On Helmets and what looks good!

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Charles Owen GR8 Helmet

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I have decided that about 90% of the competitors would truly look so much better wearing their helmet in dressage. I have spent a lot of time watching riders at WEG and looking at photos. It was a big deal that Steffen Peters warmed up in his helmet at WEG despite the fact that he did change over to a top hat to compete. I maintain the fact that I believe it is a personal choice as to what one wears in the competition arena, but if someone’s argument is that the top hat looks better than the helmet, I personally think they are blind. The more I look at our outfits, the more elitist and ridiculous the top hat looks. I think it is merely a matter of what we are used to seeing, and in the dressage arena we are used to seeing a top hat, and frankly the top hat does not look better. Steffen Peters looked amazing in his helmet, I was disappointed to see him change into something that certainly did not look as good (although he always looks fabulous on a horse — I’m sure he could wear a native american head dress and still look good up there). I thought that the women riding sidesaddle in the opening ceremonies did their hair beautifully and had well shaped and sized top hats — they did look stunning! Most event riders look plain goofy in their top hats. I will say when I rode a reiner at WEG (which was an absolute blast) I did wear my helmet and it unfortunately will never be able to compete with the coolness that is the cowboy hat…. sigh.

Compare the picture above with the one below:

I will admit there was a time when I thought jelly sandals and jam shorts and crimped hair looked good too, and I am thankful that time has passed!!!

Check out our recent interview with Allison Springer.

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23 comments on “On Helmets and what looks good!
  1. Annice says:

    I’ve never been a big fan of the top hat, but I honestly think the helmet mentioned looks out of place with the formal shadbelly coat. Perhaps someone needs to work on a helmet that has some different styling to compliment the look of dressage.

    • Lynn says:

      In my opinion, unfortunately, helmets are helmets, and when they try to change the styling to make them NOT look like helmets, they just end up looking silly. “Think the Troxel cowboy hat helmet – I was excited until I actually saw one … then just disappointed”. Once we get used to seeing helmets with shadbellies we’ll wonder why we ever thought it looked wierd. Helmets look better than the devastating injuries.

      • Lisa says:

        As a Speech Pathologist that has worked with individuals with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) I think the helmet is far superior to the top hat! I have worked with individuals that were injured because of not wearing helmets in other areas and even a minor fall can cause damage when the head is concerned. Don’t be vain, be smart — wear a helmet!

    • Marcie says:

      I think that even if there was a clear harness it would help a lot. The very noticeable, wide black harness does detract from “the look” but it would be an easy fix.

      I also wear the GR8 and absolutely love it, but I also don’t wear a shadbelly. :)

    • Kim says:

      I guess the look of a wheel chair may compliment the formal shadbelly coat better! Wear a helmet for your own safety!

    • Margot says:

      We used to wear hunt caps (the unapproved kind) with shadbelly coats in the big hunter classes and they looked lovely. I can’t get used to seeing especially the (in my opinion) bulky Charles Owen with a shad.

      That being said, since we used to wear hunt caps, no reason a very strong, classic, low profile helmet can’t be developed for that more traditional look. I personally loved my velvet 1st generation GPA and wore it in the hunter, jumper, and dressage arenas. I am not a fan of the super high tech helmets outside of the jumper arena and have just bought an IRH Elite EQ for dressage/hunter/jumper/eq. It is #1 much less expensive than the top end helmets these days which are running $300-$500, and 2 has a fairly traditional and very low-profile look while still lightweight and well-ventilated. Still adjusting to the look a little but very happy with the performance and comfort.

  2. Guest says:

    Or perhaps what really needs to happen, if we are all going to wear helmets in dressage, at all levels, lets go to sportier attire, that will look good with the helmet and get ride of the stuffy jackets and white breeches.

  3. Christina says:

    Troxel actually makes a helmet “Derby” and a helmet “Western Hat”, but they haven’t seemed to gain popularity. I wore one of their Western Hats at a Cowboy Challenge and it drew loads of attention from people who didn’t even know they had one.

