Feb 04, 2013

Behind the Charles Owen Badge: Helmet Materials

Helmets have come a long way from when they were being made out of cloth and shellac. Many of those advances are due to the plethora of modern materials. Selecting the right materials to be used in a Charles Owen helmet is an art in itself and is essential in creating the safest helmet possible.

The outermost layer of a Charles Owen helmet not only needs to be stylish but functional in preventing injury. A wide range of finishes exist from microfiber suedes, velvets, and leather looks to paints either textured or high gloss polyurethane. The fabrics are finished by stitching directly to the shell of the helmet - a step that distinguishes Charles Owen from many other helmet manufacturers. This allows Charles Owen to guarantee that the cover will never come away from the shell. Rubber-based glue is heat sensitive and fabric just glued to the shell can start to peel away, making stitching is the best way to ensure that long-lasting attachment.

The second layer of the helmet is the shell. Charles Owen makes the majority of its helmet shells out of fiberglass with a few more basic models from injection molded plastic. The new Charles Owen 4Star is made with aramid fibres embedded in a particularly tough resin matrix for vastly improved crush resistance. The purpose of the shell is to spread the force upon impact as well as keeping the integrity of the helmet when dragged along a rough surface. The shell is the key component in protecting the head against skull fracture should a horse tread or roll on you or when you fall on a sharp object such as a rock or corner of a cross-country post. It is the shell that provides protection from the concentrated impact of a stud, a protection that some safety standards do not require, but Charles Owen feels is important for its helmets. During the manufacturing process, the fiberglass shell resin cures for about four and half hours before the helmet goes on to the next step in the process.

Directly beneath the shell is the expanded polystyrene or EPS, the part of the helmet that absorbs the energy of the fall so that the brain does not bruise itself inside the skull. The polystyrene layer is made up of thousands of beads that are full of tiny air bubbles. The beads are foamed like popcorn and aged for about two weeks before the beads are welded edge to edge to create a continuous layer of expanded polystyrene. The absorption of energy by the polystyrene is the most important reason a helmet needs to be replaced after a fall - the impact bursts the contained air bubbles. If you were to fall on the same location again, the bubbles would not be there to absorb the energy of the fall. This part of the helmet has undergone the most evolution in recent years. Other sports with less energy of impact, but with a need to totally recover, have used materials such as memory foam, air chambers and deformable cones. Although not currently suitable for our level of performance, Charles Owen is always researching and testing these new technologies.

Inside the expanded polystyrene is the inner liner, which includes the comfort padding and sizing foam. This liner is made of fabric and foam that molds to your head over time and creates a comfortable and well-fitting helmet. This is the area with the most precision engineering, as the difference in a helmet size is only 1/16th inch in thickness. The helmet needs to interface efficiently with the skull and its inbuilt safety features and this is what differentiates helmet brands. The heads used in test labs are made from magnesium metal with no hair, skin or feeling. It is difficult to make a good helmet great without a full understanding the biomechanics, anthropology and ergonomics of heads.

The final part of the helmet is the harness system and its patented technology. Charles Owen uses reinforced nylon with a soft woven edge, soft leathers and suedes for the harness with either a quick release buckle or a hook and loop closure system. The harness is one of the most crucial components of the helmet because if the helmet doesn't stay on the head it cannot protect it. The harness is designed with precision to keep buckles away from the jawbone, reduce slippage and cup the base of the skull for maximum stability. With the variety of head shapes, not one harness style gives the best comfort with security and you will be amazed at how different each can feel.

All the key components used to create Charles Owen helmets are manufactured in the factory in Wrexham, United Kingdom. The helmets are assembled from start to finish by highly skilled helmet technicians. Using a cellular manufacturing process rather than a production line ensures quality, pride of workmanship and unparalleled traceability. From creating the first bubbles of polystyrene to placing the helmet in the distinctive purple box, the process takes about three weeks.

Now that the materials and manufacturing process has been explained, tune in next time for a look inside the quality control and safety testing that each Charles Owen helmet endures.

Sep 26, 2021 Area Championships

Rider Reflections: The Champions of Area I Championships

From Washington to Vermont, Championships were held on both coasts over the September 18-19 weekend. The Area I Championships took place at the GMHA September Horse Trials in South Woodstock, Vermont where over 60 pairs battled it out for the champion title. The organizers of the Area I Championships would like to thank Essex Equine Inc. for serving as the official pinny sponsors and North Bridge Equine for being the start box sponsor! Flatlandsfoto was the prize sponsor for the championship divisions, as well as the event’s official photographer. Following the weekend’s festivities, we chatted with some of the newly minted champions to share their thoughts on the weekend and their performance overall.

Sep 26, 2021 Future Event Horse

Wise Ravissant Du Defey and Miss Roxy Awarded Top Honors on Day One of USEA FEH East Coast Championships

The first of the USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) East Coast Champions were crowned today at the FEH East Coast Championships held at Loch Moy Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. Eight colts and fillies were presented to judges Robin Walker and Lori Hoos in the FEH 4-year-old Championship, while the 3-year-old division was split into two sections: a FEH 4-year-old Colt Championship consisting of eight colts, and a FEH 4-year-old Filly Championship consisting of ten fillies.

Sep 25, 2021 Area Championships

Rider Reflections: Area VII Champions Conquer Rainy Weather and Championship Courses

The Area VII Championships were one of three Area Championships to run over the weekend of September 18-19. The Aspen Farms Horse Trials of Yelm, Washington was host to the over 150 combinations who qualified for the Area VII year-end Championships presented by Tin Men Supply. With ten Championship divisions running over the course of the weekend, the team of staff and volunteers putting on the event were quite busy ensuring that the Championship atmosphere was top-notch!

Sep 24, 2021 Future Event Horse

Fast Facts: 2021 FEH East Coast Championships

The 2021 USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) Championships will take place at three different regional competitions. The first of the three to kick off the FEH Championship season is the FEH East Coast Championships which will start on Saturday, September 25, and run through Sunday, September 26 at Loch Moy Farm in Adamstown, Maryland. The 2021 USEA FEH Central and West Coast Championships will take place in October.

Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Outerwear of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

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Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

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Official Horse Clothing of the USEA