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Riding schools turn away budget hats

Industry experts issue caution over discount riding gear now being sold in supermarkets

BUYERS of cut-price riding hats from select supermarket chains have been dismayed to have the items rejected by riding centres.


Experts have warned shoppers to exercise caution when buying inexpensive riding gear in supermarkets. Riders have been snapping up hats and rugs for less than 10, and headcollars for around 2, since three budget stores last month started stocking riding products.


"Although the hats concerned appear to have been tested to a European standard, the equipment may not be competition-legal in the UK, nor accepted at riding schools," confirmed Claire Williams, executive director of the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA).


The offers, which emulate lines in Europe, have been advertised in the national press.


But in mid-April, when the products first appeared at Lidl and Netto supermarkets, BETA and the British Horse Society (BHS) received calls from concerned consumers.


Several reported that riding schools had refused to let them wear hats purchased from supermarkets because they lacked certain quality marks.


A spokesman for the BHS said: "We recommend riding schools use kite-marked hats, but it's not compulsory. Riding schools' insurers, too, may insist on kite - or quality-marked hats."

BETA said a hat sold by Lidl UK appeared to have been tested in Germany to the European EN1384 standard, which means it has been tested for its ability to protect a rider's head. But the hats appear not to have the extra kite or quality marks, awarded by the British Standards Institution or its foreign equivalents, required by some riding schools.


Claire Williams welcomed consumer choice, but pointed out that trained fitters may not be available at supermarkets: "It's unlikely that there will be in-store facilities for fitting hats professionally. And after-sales support is limited at a non-specialist retailer."

A spokesman for Aldi Stores, which launched its "non-food special" riding range this month, acknowledged that Aldi's children's riding helmet does not carry any warning that it may not be accepted at riding schools, and confirmed it was not able to provide hat fitters in its 238 UK branches.


Netto said its equestrian range had ended, having been run on a "while stocks last" basis. Horse & Hound tried to contact Lidl, but staff failed to return our calls.


Williams added that the rug sizes used at these stores might confuse buyers because they appear to be measured in the European fashion - along the back, rather than from chest to tail.


Affordable - but controversial?


• ALDI'S equestrian "non-food special" follows ranges in golf, cyclingand running-wear. Ladies' jodhpurs are 16.99; half-chaps are 7.99.

• Hats are 9.99. The model is tested to EN 1384 standard. Aldi's publicity material says the hat is "ideal if your child has just started learning to ride".

• For more information about hat standards and

kite and quality marks, contact:

BHS Safety Department (tel: 08701 202244)

Mark Davies Injured Riders' Fund (tel: 01483 277344); www.mdirf.co.uk 


This article reproduced with the permission of Horse & Hound was written

by Yolanda Carslaw and appeared in Horse & Hound on 5 May 2005


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