To help you get the most from your relationship with horses, and your riding experience, it is vital that you ensure your gear is up to scratch.


Protective headgear

An approved standard hat must be worn.

It’s always best to have your own hat, but for first lessons, most schools have hats they loan out (check with them when booking).

For further information on headwear, click on this link to the British Horse Society website.

Own a Pony Day at Fort Widley Equestrian Centre

There are a wide variety of riding hats and helmets available to suit all tastes and budgets, all designed to keep you as comfortable as possible whilst making sure you are protected to the recognised safety standards. Not all riding hats currently on sale will necessarily have a currently accepted hat standard.

Riding hats are designed to be as effective as possible at minimising any potential head injury, but as with all safety equipment, no riding hat can be guaranteed to protect every rider in every circumstance.

It is essential that a hat properly fits the person who will be wearing it, and as every head is a different shape, you may need to try a few to find the perfect one for you. The BHS always recommends you go to a reputable tack shop and have a new hat fitted by somebody who has had appropriate BETA training. It is also important to remember to keep your hat fastened at all times when you are mounted.

Never be tempted to buy a second-hand hat. It is impossible to see with the naked eye if it has been damaged.

The BHS has created a leaflet for you to download featuring frequently asked questions about changes to hat standards. Click here to download the BHS Hat Guide.

Make sure you measure up before buying a new hat!

All manufacturers make hats in slightly different shapes to each other, so there is something for everyone. Whether you choose a really fancy, top of the range hat or a plain, less expensive one does not matter – the main thing is that it meets one of the accepted standards. Ideally, it should also have a quality assurance mark firmly fastened on its inner alongside the label that shows which standard the hat is tested to.

Most hats specifically designed for children do not have VAT added to the price. Hats for children are made in all but the very largest hat sizes, as children’s heads generally stop growing when they reach around 13 years old. This information was identified by a survey undertaken on Eton schoolboys who are required to wear formal hats, as opposed to soft caps.

However, be aware that hats designed especially for children can be a slightly different shape to those designed for adults, even if they are the same brand. Always have your head measured and hat fitted properly when buying a new one to check it is the best shape for you.

You only have one head – keep it as safe as you can and wear a fitted hat that is fastened each and every time you ride out.


Caring for Your Hat

With care, a good hat will last several years.

Do not be tempted to leave it in direct sunlight – the shelf in the back of your car is definitely not a place to keep it. Protective properties of the hat can significantly reduce if left for long periods in direct sunlight.

Let it dry naturally if it gets wet, and don’t put it on the radiator.

Don’t drop your hat or let it get knocked around. Each time it receives any impact, some of the protective properties will be used up and just when you want them to keep you safe, you may find that the protection you need is not there.

Other equipment

Long riding boots or jodhpur boots, or a strong pair of boots that cover the ankle and have a smooth sole and heel should be worn. The ankles can become rubbed and sore if in contact with the stirrup and leathers. A small but defined heel on the boot is necessary to prevent the foot slipping through the stirrup iron. Trainers should not be worn as they offer little protection and can easily become stuck in the stirrup. Wellington boots are also discouraged.

Jodhpurs (trousers designed for riding) are useful but for beginner riders, a pair of strong trousers without a seam on the inside leg will be fine (a seam can pinch your leg while in the saddle).

A pair of sturdy, but not bulky, gloves are advisable to help avoid blisters while getting used to the reins.

A long sleeved shirt, a jacket that is fastened so that it doesn’t flap, or a sweatshirt are recommended.

Correct footwear is vital for riding safely, with traditional riding boots or jodhpur boots being the best choice.

Many riding schools will lend appropriate footwear for lessons, meaning you do not have to buy new gear if you are just starting out. When you are ready to take the leap and buy your own, you will find a range of boots to suit all tastes and budgets in most tack shops.

Boots should preferably have a smooth, through sole and a small heel. This means there should be no break in the sole from heel to toe, so there is nothing to catch on the stirrup – otherwise, the rider could be dragged along in the event of a fall because the foot cannot come free. Wellies are unsuitable for this reason. Trainers are also unsafe because they do not have the small heel needed to help prevent the foot sliding through the stirrup. When repairing boots, you will need to ask the cobbler to provide you with a through sole.

There is a current trend towards riding in ‘yard’ boots. Care needs to be taken when wearing this type of footwear, as they may have a heavy tread that can become caught on the stirrup, which means the foot could become wedged or stuck in the stirrup – a serious implication if you are unseated. Always check that the pattern of the tread is offset, so the tread never goes all the way across the sole as this may lead to the stirrup becoming jammed. Also, remember that the stirrup needs to fit the size of the boot you’re using – so you may need a larger stirrup for this type of footwear.

Correct footwear is mandatory for all BHS exams and the BHS Riding and Road Safety Test. Trainers and instructors will be able to advise candidates whether their individual footwear is acceptable or not.

For more information, contact the BHS Safety team on 02476 840516 or email them using the email button below:

Email the BHS Safety Team

On the Road

Rule 49 of the Highway Code states:

Safety Equipment: Children under the age of 14 MUST wear a helmet which complies with the regulations. It MUST be fastened securely. Other riders should also follow this advice. (LAW H (PHYR)R)


Competitions and Events

Riders competing under the rules of an equestrian discipline, the Pony Club or British Riding Clubs should refer to their respective rule books to check which standards are acceptable under their specific rules.

More About Standards

CE Mark

All hats must be CE marked , i.e. declaring compliance with the regulations as stated in the European Directive 89/686/EEC on Personal Protective Equipment. All hats sold in Europe require CE marking. A CE mark is not a hat safety standard.


Quality Assurance

When a Quality Assurance Mark is displayed on the hat it:

  • gives the user visible evidence of the helmet’s quality, safety and performance as defined in the specification
  • shows the helmets are independently and regularly batch tested by the relevant company or organisation to the appropriate specification

Any standard hat with a Quality Assurance Mark (such as a BSI Kitemark or an SEI mark) can be viewed as safer than a hat to the same standard without (statement taken from BETA ‘What to Wear’ publication).

For more information, contact the BHS Safety team on 02476 840516 or email them using the email button below:
Email the BHS Safety Team
BHS Horse and Rider Image