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Having the right safety gear plays an important role in feeling confident around horses and when riding. In this article, we get part two of Champion's essential safety wear advice on body protectors.

Choosing the right body protector

As with riding hats, body protectors should be worn and expertly fitted. They should conform to the latest European safety standard, which is currently EN13158: 2009, BETA level 3 and meet the basic health and safety requirements of the European PPE Directive 686/89 (changing to PPE Regulation 425/16 from April 2018). This allows manufacturers to use the CE Mark.

The foams used in body protectors absorb and spread impact energy, lessening or reducing possible injuries which may be sustained. A body protector cannot prevent serious injury in certain accidents, but can improve your chances of staying safe and reduce the severity of injuries.

There are currently three levels of protection to cater for different riding activities and working with horses:

  • Level 1 – for trained jockeys
  • Level 2
  • Level 3 (Purple label) – designed for everyday riding and competing, including eventing and working with horses. This is the level of body protector you should purchase (see image 1)

All Champion body protectors meet the EN 13158: 2009 Standard for horse riders and are BETA level 3.

How to fit your body protector

A correctly fitted body protector is essential to enable it to do its job properly. Many retailers will be either BETA trained or trained by individual manufacturers – always check for BETA or company certificates to ensure you are fitted by an accredited person.

The following steps will help you when getting your body protector fitted:

  • 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 (see image 2)
  • 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 reaches as close as possible to the prominent bone at the base of the neck (see image 3)
  • Your fitter will then 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 (see image 4). However, it should not be so long that it pushes up when you bend forward.
  • The back length is equally important. Your trained fitter can ensure 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; your fitter will then check that the protector has at least a two-inch gap between the bottom of the protector and the seat of the saddle. If a saddle isn’t possible then a chair with a flat seat can be used instead, and your fitter will aim for 3 to 3.5 inches between the protector and chair

Replacing your 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.

Do not purchase body protectors for children with “growing room”. Manufacturers have already taken this into account, and each body protector has more than adequate adjustability to allow for growing room.

It is also important not to make a purchase of a product which fits you at its very limits of adjustability, but allows you as much room as possible before reaching any “coloured markers” or maximum extendibility.