“More people get killed or injured riding horses wearing helmets than those who don’t wear them.”*

“They don’t do anything to help so haters go suck a helmet.”*

“All a helmet does is keep you from cracking your head open.”*

Peruse the comments on a YouTube riding helmet video and it’s clear that the Internet is rife with misguided information about the value of head protection. Even if you’re pro-helmet—which we sincerely hope you are—few riders are familiar with, let alone well-versed in, the ins and outs of the helmet certification process.

Let’s do something about that. Courtesy of Samshield, here’s a crash course in what goes into producing the most important piece of riding equipment you’ll ever own—your helmet.

Riding helmets work in two ways.


  • to reduce penetration by sharp objects via the hard protective shell
  • to absorb and offset the force of impact with foam padding

That’s important because head injuries are the most common reason for horse-related hospital visits and, according to medical examiner reports, account for 60% or more of riding-related deaths.

Riding helmets are designed with the sport in mind.

Riding helmets cover more area of a rider’s head than, say, a bike helmet. The smooth outer shell is built to skid over, not stick to, rough terrain. And they are designed to absorb impact from sharp objects, such as a horse hoof or a rock. They’re also made to be light so they don’t interfere with a rider’s balance.

All of which are important factors considering that horseback riding carries a higher injury rate per hour of exposure than downhill ski racing, football, hang gliding and motorcycle racing.

All ASTM/SEI approved helmets are tested in a laboratory to ensure they meet well-defined safety standards. 

While it’s true that helmets “keep you from cracking your head open,” they also reduce the risk of riding-related head injury by an estimated 50% and the risk of death due to head injury by a whopping 70-80%! To ensure they accomplish these tasks, a helmet must pass three main tests to gain ASTM/SEI approval: the impact test, the side distortion test, and the penetration test.

The impact test measures the helmet’s ability to absorb a blunt force impact should a rider fall on their head. Like if your bombproof horse trips and sends you head first into the pavement.

The side distortion test simulates the squashing of the helmet by a horse. It measures the ability of the helmet to resist distortion in the event 1,200 pounds of horse happens to land on your head.

The penetration test measures the resistance the helmet offers to a pointed object into the ventilation area. It uses an equestrian hazard anvil, designed to approximate the angle of a horseshoe or a jump standard edge, to ensure you don’t get brained by a sharp object whilst wearing your helmet.

Check out this helmet safety video by Samshield to see these tests in action.

Simply put, wearing a helmet is a no-brainer. It’s quite literally the smartest decision you can make every time you ride.

*Actual YouTube comments.