The main purpose of equestrian clothing is to provide essential protection. Even the most experienced riders on the best-trained horses can suffer falls and injuries if their horse is panicked or provoked becoming unpredictable. For inexperienced riders this equipment is even more vital as they do not yet have the skills to keep a horse calm and under control making the possibility of accidents even greater. Horses are large powerful prey animals and instinctively run or rear often kicking out when frightened or when incorrectly handled. Riding hats and body protectors are essential riding equipment and will protect you if this happens.
Protecting the entire body is essential; the most important areas to protect are the head spine and chest. A horse’s kick is hugely powerful sending you flying and can easily break bones or cause internal bleeding. At the most serious a fall or kick from a horse can leave you completely paralyzed if the spine is damaged.
Horses are prized and often expensive animals and owners spend a lot protecting them but thought should be given to protecting the rider too. The rider’s ability to handle a horse will affect their performance and both should feel secure. The riders clothing should cushion any blows they might suffer during an accident.
Back and chest or body protectors protect the rider’s upper body. This is a vital area to protect as it contains our spinal column, which could leave a person paralyzed if damaged. Our upper body also contains virtually all our vital organs that are essential to survival leading to life threatening illness if damaged.
A body protector consists of a padded vest, which will cushion any blow protecting the body underneath and minimizing potential injuries during a fall or when kicked. There are differing types, which can be worn under or over clothing; virtually all can be worn under a jacket.
The body protector is divided into two sections front and back they are usually held together using straps or Velcro over the shoulders and sides making them tight against the body to provide the most effective protection. Your protector should not be loose fitting or move freely. They may be uncomfortable at first but adapt to your body’s shape and contours after it has been worn for a few times. They are designed to be an effective preventative measure against serious injury.
All riders should use new properly fitted body protectors, which conform to safety standards. All body protectors should conform to these standards. There are however different brands and types of protectors on the market.
-Level 1 – The Black Label is appropriate only for licensed jockeys as only provides the bare minimum of protection.
-Level 2 – The Brown Label offers medium protection and is suitable for experienced riders for low risk general riding.
-Level 3 – The Purple Label is suitable for normal and competition riding and for the inexperienced rider as it offers the greatest protection necessary when there is a greater risk of accidents occurring. It should also be used when handling horses rather than just for riding.
Like riding hats protectors should be replaced after 3 or 4 years or after a serious accident as they could have sustained damage, which makes them less effective. Second hand protectors are not advised. Some protectors may come with additional features such as shoulder pads.
Manufacturers provide body protectors in a variety of sizes and styles and it is possible to get one custom made or fitted to be as comfortable and as safe as possible. Some like their protectors looser than others but they should never be too loose or will loose their effectiveness. No matter what your preferences prevention is better than cure and one day you will be grateful to you body protector and along with your hat they should be considered as essential riding equipment.