New Year Brings New English Helmet Regulations

AQHA rules now require helmets for youth in English flat and over-fence classes.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Recruiting a friend to help measure your head can assure that your new helmet will fit properly. Journal photo.

2015 marks the implementation of new rules requiring AQHA youth exhibitors to wear ASTM/SEI approved helmets for all English classes including flat and over fences. The 2015 rule on English attire reads:

SHW320.2 It is mandatory for riders in all hunter, jumper and equitation over fence classes, including hunter hack, where jumping is required and when jumping anywhere on the competition ground to

wear properly fastened protective headgear that meets ASTM/SEI standards or equivalent international standards for equestrian use. The helmet must also be properly fitted with harness secured. It is mandatory that all youth wear an ASTM/SEI-approved hard hat with harness during all English classes, including flat and over fence classes. It is recommended that amateurs wear an ASTM/SEI-approved hard hat with harness in all English classes.

Youth riders who haven’t worn a helmet before can get a jump-start on proper helmet fit with these guidelines from English coach and trainer Katrina Taylor of Canyon, Texas, and N. Shay Timms, the chief executive officer of helmet manufacturer Troxel.

First, measure your head at the point where your helmet will fit with a flexible tape measure or a string that you then lay on a yardstick.

Now that you have a properly fitted helmet, it’s time to hit the trails with your American Quarter Horse. Read up on AQHA’s FREE Trail Ride Safety report to prepare you and your horse for the great outdoors.

When you measure, your hair should be the way you plan to wear it in competition to get the best fit.

Most helmet manufacturers have size charts on their websites where you can check which size will fit best. Helmets should have the size on a label under the liner. The website is also where buyers can determine whether a helmet is SEI-approved, a requirement for AQHYA.

“The Safety Equipment Institute, or SEI, is an organization that certifies protective equipment for a variety of industries,” Shay says. “ASTM is one of the world’s most respected standards organizations, developing standards for everything from curing of concrete to hotness of red peppers to protective headgear.

For equestrian helmets, SEI has selected the ASTM standard F1163 to evaluate helmet performance. An approved helmet has been evaluated and tested to the ASTM standard F1163.”

A helmet that hasn’t been tested to the ASTM standard won’t provide the same amount of protection and might not provide any at all.

Your helmet should fit snugly across the brow just above the eyes. It shouldn’t be tipped back on the head or be so loose that it slides sideways.

“A helmet needs to fit as snugly as possible without pinching or feeling uncomfortable after wearing for a few minutes,” Shay says. “I use a few methods to test whether or not the helmet is snug. First, I ask the wearer if it is feels too tight or too loose, and second, I check to see if the helmet wearer’s eyebrows move up and down when the helmet is tilted up and down with a hand via the visor in the front.”

Trail riding is fun and relaxing, but it’s important to be prepared for emergencies and accidents. AQHA’s FREE Trail Ride Safety report contains expert advice for staying safe while trekking in the open.

The rider should be able to gently shake his or her head and the helmet should not fall forward or backwards, nor tilt from side to side, even without the retention strap buckled, she adds.

After the strap is buckled, you should only be able to slip two fingers between the chin and the harness. The side glides should rest right below the ear.

Black helmets are necessary for AQHYA competition, Katrina points out, but helmets come in many styles and colors for training and general riding. To be sure you’re comfortable in your helmet, practice in it at home.

Should your helmet ever take a hard hit, it should be replaced.

“All certified equestrian helmets are made to give up their structure to absorb impact energies that would otherwise transmit to the head,” Shay says. “Once a helmet has been impacted, its ability to perform energy absorption has been compromised. Single-impact helmets work at their best only once and need to be replaced after one impact, even if you do not see any cracks or evidence of impact.”