Our practical guide to buying a new riding hat.

Horses, as we all know, can be unpredictable and riding is never going to be a low-risk sport. Head injuries present the most serious danger, so always wear a protective hat to the latest standards when riding – and preferably when handling your horse too.

When it comes to safety there should be no compromise. Developments in materials and design mean that most hats are now lightweight and well ventilated to keep your head cool – and they look good too.

When you buy a new hat, you need to consider what you do with your horse. If you compete, you’ll need to make sure that your new hat conforms to the regulations and rules of the relevant governing body.

The right fit

Comfort and fit are essential and, as brands and designs vary widely, it’s important to use a qualified hat fitter who will help you to find a hat that suits your head shape.

Only a properly fitting hat will provide you with the maximum level of protection should you fall off.

As a rough guide, the hat should fit your head snugly, cupping your entire skull with the front of the helmet no more than about 1 1/2in (or two fingers) above your eyebrows. If the hat moves freely when the chin strap isn’t fastened, it’s too big for you.

Time for a change

The protection offered by any riding hat will diminish over time as the padding becomes compressed, so it’s essential to replace your hat every three to four years.

Your hat should also be replaced following a severe impact, such as a fall or being dropped onto a hard surface. Even if there are no visible signs of damage, it will no longer provide the protection it should.

Say no to secondhand

There’s no guarantee that a used hat isn’t damaged, so always buy new.

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