The 10 Best Riding Helmets

video play icon

This wiki has been updated 36 times since it was first published in April of 2015. With any sport, it's a good idea to protect the most vulnerable parts of your body from impacts. Considering how high you are while on horseback, it is doubly important when riding. If you have an equestrian in the family, make sure his or her head is well-shielded at all times inside one of these helmets. They have been rated for durability, comfort, style, and cost. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Tipperary Windsor

2. Ovation Schooler


Editor's Notes

August 21, 2020:

Safety is obviously on the mind of any person looking to buy a riding helmet, as well it should be considering how dangerous a fall off a horse can be if not wearing any protective gear. For whatever reason, the makers of riding gear have been slow to adopt MIPS technology, which is quickly being integrated into helmets for snowboarding, cycling, and most other sports because of the additional protection it offers against rotational forces. Despite this, we were able to find a few options that do offer it, such as the Tipperary Windsor and One K MIPS CCS, the latter of which is taking the place of the previously recommended One K Defender. While neither of these are very budget-friendly, we think no corners should be cut when it comes to safety and they are worth every penny.

Though the Tipperary Windsor may be high-tech when it comes to safety features, it offers an English aesthetic that traditionalists will probably love. The Medalist 106866 also offers a classic design, though one that looks perhaps slightly more dated than that of the Windsor. It is considerably more affordable though and makes a great starter option for beginners, as does the IRH Equi-Lite.

If looking for something with a more modern appeal, we recommend the Charles Owen Ayr8, Troxel Dakota, and Troxel Spirit. The first has a very low-profile form, so you won't look so top heavy, and attractive microfiber panels on the sides. It also boasts heat-reflective paint to help you stay cool. The latter two come in some very interesting prints, ranging from paisley to a sky-inspired dreamscape to a vibrantly-colored T-rex.

April 22, 2019:

When it comes to safety gear, it is important that it be built to an acceptable standard for maximum protection against injury. That is why every riding helmet on our list meets one or more international safety standards, including ATSM, SEI, CE, and ANSI. Experienced competition riders would do well to consider the Charles Owen Ayr8 and One K Defender. These look sleek on the head and are just stylish enough that you will enjoy wearing them, but not so much so that they would look out of place in the show ring. The IRH 4G is another option that is suitable for competition use, but affordable enough for the average rider who is still taking lessons. Troxel is well-known for making high-quality and affordable helmets, so we have included two models from them for readers to choose from, the Troxel Dakota and Troxel Spirit.

Special Honors

Charles Owen My PS with Wide Peak Those who find other helmets don't adequately shield their eyes from the sun and rain will probably like the Charles Owen My PS with Wide Peak. As the name implies, it has an oversized brim for protection from the elements, and it boasts three safety certifications for different international equestrian standards.

Champion Revolve Vent-Air MIPS The sanded finish of the Champion Revolve Vent-Air MIPS does an excellent job of hiding scuffs and scratches, while the central ventilation strip should keep wearers reasonably cool on hot days. Its soft genuine leather harness is strong and shouldn't irritate the skin.

4. Charles Owen Ayr8

5. IRH 4G

6. Troxel Dakota

7. Troxel Spirit

8. IRH Equi-Pro

9. IRH Equi-Lite

10. Medalist 106866

How To Get The Most Protection From A Helmet

Though there are other certifiers like Snell and Kitmark; ASTM is the only one that approves helmets for professional level riding.

Most riding helmets on the market are rather visually appealing, topping off your riding apparel nicely, but they are not just accessories. They can make the difference between a fall that just temporarily throws you off your horse, and a fall that changes your life forever, or possibly ends it. So you need to take helmet shopping seriously.

When searching for a helmet, you want to find one that is approved by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). The ASTM test equestrian helmets to see how they hold up to things like sharp or blunt blows, extreme temperatures (you can’t wear materials that diminish in the sun, leaving you vulnerable), drops, and harness strength.

Even if a company sells helmets that are not ASTM certified and assures you their product does meet ASTM certification standards, you have to question why they didn’t go through the official test. Though there are other certifiers like Snell and Kitmark; ASTM is the only one that approves helmets for professional level riding.

