How to Fit And Measure a Riding Helmet

Knowing how to fit a riding helmet the right way can mean the difference between safety and tragedy.

What if you’re a brand-new horse owner, though, and don’t really know how to go about it?

No worries, we’ll guide you below!

Just keep reading to learn everything you need to know!

Don’t forget to check our review on the Best Horse Riding Helmet!

Guide to Fitting & Measuring A RIDING HELMET

man holding his helmet while riding a horse with a signage

As a horse rider, whether you are just starting out or have years of experience, the most important piece of equipment you must own is a riding helmet.

While broken bones are definitely frustrating, they will heal. But a head injury can have serious consequences and even lead to catastrophic head injuries.

Owning a good quality horse riding hat is not something you should skimp on.

Riding helmets come in a variety of styles and budgets, so there is no excuse not to purchase one. The correct fit is essential.

Here we will help you learn how to measure for a riding helmet, so you can feel safe knowing you’ve taken all the safety precautions possible.

Should You Buy A New Horse Riding Helmet?

light blue horse riding helmet

The quick answer to this question is yes. The only way to ensure your hat has no damage is to buy new.

You may want to try a save a few dollars by buying a secondhand, but we advise against this.

While some equestrian equipment is worth buying used, you cannot know if a riding hat is damaged.

It is impossible to confirm for certain if the used one was in a fall.

Every fall where your riding hat makes contact with the ground, horse, or object suffers some level of damage.

However, this damage is often not visible. The affected area will lose some of its protective strength at best and at worst offer no protection at all.

Additionally, by buying your own, you will know that the helmets for riding horses size are best suited to your head shape.

Check: Where Can I Buy a Horse Riding Helmet?

How To Measure For A Riding Helmet

Charles Owen is one of the world’s most respected equestrian brands.

They take equestrian helmet sizing seriously and make options to suit every type of head shape.

To find the best option for you follow these easy steps on how to fit a riding helmet.

riding helmet hanging on a wood
  1. To measure your head, you will need a soft measuring tape with centimeters, a sewing one will do the job perfectly.

An assistant can help note down the measurement in inches and centimeters but isn’t necessary.

You can also get measured for a riding hat in a tack shop.

  1. Leaving your hair flat over your head and tied in a low ponytail, if you have long hair, wrap the flexible tape around the widest part.

However, don’t follow your head straight back from the front.

Instead, place the measuring tape ¾-inch above your eyebrows.

  1. Next move down slightly, following your hairline, going just above the tops of your ears and over the bump at the back of your head.
  1. To get the most accurate horse riding helmet sizing Charles Owen recommends that you repeat the process a few times.

Equestrian helmet sizing often corresponds to measurement in centimeters. For example, a size 6 English riding helmet is 49 centimeters.

Helmet Size Conversion Chart

Head Size (Inches)Hat SizeAlternative Size
206 ½X-Small
20 ½6 5/8X-Small
216 ¾Small
21 ½6 7/8Small
22 ½7 1/8Medium
237 ¼Large
23 ½7 3/8Large
247 ½Large
24 ½7 5/8X-Large
257 ¾X-Large
25 ½7 7/8X-Large

How To Fit A Riding Helmet

a beautiful woman petting her horse

Having accurate measurements is the first step in horse riding hat sizing, especially if it’s your first time buying one.

Not only is fit important but comfort also should not be overlooked.

Following some of the next tips will help you find the best fit, especially if you plan to purchase your riding hat online.

A helmet fit should not be too small or too big.

If your hat is too small it won’t cover your forehead enough resulting in less protection. It can also cause headaches, pressure, and skin redness.

One that is too big will slide around your head, potentially slip down over your eyes and provide little protection in a fall.

The majority of horse riding hat sizing comes in ⅛-inch increments.

However, some helmet sizes come in Small, Medium, and Large. These hats will have a dial on the back that allows you to tighten or loosen the fit to suit your head.

Due to the specific styles of different brands, you will find that certain brands fit and feel more comfortable than others.

Once you have your size, it is a matter of trying on a few different makes to find the best one for you.

To ascertain the shape of your head, you will need a helper. Sit in a chair, remembering to sit tall and straight.

Have your helper look down over the top of your head. This can help determine if you have a round or oval-shaped head.

