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The GO Outdoors Guide To Body Protectors

If you fall from a horse, you need plenty of cushioning to your core organs, as well as your ribs. Your spine cannot be protected from a horse riding protection vest as your spine has to be able to flex and move. 

A horse riding protection vest is excellent at protecting all over your core. 

 Horse riding protection vests also reduce bruising and stiffness as well as soft tissue injuries and rib fractures. Protection vests can be fitted as a vest, or can be larger , fitting down to the pelvis and across the arms.

Fitting A Body Protector 

  1. You should fit the protector over a rugby shirt, T shirt or similar.Measurements should be taken of your chest, waist, over the shoulder, and waist.
  2. Loosen the side adjusters and do up the zip or waist strap.
  3. Adjust the shoulder straps, so that the top of the body protector reaches the top of the sternum (breastbone) at the front and the prominent bone at the base of the neck should be covered at the back.
  4.  Ensure that any red warning markers are fully covered. 
  5.  Adjust the waist until a snug secure fit is achieved; check that the red warning markers are fully covered. If not try the next size up.
  6. Your ribs lowest point they should be 1inch above the bottom of the protector. You can do this by adjusting the shoulder straps as long as this does not show any red markers, if this does not work try the next size up.
  7. There should be at least 1.5 to 2 inches between the bottom of the protector and the saddle. ( You can test this with a chair.) If the protector is just slightly shorter this is not a problem as it is only there to protect soft tissue and if too long will cause the protector to push up into the neck which could be uncomfortable. 


Safety Ratings For Protective Vests

The one standard that all horse riding body protectors must adhere to is the class system devised by the British Equestrian Trade Association, or BETA. 

The tests demonstrate the body protector’s ability to protect from weights.


Previous Classifications and Safety Standards for Protective Vests

Classifications from BETA change with time to meet European safety standards, now classes as EN13158:2000. 

Previous body protectors came in the following classes, but should be replaced with the new classified standards. 

Beta Class 1 : (Usually Green)- Suited for low risk riding 
Beta Class 2 (Orange) – Suitable for normal risk riding Beta Class 3 ( Purple) – Suitable for high risk riding/riders. 

Previous classes have included Red and Blue labels- these should also be replaced.


New Classifications and Safety Standards for Protective Vests

Beta Class 1: Black Label – Low Protection levels- Suitable for jockeys. 
Beta Class 2: Brown Label- Suitable for low risk situations, not suitable for road riding or jumping. 
Beta Class 3: Purple Label: Suitable for normal riding, events, competitions, road riding.


Padding In Protective Vests

The padding in each protective vest varies from brand to brand. EVA foam or Ethylene vinyl acetate is commonly used in the creation of a horse riding body protector, or a heat sensitive PVC Nitrile. 

EVA is a mix of the materials ethylene and Vinyl acetate that is commonly known as a soft rubber or padded rubber. EVA is fantastic at absorbing shock from a fall, whilst Nitrile moulds with heat to fit to the shape of your body for comfort. 

EVA also retains memory and makes sure that you have a great flexible and cushioned landing. If your body protector does take a knock, it will need replacing as it won’t be effective in your next fall. 


Replacing Your Protective Vest

Remember to replace your horse riding protection vest after a knock of a fall. 

The foam will expand back to shape in 30 minutes time after a collision, but any dents that remains are a sign that the foam has lost it’s absorption, and therefore, safe qualities so should be replaced. 

 Without knocks or dents, your horse riding protection vest should be replaced every 5 years, unless a safety classification change requires a replacement before this time.


Fitting a Protective Vest