After procrastinating for most of the summer I went today to buy a new riding helmet.
My current hat, whilst it hadn`t been damaged to my knowledge is coming up to four years old. It`s a pretty basic skull cap as I have an odd shaped head and I`ve always found it very comfortable.
At the yard this morning I made a mental note of the make and size (3, yes I also have a big head) before heading off to the tack shop.
At the tack shop I was surrounded by numerous styles and makes of hats. Thankfully I know a little bit about them, God knows how unhorsey parents and child feel when going to buy their first hat. This helmet will be the one I use everyday so needs to be comfortable, with no peak for jumping, cross country and hacking. Past experience tells me that skull hats fit my weird head better anyway.
I found my current hat amongst the display and saw that it is kitemarked and up to BSEN:1384 1997 standard. Now this standard is the minimum standard to be used at the riding school I work at, so I looked at the more modern and expensive helmets. They were of BSEN:1384 2012 standard.
Doing what I do, I thought I would ask the assistant for help in finding a 2012 standard helmet which fits me. So she brought out all the size 3 hats and I tried them on. They tell you to go to a hat fitting with your hair in a similar style as when you ride. So it`s a good job I went straight from the yard! The first hat perched on my head, and the second pinched my temples. We continued through the rest of the pile. With one style the size 3 was far too tight whilst the 3.5 was slightly loose. If only they made a size 3.25! The assistant was starting to lose the will to live when she asked what hat I`d previously had (I think she was doubting I`d ever bought one!) I told her it was the Champion Pro-Plus and she dug out the size 3. I put it on, and it fitted like a glove.
Strange isn`t it, that the more basic skull cap fitted the shape of my head better than the more modern variations. I felt like Harry Potter picking up his phoenix feather wand in Ollivanders.
The only positive thing about buying this helmet was that it was half the price of the 2012 counterparts!
So I went home to read up on the standards of riding helmets, to make sure I was still fully protected.
The BSEN:1384 1997 standards was a big step up from the previous standards for riding hats, and is now the minimum standard for all hats.
EN1384 1996 / BSEN 1384 1997
This standard may be found prefixed by other initials belonging to the country testing the helmet, e.g. DIN EN1384 indicating testing in Germany. The BS prefix symbolizes that the hat has been tested in Britain and though in theory
there should be no difference, some European countries have approved helmets that may have failed if tested in Britain.
The two standards are identical in content and were a major leap forward over the previous British standards, offering bottom edge protection for the first time. The helmet is impact tested almost right on the bottom edge (as opposed to 75mm up from the bottom edge on BS4472 hats) so the protective liner has to extend all the way down to the rim. This change came about because it was found that in 25% of falls the rider did not land on the top of their heads, but on the sides, front or back. It does include a penetration test.
This is the basic minimum standard for almost all forms of riding.
Hats can also be marked with the KiteMark, which tends to praise the company, more than the helmet.
The Kitemark is the registered trademark of the British Standards Institute and
can only be affixed to products certified by them. As well as complying with
the requirements of the relevant standard, e.g EN1384 or PAS 015, the mark
indicates that the company complies with a rigourous system of regulation
and testing. Companies are required to provide the BSI with unrestricted
access to their offices and factories and allow regular testing of randomly
chosen samples through batch and audit testing. Hats are only released for
sale once batch testing is completed, thus avoiding product recall.
Kitemark certification is voluntary and can be withdrawn at any time.
A higher standard than the BSEN is the PAS 015 standards, which are suggested for those who do more cross country riding. I`ve checked my new hat, and it is also meets the PAS015 1998 standard – phew!
PAS015: 1998/ PAS015: 2011 with Kitemark mark
This stands for Product Approval Specification and was developed by the British Standards Institute (BSI) in response to concerns about the time it was taking to develop what would become the EN1384. The first version was formulated by looking at drafts for the European standard and taking the highest option in each case. After the official publication of the EN1384 in 1997 certain differences occurred between it and PAS015, leading to the 1998 revision of the PAS015 to remove those differences and address new areas of protection such as crush resistance and protection against injury when landing on an edged surface. As the test line is lower at the front it tends to lead to slightly bulkier helmets. A stability test is also included to limit excessive
movement during wearing or a fall. This has been revised in 2011 with an increased drop height and several other amendments affecting the performance of hats. It is expected that the 1998 version will run parallel with the 2011 for 18 months.
It took a lot of searching, but I`ve only found a little bit on the BSEN:1384 2012 standards. I was asked if I wanted to download a full copy of the BSEN 1384 standards document for £145 but I declined…
EN 1384: 2012
This European standard has been adopted for all riding helmets and helmet from Jockey British standards (British Standards). This legislation represents a step forward compared to previous regulations issued by British Authorities. It is recognised at European level and by many international countries with the exception of some countries who wanted to adopt Regulations stricter parameters. A novelty in particular: the use of the chin guard is no longer allowed because in case of a fall would result in mandibular fractures.
From what I can gather my new riding hat is sufficient for my daily activities and most riding, but it may be that when I investigate air jackets I need to look at getting a helmet which meets the 2012, or even the prestigious SNELL standards. After today I would never order a helmet online though, you can never guarantee the fit and a bad fitting helmet can have such detrimental consequences.