‘You’ve only got one head’: coach’s hat warning after surviving six-inch gash to her face

A coach whose hat “saved her” when her face was split open in a fall has reminded others about the importance of wearing a correctly fitting safety helmet.

Victoria Baker, a BHSI coach based in North Yorkshire, fell from her five-year-old sports horse Charlie on 30 October.

“It was just one of those things,” Victoria told H&H. “He can be very exuberant; we were at a friend’s all-weather gallops and he got a bit excited.

“He jumped in the air, fired me upwards and I came down between his front legs. The toe of his front foot hit my hat, then his hind foot came down in front of my ear.”

Victoria was taken to hospital by ambulance.

“I had a six-inch laceration from the front of my ear to the top of my scalp and a black eye,” she said.

“I was stitched up a few days later and it feels a bit like I’ve had a facelift, but I’m amazed I wasn’t more injured – my hat saved me.”

Victoria said she will be renewing her Gatehouse HS1 safety helmet and wants others to give more consideration to wearing a quality safety helmet.

“I always say to people buy the best you can afford; you need a good quality hat,” she said. “On the other hand you find sometimes people save their best hats for competitions, but they should be wearing them at home too.

“As an instructor it’s important to be a role model for people and I will always ride and lunge in a hat. It winds me up if an instructor jumps on a horse without a hat or where you see for sale adverts of people on horses without hats. While we try to be safe, accidents do happen.”

Victoria added that she wants others to be more aware of manufacturer guidelines on replacing and fitting hats.

“I’ve had people turn up for lessons with loose chin straps and hats that don’t fit properly. You’ve only got one head, it’s not worth taking a risk with it,” she said.

“Often people aren’t aware of manufacturer guidelines about replacing hats; if you wear it every day perspiration is going to cause the padding to eventually deteriorate and compress. I replace my hat every two years. Manufacturers aren’t trying to rip you off – the guidelines are there to protect us.”

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Paul Varnsverry, technical and safety product advisor for Gatehouse Hats told H&H that any hat that has suffered an impact should always be replaced and added that even wth normal use, the effectiveness of the protective materials will deteriorate over time.

“While professionals riding a number of horses every day and in all conditions should look at replacing safety headwear every 1 to 2 years, the leisure rider could extend this to every 3 to 5 years with good care and depending on how often they ride – although they should make regular checks for signs of wear to the harness, lining and outer shell,” said Mr Varnsverry.

A spokesman for the British Equestrian Trade Assosication told H&H it recommends hats are replaced at least every five years, or before if the rider has had a fall.

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