There are several types of equestrian riding helmets in a range of designs , but if you are a rigorous rider and do a lot of jumping, your best bet is a skull cap or an eventing design since these offer more protection along the backs and sides. Keep in mind though, that these types often don’t have a sun-blocking brim. That is on purpose, since competitive riders need all the visibility they can get. But if you want a helmet that can double as a competitive and leisurely riding one, try one with a see-through brim; that offers the best of both worlds.

The Top Dumb Excuses Not To Wear A Helmet

People come up with some pretty stupid reasons to not wear a helmet. One such excuse is, “I know how to do an emergency stop and dismount.” Fine, but do you know how to do that in a real life, high-pressure, life-threatening situation? Or do you just know how to do that in the calm, comfortable surroundings of a practice ring?

Pulling off an emergency stop and dismount, when you are truly fearing for your life, is not as easy as pulling one off in theory. And even if you are an expert at these maneuvers, are you willing to bet your life on your skills?

Or do you just know how to do that in the calm, comfortable surroundings of a practice ring?

Some riders complain that helmets give them headaches. This is a tragic and uneducated reason to stop wearing them. If your helmet gives you a headache, you’re simply wearing the wrong one. A pro shop can easily fit you for the perfect model that will not cause you pain, and will keep you safe. Sadly, some people give vein excuses like, “Helmets mess up my hair” or “I don't want to sweat and develop acne.” If you ask any of the thousands who have suffered a life-threatening head injury from riding, they will tell you that they would rather be alive with some pimples and bad hair than the alternative option.

One major excuse people use is masked as an explanation. Some people wear a helmet, but it’s not a riding one. While this is certainly better than wearing no head protection, you have to keep in mind that bicycle or motorcycle helmets are not designed with horseback riding risks in mind. Equestrian helmets are built to help you survive falling off of a horse, and a horse is much taller than a bicycle or motorcycle. Ultimately, there is no good reason not to protect your head.

Alarming Riding Accident Statistics

Stables and riding trails are so peaceful. During off-hours, you see sleepy horses happily wagging their tails, riders grooming their prized pet, and maybe some commentators enjoying lemonade between races. These settings are nothing like the high adrenaline tracks of Nascar races, but don’t let the visual differences fool you. The truth is that more people end up in the hospital every year due to horseback riding accidents than due to a motorcycle, football, or ski accident.

Of the over 70,000 people who go to the hospital every year due to a horse riding accident, over 12,000 of those will have suffered a head injury.

Some people might say that horses are more predictable than vehicles since you can usually tell a horse is breaking down long before it can no longer ride. Meanwhile, vehicles can be running apparently smoothly until they suddenly stop in the middle of a highway of rushing traffic.

But horses are unpredictable in their own ways since they are living animals. Twenty percent of horse-related accidents don’t even happen while the person is riding a horse, but rather when they are simply standing near them. Why? Because horses have feelings, they can become scared or angry, and suddenly kick their legs in the air.

If you believe that, should you fall, the chances it will result in a head injury are small, you’re wrong. Of the over 70,000 people who go to the hospital every year due to a horse riding accident, over 12,000 of those will have suffered a head injury. That means over twenty percent of horse riding accidents result in a head injury.

Brett Dvoretz
Last updated by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as in front of a laptop screen, Brett can either be found hacking away furiously at the keyboard or, perhaps, enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He has been a professional chef, a dog trainer, and a travel correspondent for a well-known Southeast Asian guidebook. He also holds a business degree and has spent more time than he cares to admit in boring office jobs. He has an odd obsession for playing with the latest gadgets and working on motorcycles and old Jeeps. His expertise, honed over years of experience, is in the areas of computers, electronics, travel gear, pet products, and kitchen, office and automotive equipment.

Thanks for reading the fine print. About the Wiki: We don't accept sponsorships, free goods, samples, promotional products, or other benefits from any of the product brands featured on this page, except in cases where those brands are manufactured by the retailer to which we are linking. For more information on our rankings, please read about us, linked below. The Wiki is a participant in associate programs from Amazon, Walmart, Ebay, Target, and others, and may earn advertising fees when you use our links to these websites. These fees will not increase your purchase price, which will be the same as any direct visitor to the merchant’s website. If you believe that your product should be included in this review, you may contact us, but we cannot guarantee a response, even if you send us flowers.