Why should I wear a body protector?
Body protectors are foam filled vests that reduce the impact to the back and chest should you fall off a horse, or get kicked or trodden on by a horse. Although wearing one will not prevent injury, it can significantly cushion an impact and reduce its severity. They can be worn over clothing and under a jacket, and these days tend to be flexible and lightweight. They are obligatory for some competitions, but are increasingly seen for everyday riding, especially for hacking and jumping.
There are three levels of body protector, set out by the BETA standards to which all body protectors must adhere, and are colour coded by label:
Level 1 (Black label) – This offers the lowest level of protection and is only appropriate for licensed jockeys while racing.
Level 2 (Brown label) – This offers a lower than normal level of protection and is therefore only considered suitable for low risk situations. It is not suitable for jumping or riding on roads.
Level 3 (Purple label) – This is considered appropriate for general horse riding and competitions.
You can also buy additional shoulder protection which reduces the risk of breaking your collarbone should you fall on your shoulder.
How should it be fitted?
A good fit is vital for both comfort and safety. A body protector should fit securely and snugly over light clothing, and should not move while riding. Over time, it will mould itself to the rider’s body shape and become increasingly comfortable.
There are four measurements required to achieve the correct fit: the chest, waist, waist to waist measurement over the shoulder and the back length. The size can then be selected on the chest and waist measurements, and the length on back and over the shoulder length.
When trying it on, the protector should cover the whole circumference of the torso and reach at least 2.5cm below the rib cage without preventing bending into a riding position. There are several fasteners to adjust the fit. If coloured tabs are showing when the fasteners are closed, the fit is not quite right and another size is required.
How should I look after my body protector?
Body protectors should be changed every three to four years to ensure they’re still effective as over time the impact absorption properties of the foam may start to diminish. Should you fall or get kicked, make sure you check it all over fully to ensure it’s not damaged. Foam should expand back to its shape within about thirty minutes. If it doesn’t, the foam is damaged and the body protector should be replaced. Some damage may be unseen, and for this reason it is unwise to get a second hand one that you don’t know the history of.
Look after your body protector by not leaving it hanging around to get trodden on or too hot or damp. When you’re not using it, hang it on a hanger with all fastenings closed to ensure it keeps its shape.