Another important piece of safety equipment for horse riding is a body protector. Some riders associate body protectors with being bulky and uncomfortable, however modern-day designs are made with rider comfort in mind, allowing full body movement and breathability whilst offering a high level of protection.
As with riding hats, body protectors should be expertly fitted and conform to the latest European safety standard, which is currently EN13158: 2009, BETA level 3.
There are three levels of protection to cater for different riding activities and the users. The materials used absorb and spread impact thereby lessening or reducing the injury sustained. No body protector can prevent serious injury in certain accidents, but can improve your chances of staying safe and reduce the severity of injuries.
Level 3 (Purple Label) Is designed for everyday riding and competing, including eventing and working with horses. This is the level of body protector you should purchase. As of 2018 you will be required to wear a BETA2009 standard body protector for the cross country phase of all BE and RC competitions. If you are competing in any Pony Club competitions this standard is already compulsory. All body protectors from our supporter Champion meet the BETA 2009 standard for horse riders and EN 13158: 2009 level 3.
How to Fit
A correctly fitted body protector is essential to enable it to do its job properly.
First you will need to decide whether you prefer to have a zip or tabard style body protector. Your trained fitter will then take measurements of your waist, chest and waist to waist measurements and refer to a size chart to convert your measurements to the correct body protector size.
Try the body protector on over light clothing and loosely close the fastenings. Your fitter will then adjust the body protector starting with the shoulder straps making sure the top of the body protector reaches the top of the sternum and covers the prominent bone at the base of the neck.
Next your fitter will adjust the waist for a snug and secure fit. It is important that the front of the body protector finishes at least one inch lower than the bottom rib and gives maximum protection but it should not be so long that it pushes up when you bend forward. The back length is equally important and your trained fitter can ensure that it will not interfere with your riding by hitting the saddle you will be using. This is best checked by sitting on a saddle similar to your own and your fitter will check that the protector has at least to 2 inches gap between the bottom of the protector and the saddle. If a saddle isn’t possible then a chair can be used instead and your fitter will aim for 3 to 3.5 inches between the protector and chair.
Our supporters Champion have also produced this video with the help of their brand ambassador Pippa Funnell to show how to correctly fit a body protector.
Body protectors should be replaced every three to five years as the impact absorption properties of the foam may decline over time. If you have a heavy fall from your horse, check your protector for dents. The foam should expand back to its original shape within 30 minutes of an impact. If a dent is still showing it’s best not to take any chances and to buy a new one.