  4. Jill B. says:

    Allison, the “coolness” of a cowboy hat won’t protect your head in a fall. Reiners fall off too. A head injury is a head injury.

    I wear my helmet when I ride reiners. I could CARE LESS if anyone thinks I look goofy or not. I want my head safe and sound, regardless of what event I’m riding in.

    Helmets are allowed in NRHA and AQHA reining competitons.

    • LinneaP says:

      I agree with Jill B.Some barrel racers wear English helmets, and usually with good reason. They are in a minority, and mostly with children, but some rodeo women do wear them.

  5. Julie says:

    Not only does a helmet protect your head, it can protect our ability to keep working even after a fall. The bull riding guys have started to see that if they get knocked in the head without a helmet, they will most likely be sitting the next round out. Instead, wearing a helmet means a better chance of being in the next round and maybe earning a paycheck. It doesn’t prevent all injuries, and it is still the rider’s choice. Although, my kids don’t get a choice until they are on their own insurance.

  6. Sandra says:

    I totally am in favor of helmets in any discipline. And although I am used to seeing the top hat in the show ring, I personally think the helmet looks pretty good just the same. I wear my helmet always and I think I ride more elegantly on my horse when I feel that my head is better protected in my helmet.

  7. Cari says:

    Here in NY, we are seeing more and more shows and events of all types (even driving) requiring helmets. In the past few years, there have been two fatal head injuries from trail riding accidents. Recently, while helping as a ring crew member, I witnessed a 4-Her take a hoof to the head while falling off a barrel horse. The result was a big dent in the helmet and a slight concussion compared to what could very easily have been a fatal accident without the helmet.

  8. Mary S says:

    For those that have an issue with the helmet with the shadbelly, look at all Hunter riders that do upper level derbies. Or anyone that does the upper level equitation. The normal attire is a shadbelly and a helmet. To me, it doesnt look that strange, but then, I am used to seeing it all the time. Even my horse knows that my helmet goes on after her ear bonnet and before her bridle.

  9. Kelsey B says:

    I am a dressage rider as well (though definitely not at the level where one wears a shadbelly!) and have always been committed to wearing a helmet. Instead of the more fashion forward suede styles, I have stuck with a more classic velvet helmet with the tan leather harness — looks more like the ‘hunt caps’ of old and thus more traditional. Mine is a Charles Owen Hampton.

  10. Laurie says:

    Head injury is NEVER in ‘style’ !!

  11. Breana says:

    Being a ex-hunter/jumper I always wore a helmet. It wasn’t till. I got into dressage that I thought about wearing a top hat when I got to second level. But after a couple of falls off my horse. I realized that wearing a helmet was a smart choice. So decided I was never going to wear a top hat. I was going to wear a helmet.

  12. Amber says:

    I grew up riding with out a helmet. It was no big thing, then when my own children started riding I bought them helmets. My 6 yr old pointed out I didnt so why should she… didn’t take much to realize the error I had been taught. We do CTR and mixed disciplines. I watch people take spills at high speeds, I think Helmets should be MANDATORY! I have seen heart breaking accidents that would have never happened had they just got over the stigma. It takes awhile to change but it can be done and is for the better!

  13. Monica says:

    I am recovering from a busted clavicle and 3-hr surgery. My calm, bomb-proof QH spooked at a junior rodeo, rearing and tossing me off his back when we got near the bull/steer pen. My drill team was there performing with flags…cowboy hats, of course. I hit my head, too, after my shoulder took the brunt of the fall. I am a firm believer in helmets now. I was so close to a head injury or worse. Maybe I will add a stretch sequin band to it…but wear a helmet…

  14. Lucy says:

    thanks you for wearing a helmet in the dressage ring.

  15. OdiesMom says:

    It always takes people a while to get used to a new style or trend, but if we can get more professional riders to use and advertise helmets we can make this trend turn into a habit. Show facilities need to demand helmet use from all of their competitors not just the juniors and the lower level riders. Perhaps we can get the officials at the Olympic games to start us out.

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