Most people have an oval-shaped head. Many equestrian brands offer different styles of helmets in an oval and round shape.

Skull caps are mostly worn by jockeys and eventing riders during cross country.

These riding hats do not have a fixed peak on the front. Instead, the rider places a fabric cover over the skull cap, which is often a bright color.

Skull cap sizes are labeled from 000 to 6.

This video from Charles Owen will give you a great visual on how to measure your head, during a professional helmet fitting.

What To Consider When Fitting A Riding Helmet

young girl riding a white horse

When you try on different types of helmet models take the following into consideration. 

  1. Does it feel too tight across your forehead or in the back? This can mean that it is a round shape and you need an oval shape helmet. Remember that it should feel snug.
  2. Make sure it doesn’t slip around or tip forward.
  3. Is it too tight on the sides of your head? This can indicate you need a round shape if the one you have on is oval.
  4. The riding hat should feel snug and not slip around. A good tip is to try helmets on until it feels far too tight and then go up one size. This is often the correct helmet size. 
  5. Keep in mind that the soft padding inside will compress with wear and fit needs regular reassessment.

Western Riding Helmet

Western riders rarely wear a safety helmet. The reason for this is the tradition of wearing a cowboy hat.

However, as riders become more safety conscious, western riding helmet styles are starting to make an appearance.

This protective headgear combines the style of a cowboy hat with a safety helmet.

Like English riding helmets, a western riding hat also requires measuring in order to determine the correct size.

Dressage riders use the same type of riding hats as hunter/jumpers and eventers, whether schooling at home or during competitions.

Horse Riding Helmet Safety Standards

When you’re thinking of purchasing a riding helmet check to make sure it is certified to the latest safety standard.

This means that it was tested and meets the certified standard set out by one of the four recognized testing agencies.

The three standards are ASTM F1163:2015, VG1 01.040 2014-12, SNELL, and PAS015:2011.

Some brands go the extra mile and certify their helmets to two or even all three safety standards.

The tests carried out focus specifically on falls from horses.

You should not use a safety product designed for another purpose, such as a cycling or motorcycle helmet, as a fall from these is not the same.

These protective hats will not offer acceptable protection for horse riding.

Riding Helmet Safety Tips

  • A riding hat should always be replaced after a fall. It may look like it hasn’t sustained damage, but this is often internal. This also applies to simply dropping your riding hat on the ground by accident. Riding hats are designed to take one impact only.
  • Replace your helmet every three to five years, three if it gets heavy use. The protective materials used to make your riding hat begin to degrade and lose their protective qualities. Always buy a new helmet labeled with one of the approved safety standards.
  • Don’t ever lend your helmet or borrow it. You can’t know if it has dropped or suffered an impact. It can also change the fit. The interior padding molds to your head shape, which is altered by another person’s head.

Hair Styles For Horse Riding

a lady in braid feeding her horse

Riders tend to stick to two types of hairstyles under their riding hats.

For long hair, riders will use low ponytails tied at the base of their head. Some will braid this or create a bun to make it look tidier.

One popular hairstyle in the hunter/jumper world is to put long hair up under their hat.

To do this a rider will tie a ponytail at the base of their neck but pull their hair over their ears.

They then use a hair net and bobby pins to secure the hair under the helmet.

There is some debate surrounding putting your hair under your helmet and if it affects the effectiveness of its protection.

The argument is that the hair will affect the fit of the helmet causing it to shift more.

Final Thoughts

As you can see the correct sizing is important to ensure you get the best protection in the case of a fall.

Always purchase new and for your own personal use, maximizing your safety. Get your head measurement prior to choosing which one you want.

This will make finding a suitable helmet much easier.

Studies have found that 60% of horse riding-related deaths were due to head injuries. Wearing a helmet can reduce this risk by 70 to 80%.

The American Medical Equestrian Association estimates that approved riding hats reduce riding-related head injuries by 30% and severe head injuries by 50%.

We understand that wearing a riding helmet is sometimes off-putting.

They can feel hot, especially in warm weather, and give you some pretty stylish hat hair. But these are only small inconveniences.

You only have one head, it is important to protect it every time you get on a horse.

an equestrian lady wondering how to fit a riding helmet

Do you have any other tips/thoughts on how to fit a riding helmet? Share below!

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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