Today’s riders are able to achieve the requirements of an elegant turnout and rider safely. Modern, improved materials and designs provide a range of riding hats that combine elegance with high levels of rider protection. So what should you expect from a modern riding hat and its purchase experience?
Personalised fitting service
Even the safest hat is useless – not to mention uncomfortable – unless it fits correctly. So BETA trains retailers and tack shop staff in the construction, correct use, fitting and maintenance of riding hats – specialist information they can pass on to you when you visit their saddlery shops or show stands. BETA-trained retailers are also conversant in the latest safety standards. First, select a retailer that has a wide range of stock and most importantly, staff who have been trained to provide a professional hat fitting service. Look for a retailer displaying a BETA Safety Course Certificate and ask for the member of staff named on the certificate to guide you in the selection and fitting of your new hat. Or go to www.beta-uk.org to find out your local BETA hat fitting specialist.
You can also use the BETA phone app, which can direct you to the nearest store offering this service.
To obtain your download, log on to: Apple Store
Secondly, before your visit, phone ahead just to make sure that the appropriate members of staff will be available at the time that you intend to visit. Then allow yourself enough time so that you are not in a rush. Arriving half an hour before they close or when you need to leave for the school run is not going to help you or the retailer.
If you have a competition jacket that you particularly want the hat to match, take it with you. Also consider how you wear your hair. If you compete with your hair in a bun or attach a false bun, have your hair like this when the hat is fitted. Also be mindful of changes to your hair e.g. the addition or removal of hair extensions will make just as much difference to the fitting of your hat as would the fitting of your horse’s saddle when a bulky saddle pad was removed. If you ride with your glasses on, then have the hat fitted while wearing them. Talk to your retailer, ask questions and understand the purchased garment, its function, correct storage, care and replacement requirements.
Expect your retailer to measure your head before selecting a range of hats to try on. Be patient as this will involved placing a number of hats on and off your head. Also be prepared for the fitter to gently move the hat while it is on your head as well as feeling around its sides. This is to gauge the closeness and suitability of its fit. When the hat shell has been correctly selected the retention harness will then be adjusted. This is every bit as important as riding your horse with an adequately tightened girth! If your riding hat is not correctly held in position it cannot provide you with the correct protection in the event of a knock or fall. Ask your retailer about the correct care and maintenance of your new purchases as well as when to replace it. Remember the hat will, in the event of a trauma, act as your heads crumple zone. The inner shell will compress as it absorbs the energy of your fall, thus protecting your head. It will not “re-inflate” or be able to provide the same level of protection again even if it does not show any sign of damage externally to the velvet covering. Be grateful that it has done its job and replace it after an impact.
A little TLC…
Riding hats are precision-made items of equipment deserving of good care. So don’t expose yours to extremes of temperature, by leaving it in the sun on a car parcel shelf or in the freezing cold of your tack room. Hats survive wet weather well, but should be allowed to dry out naturally and slowly; never put hats on radiators. Hats should be replaced whenever they have suffered a severe impact with the ground, a horse’s hoof or a fence. Obviously, this mainly applies to falling off and hitting your head, but a hat could also be damaged if dropped on to a hard surface. Try not to leave yours lying on the yard, perched on a gate post, rattling around in the car boot or being played with by the dog. Many makes of hat are supplied in neat carrying bags or boxes. Padded hat bags are also available, while old-fashioned, hardened hat boxes, if you can find one, are ideal for storage and to prevent damage in transit. A handy hook on which to hang your hat outside the stable or where you tack up is ideal, and never goes amiss in the lorry or trailer either. While it’s easy, even enjoyable, to buy a new hat, a head can never be replaced.
So why not invest in a spare hat? Standards know-how Generally, the higher the level of a hat’s impact absorption capacity, the more suitable it is for riskier riding activities such as cross country. Hat standards have been developed to indicate levels of absorption capacity against both flat and edged surfaces, as well as additional features such as harness stability and, in some cases, penetration. Riding hat standards are usually composed by a committee, in Europe each country sending its own representative to the European technical committee. European standards are reviewed every five years or following a complaint about efficacy; although a review Does not necessarily lead to a new standard, history has shown that one emerges every ten years or so. These standards may be prefixed by other initials. DIN EN1384 indicates testing in Germany, while the BS prefix shows that the hat has been tested in Britain. Although in theory there should be no difference, some European countries have approved helmets that may have failed if tested in Britain. PAS standards, for instance PAS015 1998 & 2011, are managed by the British Standards Institute (BSI). Other standards seen on riding hats include ASTM F1163: 2004a, the American standard; and Snell E2001 that was developed in America by the Snell Institute. Snell E2001 is a higher performance standard which includes all aspects of PAS015 and ASTM. Quality marks found on riding hats include the BSI’s Kite mark and the SEI – the American equivalent administered by the Safety Equipment Institute. The CE mark, also sometimes found on riding hats, is neither a quality mark nor a standard, but a mandatory declaration under EU law by a manufacturer to show compliance with essential requirements of EU directives. BETA-trained retailers can offer generic advice to help you select any brand or style of hat or helmet.
For further questions relating to hats or their fitting telephone 01937 587062 or log on to www.beta-uk.org. The Mark Davies Injured Fiders Fund recommend that you wear the highest standard or specification with either a Kitemark of SEI mark.