Body protectors are designed to offer protection to a rider when falling off, being kicked or trodden on by a horse.
No body protector can prevent serious injury in every situation, but they can increase the chances of staying alive and reduce the severity of injuries.
The correct fitting of a horse riding body protector is essential, and we recommend going to a reputable outlet where the body protector will be fitted to the person who is to wear it – ideally by someone who has attended a BETA body protector fitting training session.
Many body protectors on the market can be altered to fit in a number of different ways, meaning you should always find one that will fit you. It is vital to think about how you will wear your body protector when you get it fitted. For example, if yours will be worn over a riding jacket, then have your jacket on underneath when your body protector is fitted. However, if it will be worn over a shirt or cross-country top, then it should be fitted to be worn in that way.
Most body protectors are designed to comply with EN13158 and a recognised BETA level standard. You will find them in stores at level one, two or three – but with level one being phased out as stocks are run out (due to its limited protective elements), level two and three protectors are currently more widely available. Riders looking for the best protection should choose level three, which will meet the requirements for any equestrian discipline.
As air jackets become more popular, some riders are choosing to wear one over a level three body protector to enhance their protection, as air jackets purport to offer further safety features. However, these jackets – which are made with airbags which inflate when a mechanism is activated as the rider is thrown from the horse, and attach to the saddle with a lanyard – are still relatively new to the market and do not currently meet any recognised safety standard on their own.
If worn alone, they offer little protection to the rider, and manufacturers state clearly that they should ideally be worn with a BETA level three EN13158 body protector. Air jackets work well for flat falls but offer limited, if any, protection against direct kicks when falling or on the ground.
Hybrid versions of these garments are available, combining a body protector, which should always be approved to BETA Level 3, with an air jacket.
For more information, download the BETA Guide to Body Protection (pdf) or contact the BHS Safety Team on 02476 840516 or email@example.com.
Here are the BHS Body Protector Standards for 2019.
Please refer to our What to Wear page if you are unsure of the correct equipment you will need to keep you and your horse safe.