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Helmets and Hunt Caps, circa 1970

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  • Helmets and Hunt Caps, circa 1970

    What was the norm in riding schools in the 1970s? Did instructors require hunt caps for tradition's sake, or did they also believe they protected against injury?

    Anyone able to step in the Way-back machine and let me know? This is research for a fiction story; not looking to get into a pro/con helmet debate.

    ...somewhere between the talent and the potato....

  • #2
    I started riding in 1974 and hunt caps were required where I took my lessons. They were not like today's helmets, but had a styrofoam liner and a hard shell, so they provided some protection. I saw a girl get a hoof to the head after being dumped, and that hunt cap certainly helped prevent a serious injury.


    • #3
      Definitely for safety. I was in Pony Club in the 70s, and we were told to wear our helmets for safety. My first helmet was a velveteen hunt cap. I later had a plastic schooling helmet, and then a new "Pro" helmet that was a big step up. I remember it had a collapsible brim which was supposedly a safety feature. I also remember that lots of my friends wore Caliente helmets with colored covers on cross-country.
      I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. --Nathaniel Hawthorne


      • #4
        When I was taking lessons back in the 70's my instructor believed the helmet provided some protection and required us to wear them. People definitely understood that a cracked skull was bad news, and it was hoped a helmet would lessen the chances of that kind of injury. People weren't as clear on the understanding that the brain slamming against the inside of the skull also causes damage. (The crushable lining in modern helmets is designed to lessen the force with which your brain hits your skull when you take a fall.) Some people didn't like helmets, because they felt a rigid visor increased the chances of facial injuries if the helmet slid down onto the face (and indeed I have a relative who needed plastic surgery from this kind of injury.)


        • #5
          My instructor didn't require helmets in the early '70's, not that I recall. I owned one, we called them hard hats, but it wasn't a good fit (too tight if you can believe that) so I tended not to wear it and I don't recall wearing a helmet owned by the instructor. I participated in schooling show flat classes not wearing a hard hat (or a jacket either) in CA in 1971 ish. I didn't place but I was not shown the gate for failure to wear one.

          By 1980 the college riding program had the hard hats again, available for use and required. I remember because I fell off and landed on my head, of course, and the hard hat beat landing on my bare head.

          From my point of view helmets are much more comfortable nowadays.
          Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
          Incredible Invisible


          • #6
            The stables I rode at required hard hat for lessons; maybe if you owned a horse it was different, then in the 80's helmets had those harnesses with the chin strap, many stables required those for lessons and Jrs. were required to wear helmets w/ chin straps (though they were always too loose) and some helmets had detachable harnesses which Jrs. were not supposed to wear but did - but that was in the late 80's


            • #7
              We wore caps. In lessons on school horses I think we had to wear them, in lessons on our own horses we set them on a jump standard while we warmed up and only put them on to jump, and took them off and set them on the standard again while we cooled out.


              • #8
                What were the straps like in the 70s? In the 80's I recall there were a lot with the elastic and the little chin cup. Maybe in the mid-80's I got a hard hat with a detachable leather harness.
                An auto-save saved my post.

                I might be a cylon


                • #9
                  Where I worked back in the early 70's, everyone had to wear a hunt cap. Some of the young ones got them with elastic and most of the olderkids cut off any elastic straps. I remember the show caps as very rich velvet andnavy, brown, and green were very popular. Can't remember when saftey helmets came to be the norm, just kind of morphed into them after that whole "bowling ball" requirement debacle!


                  • #10
                    My instructor didn't require helmets in the early '70's, not that I recall. I owned one, we called them hard hats,
                    Yes! Thank you! Some folks look oddly at me when I call them hard hats but that's what I grew up calling them. (well, they look at oddly at me for lots of things, LOL)

                    The straps were just a 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide black elastic for most ofthe 70s IIRC. Most people just stretched those up over the visors; either due to discomfort or due to your friends randomly reaching over and snapping them underneath your chin.

                    The little plastic chin cups popped up early 80s...maybe late 70s? Those were even worse for comfort. Slightly after that they started marketing hard hats with "collapsing" visors for safety, before that the brim/visor was hard.

                    I'm trying to remember when they made it mandatory for the minors to wear a hard hat...for some reason I'm thinking it was 84 or so? About when adjustable chin straps showed up?

                    I do remember my first hunt cap was green and I could fold it up and put it in my pocket or sandwich case, LOL!

