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Riding helmet vs riding hat – which one to choose for horse riding?

Published: 2024-06-17 14:25:30 Categories: Guides Rss feed , Products Rss feed


Both a riding helmet and a riding hat are items of headgear worn by a person riding a horse. Their basic function is to protect the rider, thus protecting his life and health. No wonder, then, that when choosing a riding helmet or a riding hat, one should pay special attention to its material and finishing, as well as the type and construction. It is also important to check whether the helmet or the riding hat has been approved by the relevant organizations. So, which of these headgear should you choose? That’s our today’s topic – keep reading!

What are riding hats and helmets used for?

As we have mentioned in the introduction, a riding helmet and a riding hat are protective elements of a rider's outfit. They constitute basic horse riding equipment and are required by stable owners and horse riding instructors, especially at the beginning of the horse riding adventure. However, they are just as important when it comes to professional horseback riding, i.e. during races or jumping competitions.

Although horseback riding is a relaxing sport that can be a part of hippotherapy, it is also a sport that carries a risk of falling. If a fall from a horse occurs during jumping an obstacle, or when the animal shies or begins to increase speed, then a helmet or a riding hat is irreplaceable in protecting the rider’s head from a potential injury.


  1. Horse riding helmet SAMSHIELD Miss Shield black
  2. Horse riding helmet SAMSHIELD Miss Shield navy

What is a riding hat?

The first equestrian headgear was... a hunting cap. The riding hat, older than the helmet and to this day associated with traditional horseback riding, was based on the hunting cap. The hunting cap was used especially during recreational riding, because – as you will soon find out – it was characterized by much lower durability when compared to a helmet. Most often it was made of fiberglass, and its aesthetic function was not inferior to the protective one. The riding hat was meant to look like a combination of a hunting cap and a helmet. That is why it was finished with suede or velvet, and its color could easily be matched with the rest of the riding clothes. There was an elegant brim at the front of the hat and a fancy bow at the back.

Alright, but why exactly are we writing about the riding hat in the past tense? The answer is simple - traditional riding hats are not used nowadays due to their protective function which is rather poor when compared with riding helmets. Nowadays, both recreational and professional riders use either a riding helmet or a modern version of the riding hat (which, in fact, is a helmet that looks like a hat).

The modern equestrian hat

When choosing the most suitable headgear, it is worth paying attention to the modern riding hat, very different from the traditional one described above. Today, many companies have such models in their offer. Thus, you can easily choose a durable equestrian helmet which looks like a riding hat, or a riding hat with features of a helmet - whichever you prefer. This is an excellent solution for those who, at the same time, appreciate traditional aesthetics and care about safety while riding.


What is a riding helmet?

Even though a horse riding helmet is very similar to a horse riding hat – both have a similar shape - it has a different structure and offers much greater resistance to mechanical injury. For this reason, the first to use a helmet for horseback riding were professional athletes reaching great speeds and performing demanding acrobatic stunts. A good helmet is approved by the appropriate organizations and meets proper standards.

A riding helmet is thicker than a classic riding hat. It has a peak at the front and an adjustable chin strap (fans of short brims will appreciate Uvex helmets). It's usually not covered in any material, which visually distinguishes these headgear. The helmet also comes in a variety of colors, so it can be matched to the rider's outfit. A common helmet material is plastic. The openwork design provides ventilation to the scalp and properly wicks away the sweat. The circumference adjustment is also worth mentioning - you buy a helmet that will serve you for many years, as it "grows" with the rider.

How to choose the best headgear for horseback riding?

A riding helmet or a riding hat should be chosen according to the size and shape of the rider's head. As we have explained, the riding helmet and the modern hat are adjustable, while the traditional hat is not. The size of a helmet or a hat is the circumference of your head at its widest point (about 2 cm above the eyebrows), unless the manufacturer says otherwise. Well-fitted to the rider's head, the best riding helmet is the one that doesn't pinch or move while riding - even with the straps undone!

Another aspect that contributes to safety while riding a horse is compliance with standards, i.e. the headgear is marked with appropriate certificates. The basis is the EN 1384:2012 certificate, which proves high-quality manufacturing and compliance with European Union regulations. It is worth knowing that prior to entering the market, a helmet or a hat of modern type are subjected to resistance tests, during which they are hit from different sides, crushed, the strength of straps and fasteners is verified etc. Strict requirements are met, among others, by Samshield helmets.

When choosing an equestrian helmet or a modern hat, remember also about proper ventilation (Casco helmets have an interesting system), chin strap adjustment, those elements that affect our comfort (e.g. a sponge sewn into the strap). And for the question asked in the title: riding helmet or riding hat – which one to choose for horse riding, the answer is: if you care about aesthetics, choose a helmet inspired by the first equestrian headgear, that is a modern riding hat covered with velour/suede. On the other hand, in the clash of helmet vs. classic riding hat, the helmet wins. The traditional riding hat should not be used at any stage of learning to ride.


  1. Horse riding helmet SAMSHIELD Miss Shield Shadowmatt navy
  2. Horse riding helmet EXXENTIAL II black mat

For a beginner – riding helmet or riding hat?

What sort of headgear to buy for a beginning horseback riding enthusiast? The most important issue is safety, so riding helmets clearly win. Additionally, riding lessons are most often attended by youngsters, whose heads are still growing, so it's advisable to choose an adjustable model. Buying the best helmet for horseback riding, you will equip the junior with an accessory of variable circumference, with no need to replace it too often. By the way, the helmet should be accompanied by other riding accessories: breeches, chaps, gloves and so on. Our equestrian store offers all these products - we invite you to take a look at the offer.

For advanced riders – riding helmet or riding hat?

And what to buy a more advanced rider: a helmet or a hat? If we’re talking about recreational riding, you can go for a modern, reinforced riding hat. Such a headgear combines traditional aesthetics with proper protection. No one should use a traditional riding hat these days.

Meanwhile, when shopping in terms of taking part in sports competitions, the guidelines of the International Federation for Equestrian Sports and the recommendations issued by the Polish Equestrian Federation must be followed. You can be guided by aesthetics only when the basis is met - the appropriate approvals. Our equestrian store offers product descriptions in which you can find the approvals of the riding helmet you are interested in. Be sure to read the specifications when placing your order. Enjoy your shopping!

Stay safe and sound during your horse riding trainings by choosing riding headgear that provides proper protection. Check Equishop’s wide range of equestrian protective equipment: helmets, protective vests, and others.

If you have any questions or doubts - feel free to contact us.

Equishop equestrian store: +48 784 039 784


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