Are bicycle helmets as safe as riding helmets? I saw a news program that said they are safer than riding helmets, is that true? Some parents don't want to purchase a helmet until they are sure the child is going to stick with riding. I was told that I could be arrested for letting the student ride with a bike helmet. Thanks for your help.
Thanks for your very important question, which will be an important addition to our website and magazine column. In fact, I just returned from Equitana USA, where I was doing several workshops for professionals, and this question was brought up there too. It is critical that the helmets your students use are SEI/ASTM certified FOR EQUESTRIAN SPORTS. The Safety Equipment Institute certifies all kinds of safety equipment for different purposes. They use detailed studies about the types of head injuries common to the sport for which they are certifying the product for and the specific types of impacts sustained. They certify equipment for safety in relationship to the specific activities and injuries common to that sport. As you may have noticed, a bicycle helmet looks quite different than an equestrian helmet, as they are designed to protect from different types of impacts. An equestrian helmet provides much lower protection on the back of the head, which is more commonly needed in horse related head injuries (basal skull fractures). Also, I believe riding helmets are made to sustain harder impacts, such as a kicking hoof, which may explain why riding helmets can cost more than bicycle helmets. From a legal standpoint, if you condone the use of a helmet that is not certified for riding, you are more liable than if you allowed the student not to wear a helmet at all. The same is true if you allow a rider to ride in an improperly fitted riding helmet. The way the legal system would view this particular form of negligence is to say that you clearly knew that the rider should have been wearing a helmet, so why didn't you do it right? You should make this minimum requirement of all your students. You should have helmets on hand for the students that do not have their own. Let them use the riding helmet as a bike helmet ;-) This is one reason why CHA has a discount helmet-purchasing program. You can get the discount even if only ordering one helmet and you can order for your students too. Thanks again for asking this important question.