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I remember when I was about 10 and new legislation was passed meaning riding helmets had to be up a new standard. While we mercifully mocked those of our friends first to get the replacement, it soon came time for to get one too and be branded "mushroom heads" just like them. They just looked HUGE compared to the old ones, and all I can say is look how technology has changed!!
Not only can you now choose between a traditional velvet hat or a skull cap with coloured silk, you can get lightweight, breathable helmets like those offered by Troxel. When I needed to replace my skull hat, that very same one I had had since the "mushroom head" days and was getting particularly gross inside (it stops looking huge once everyone else has one, I'm pleased to report), I decided to at least try on a Troxel helmet to see what I thought.
At the time they were relatively new and not deemed particularly cool among the majority of the horsey set I'm sure, but I was no longer competing and so didn't need to look too smart, and honestly no riding hat is ever going to be attractive to me so I couldn't care what others might think! In actual fact, after spending a lot of time riding in other countries where hats are optional or, occasionally, laughed at, I only wore one to keep others quiet when back at home!
Now, despite the misgivings of other snobby horsepeople, of which I will admit there are a lot, Troxel helmets really aren't that bad-looking. In fact, I would far rather wear one of these than a skull cap, which until it has a coloured silk on looks exactly like you put a mixing bowl on your head. It is also half the weight of either a traditional velvet cap or a skull cap, and is fully venilated making it a lot more comfortable in summer.
I opted for matte green, but they come in a variety of (not too flashy) colours now, and bought the Legacy model as, at the time, it was pretty much the only one they had. I've now owned it for approximately three years, and it does everything I'd want a helmet to do.
Comfort is the key as far as I'm concerned, especially where something like this is concerned. As I mentioned, I don't consider a helmet 100% essential, and as I'm a horse owner I wasn't required by riding school rules etc to wear one. The fact that this is so comfortable meant it was no real hassle to put it on. In the summer the ventilation really does its job, but my head doesn't get cold in winter as I'd worried it might! The matte finish also seems to repel dirt, and is easy to wipe clean. A big plus is that there isn't a lot of cloth inside, which tends to get a bit gross and smelly in most helmets, so that looks (and smells!) good as new still.
It is really easy to get a decent fit, these helmets come sized differently than most helmets, which use traditional sizing the same of any hat. Troxel's helmets come in small, medium and large, but there is a lot of room for adjustment within these sizes. I usually find I have to wear a pretty big size hat, but I ended up buying medium. The back panel (which is shaped so that your ponytail doesn't get in the way) pushes up and down until it fits flush against your head. There is a cloth band around the inside which sticks with velcro into the helmet. By folding certain points of this and resticking you can make the helmet smaller, and there is extra to add if you still need it a bit snugger. The strap fastens with a simple click, and is reasonably easy to adjust although I do find the straps are a bit too thin for my liking and can get twisted.
AT £47, this is one of the cheapest helmets of any type on the market. It meets safety standards without making you feel like you're wearing a bulky pillow on your head! It's no wonder other brands are starting to cotton on to the design and produce their own similar models. While it's not really smart enough for competition, Troxel do offer another model now which is a little more upmarket and would be suitable for showjumping at least. For anyone into non-competitive riding, or new riders, this is a perfect choice.