your helmet is "old," remember that all riding helmets should be replaced by six years of life, whether you’ve fallen or not. If the helmet begins to look worn – inside or out – pay close attention to the inner surface. Any dents, scratches or dings indicate the need for immediate replacement. Note: We are working on a comprehensive helmet article.
The bill is supported by the Equestrian Medical Safety Association; the U.S. Pony Clubs; Riders 4 Helmets; Charles Owen, a leading manufacturer of certified equestrian helmets; the Brain Trauma Foundation; Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to preventing childhood injuries; and The Chronicle of the Horse, a weekly horse-sports news magazine.