A new, safer than ever show jumping hat is about to hit the market. The “Pro tector” carries the SNELL E2001 standard — an American certification and currently the highest equestrian safety standard in production — and is the result of a collaboration between show jumper Peter Charles and Ian Beattie, co-director of Gatehouse.

The SNELL standard has a number of exhaustive tests, including a unique simulation of a rider falling into poles or having a secondary hit from flying hooves. It also tests for sideways crush.

Peter Charles and Mr Beattie have been working since January on a prototype for the first SNELL-tested show jumping hat.

Peter told H&H: “Last October, I broke vertebrae, ruptured my spinal sheath and shattered three ribs in a fall. I want to carry on riding for the next 10 years and I will fall again, so I wanted the safest hat I could find.

“I was lucky to have a second chance.”

Having found in his local saddlery the HS1 skull hat produced by Gatehouse for event riders, Peter asked Mr Beattie if a variation could be made for show jumping.

Gatehouse co-director Penny Beattie said: “We haven’t made a show jumping hat of this standard before because show jumpers just haven’t been as interested in head safety as other disciplines. But I think people are beginning to think much more about safety — it was the same with eventers a few years back.”

The Pro tector has a suede peak and is slimmer than the eventer’s skull cap, with a finer three-point harness, to resemble existing hats popular in show jumping. It is expected to go on sale this month and comes in black and silver, but can be personalised to match sponsors’ colours.

Claire Williams, chief executive of the British Equestrian Trade Association, told H&H there are currently only two SNELL-tested hats on the market, both marketed for eventers.

She added: “We always welcome improvements in safety and a choice in safety equipment.”

The BSJA is also excited. Chief executive Jacky Wood said she had not seen it yet, but commented: “If this hat is as safe as everyone says it is, we’ll support it wholeheartedly and recommend that riders wear it. If the top riders are wearing it, the younger ones will want to as well.”

Peter Charles added: “I used not to wear a hat when hacking and schooling, but I do now. A lot of the older riders have been resistant to change, but you have to let the youngsters know what will happen if you bang your head on the ground.”

Nicky Boulter, partner of Peter’s nephew, Nick Charles, who broke his neck in a fall in February, has also been testing the prototype. She said the hat is “the most comfortable” she has worn and does not move on her head. Nick is slowly recovering and is expected to compete again in 2008.

For more details on the Pro tector, which is expected to retail for more than £200 (tel: 01306 631374).

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (3 May, ’07)