                    When they went to hard hats black and velvet...within a year almost everyone's was rusty brown from sun fade. But back then riding many hours every day was normal.
                    You jump in the saddle,
                    Hold onto the bridle!
                    Jump in the line!


                    • #11
                      I had a "Velvet Hard Hat", with an elastic chin strap for showing. I had a Caliente, which was a hard plastic shell, with a hard plastic chin cup, for running cross country. I started Pony Club in 1967. I remember that the plastic chin cup always gave me lots of zits on my chin.

                      Wearing a helmet was required for Pony Club. The H/J riders that I knew back then never wore helmets when schooling over fences. If their hard hat fell off during a competition round, they were not required to retrieve it to finish the class. They always cut off the elastic or pulled it up over the brim. They thought that the elastic was "unattractive". Even when Pony Club went to the harness style, the H/J's were still not using chin straps.

                      In the late 70's, I switched over to hunters. I stopped using my helmet and schooled without one, too. (I have many photos to prove that I was young and stupid. )

                      Now, every ride, every time!
                      When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Anselcat View Post
                        What was the norm in riding schools in the 1970s? Did instructors require hunt caps for tradition's sake, or did they also believe they protected against injury?
                        Are you assuming that hunt caps do not provide protection ? I started riding 57 years ago and they were a requirement then, for PROTECTION. They are still used for PROTECTION. http://www.themastersvoice.co.uk/200...patey-hats.php
                        ... _. ._ .._. .._


                        • #13
                          The hard hat I bought probably in 1973 had the elastic strap which we all wore above the visor, and it had a detachable plastic chin cup, which was this miserable thing that snapped on to the sides of the hat and I left in the hat box (the helmet came with it's own hat box, it was a pretty fancy hat with a satin liner).

                          Of course a hard hat was better than nothing! That thing was hard - it didn't have the modern built in foam to absorb impact or the wonderful vents to help cool your head but trust me, I fell off with and without the helmet and having it on saved me the classic headache and nausea of the full on concussion, granted I'd rather not have fallen off at all, but . . .

                          It's odd but I can't really recall wearing the hard hats at college. I think we did, during lessons, but I have a photo of myself sitting on a school horse in jeans and sneakers and no helmet too and I don't recall that anyone cared.

                          Riding school-wise, I don't think that at the place my friend rode, she was required to wear a helmet, even while jumping. This would have been 1970. I recall lessoning with her once or twice in a program and she was jumping and I don't remember the helmet, I think I remember her shiny black hair.

                          I do remember that by 1975 the kids I had been riding with had moved up into eventing and they did wear a caliente for x-country, but I had pretty much quit by then, I was dinking around trailriding a friends horse Western.
                          Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                          Incredible Invisible


                          • #14
                            I still have a few "hardhats" with the elastic band cut off! That was the norm around here. It was considered geeky to even have it on the visor. My favorite helmet was a navy blue velvet hunt cap, matched my jacket! The barn that I rode for required all students to wear a hardhat. They kept quite a few in the tackroom so if a student didn't own one they could go pick one out. They were pretty raunchy during the summer.


                            • Original Poster

                              Hi all,

                              Thanks for the very useful information!

                              Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                              Are you assuming that hunt caps do not provide protection ? I started riding 57 years ago and they were a requirement then, for PROTECTION. They are still used for PROTECTION.
                              Sorry, I didn't phrase my question quite right. As some velvet caps (at least in litigation-happy US) now come with a warning that they are not ASTM approved protective gear (paraphrasing), I wondered if in the 1970s hunt caps were primarily worn for tradition's sake, or if instructors required them as safety gear. No agenda here, I truly didn't know. I don't want to write a story about the 70s and have an instructor acting out of character with regards to hard hats/velvet hunt caps.
                              ...somewhere between the talent and the potato....


                              • #16
                                They were required as safety gear, when required. Very typical to require them for jumping only.

                                If you read the book Summer Pony by Jean Slaughter Doty, you'll get a good discussion of the importance of a hard hat while jumping that is true to the time.

                                At my barns, we had colored fiberglass helmets for schooling that had a bit more foam padding (not styrofoam; those didn't become available until the 1980s). Then you wore the velvet hunt cap - with no chin strap - for shows. With the velvet hunt cap, obviously the fit had to be very close to stay on without a harness but with all your hair under it.
                                If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket