What is ASTM/SEI?

All helmets not manufactured to ASTM/SEI standards carry a label or insert stating that the helmet is an item of apparel only and will provide no protection to the wearer from a fall or impact.

The ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) is an organization comprised of thousands of skilled volunteers including doctors, engineers and physicists. It is the job of the ASTM to set standards for many types of safety equipment. The ASTM has created criteria for horseback riding helmets to adhere to. These standards are summarized in ASTM F 1163. The SEI (Safety Equipment Institute) is an independent laboratory that tests helmets to be sure they meet the ASTM standard.

Why Do We Need a Standard?

In 1980 the United States Pony Club began tracking accidents reported among its members. Three years later, the Pony Club developed its own standard for riding helmets and required that all members wear their USPC standard helmets which had been tested at independent laboratories. In 1986 the USPC asked ASTM, an organization that had developed helmets for other sports to develop one for horseback riding helmets as well. ASTM F 1163 was first published in 1990 and is reviewed every five years.

The study the Pony Club began in 1980 continued for 12 years and provided arresting evidence in favor of the standard. The USPC found a 26% decrease in head injuries with the onset of the USPC standard helmet in 1983. Although there have been no official studies completed for the ASTM standard, the American Medical Equestrian Association estimates that ASTM/SEI approved helmets have decreased riding-related head injuries by 50%.

How to Distinguish Between Approved and Unapproved Helmets

The easiest thing to look for is the ASTM/SEI seal inside the helmet. If you are skeptical however, approved helmets have a thicker shell. Look at the helmets from below and you should be able to see the difference in thickness. Approved helmets cannot have a simple snap to secure the harness. Snaps are not used because they are prone to popping open upon impact. You can also look at the harness. There is no such thing as an approved helmet with a completely clear harness.

Companies Manufacturing Approved Helmets

  • Troxel - makes only approved helmets:
  • International Helmets
  • Australian Holdings
  • Charles Owens & Co. Ltd.
  • Lexington Safety Products, Inc.
  • Equine Science Marketing, Ltd.
  • Del Mar Helmet Co., Inc.