X-Post NYTimes Article: Black Equestrians Want to Be Safe. But They Can’t Find Helmets

There’s some spectacularly awful responses from a lot of the big helmet makers in this article including this gem from Back on Track:

But the riders’ concerns have yet to reach Back on Track, a market leader that makes equestrian products, including helmets in a variety of shapes and sizes, with removable liners. In an interview, James Ruder, the chief executive, said the company’s helmets can accommodate most riders. He added that he had “never once heard” about a Black rider struggling with helmet fit.

“If you have an ‘oddity’ — and I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the people who have weird hairstyles — but if you have a hairstyle that impacts the functionality of the helmet, you might just have to change it,” Mr. Ruder said.


I read that this morning, and ughhhhhh lord some people could stand to hire PR and have them speak on their behalf. The responses are very cringe. To some extent, they have a small point: if you want to ride, some hair styles won’t work regardless of hair type. I probably couldn’t have my hair in a ponytail past my butt and ride safely as an example.

BUT THAT SAID… that’s no reason to not try and be more inclusive. Braids and dreads are still common hairstyles. The hairstyles they feature in the article should be reasonable ones to work with. They are not “oddities.” :woman_facepalming:


If the link in the OP is not accessible to anyone, respond here and I’ll post an accessible one using one of my “gifts.”

The link in the OP worked for me without a login but that may be bc of my subscription.

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Honestly, until I read the article, I had no idea that Back on Track even made helmets.

I did find it a little ironic (and not in a good way) that the comment came from a guy who also said he was bald.


I notice they shut down the NYT comment section earlier than usual on this piece, after only 225 comments.

This tonedeaf dude definitely deserved a reply: https://nyti.ms/3YoW4Km#permid=123550289


That is a really insensitive and awful response.

I don’t know what the answer is though. The Dreadlock hairstyle is sometimes so large that you can’t even get baseball caps that will fit. Designing a helmet to fit may require a full redesign of how a helmet would even work, which would cost a LOT in R&D for a very small market. (Not that it makes it ok that we just ignore a whole group of people. But I understand from a business standpoint why you wouldn’t invest in that research)

I have had students in the past who had braids and corn rows and helmet fit (always seemed to be) a non-issue. Same with Afro and natural hair. However, I’d love to hear from equestrians with these styles to see if they have input on comfort or how they believe helmets should be modified.

As an equestrian we do end up having to make choices for our sport. Extensions are a good example; you really can’t have hair extensions and use a helmet. (Or swim. I have a competitive swimmer friend who can’t get extensions either).


This isn’t just horses in motor sport you are fairly limited on hairstyle by the helmets too. Lewis Hamilton has talked about just cutting his hair short to deal with it. I have very thick curly hair and and I can’t wear it up in a helmet so sometimes it looks messy but I’m not willing to either cut my hair super short or compromise my helmets fit so my coaches need to deal with it looking messy. I do usually get it braided to show but I can’t do it myself.

It’s unfortunately one of those times that fashion and safety don’t mix.


I had the same thought.

I wonder if there is a way they could apply some of the research and technology from football helmets, since there seem to be people who wear those helmets with lots of different hairstyles.

Note- I don’t know anything about football, so that is just based on my very casual observation.


There’s a reason I very rarely read the online comments section. Even on the Times website.


It is not accessible if you’ve already used up your free articles (which apparently I have already.)

You get the “Create your free account or log in to continue reading.” and you can continue without subscribing, but only for the 3 or 5 or whatever they let you read for free.

Thank you, if you decide to gift it!


I remember it used to be 20 a month. And then I think they cut it down to 10 a month. I don’t know what it is now.

Here’s a gift link:


Oof. Time for some Media Training for that guy. The first rule of Media Training is DO NOT talk to the media unless you know what you are doing.

I learned this in a training session taught by a top notch PR firm. They taught us things, then they brought in real reporters to have us practice and get feedback. I learned that I should never, ever, be allowed to talk to a reporter. :joy:


Probably very useful information to have. Lol.

Did they say who should be allowed to talk to a reporter?

A little bit closer to home is the Chronicle’s Time Travel Tuesday email feature.


In an age when every Smartpak catalog includes riders of all shapes and ethnicities, the Chronicle insists on looking backwards. Why?


People who can think fast enough on their feet and far enough ahead to avoid saying things like that guy from BOT did. More than likely (I assume good intentions until I learn otherwise) he didn’t MEAN for it to come out that way…

I am not good at extemporaneous speaking. At all. I even went through the Toastmasters thing. I got better, but I understand what a slip-up like this can do to a company’s reputation, and I don’t want to be the person who makes that mistake.


I think that they would have to use a more football or motorcycle style helmet that wraps down around the neck to provide a more secure fit.

Maybe the answer for the woman in the article, at least in the meantime, is to use a motorcycle helmet when riding. They are designed for similar impacts as riding helmets and would be safer than nothing at all.

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I read the NYT article this morning and got so mad about the absolute old white man nonsense being spouted by the Back on Track representative that it took me the entire day to be coherent about this.

When someone has made a commitment to a sport, it is reasonable for them to change other aspects of their life to suit that sport. Examples include waking up at 4:30 AM to go for a run before it’s hot, budgeting for all-weather clothing so that you can spend time outside in comfort, or adjusting your hairstyle to fit your helmet. (How many of us keep our hair a certain length because our helmets were fitted that way?)

Before someone has gotten to that point- when they are still exploring the sport and deciding if they have a curiosity, an interest, or a passion- it is not yet reasonable for them to adjust their lives around their participation. If a sport’s materials are difficult to access or unsuitable for that person without making such adjustments, that is a barrier for entry. Doesn’t this sport have enough of them?

This page, about fitting helmets for cyclists, speaks about fitting helmets on beaded or high-volume hairstyles and points out that in a class setting where you are trying to get someone set up to enjoy the sport, “A helmet for them to use now has to work with the hairstyle, not ignore it.” This goes particularly for young riders, who are at the mercy of their parents for a lot of their styling choices! I was interested to read the practical suggestion of locking down the helmet with a dial fit system. I’m not a materials scientist and I certainly don’t mean to downplay the undertaking of getting a new product through impact testing and to market, but I would have to think that a combination of adjustable padding (either multiple thicknesses like the Samshields or One-Ks or discretely adjustable individual pieces that could be stacked) and a dial fit could go a long way towards accommodating more voluminous hair.


This reminds me of someone I knew many years ago who definitely danced to her own drummer, style wise. And she had basically a shaved head or close to it, depending on how recently she had done it, sometimes with a set of A-5 horse clippers, I think.

But she still kept long tendrils around the bottom of her hairline so that when she wore a hardhat, she could make it look like she had typical, classic hunter hair. You could not tell the difference when she had a helmet on.

And then she would take the hat off and have a completely different look. It was really funny.


Call me quick to embrace cancel culture, but I suddenly don’t feel the need to invest in any new BOT products.