Information Guide for Safety Vests
You probably never get on your horse without wearing a helmet, but it’s also important to protect your spine and torso. Safety vests are not just for eventers and others riding in riskier disciplines. Any rider can take a tumble. Wearing a safety vest can’t guarantee you won’t hurt yourself if you fall off, but it lowers the odds of a serious injury. For trail riders, a safety vest can prevent injury even if you don’t fall off, as the vest protects you from errant branches or other items encountered out hacking.
Safety Vests Types and Styles
Safety vests, also known as body protectors, should meet or exceed the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) standard, or the British equivalent, the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA). While safety is paramount, many body protectors are also quite stylish. With any safety vest, fit is crucial. Riders need a vest that fits snugly and comfortably while protecting the spine and torso. Vests include strong zippers and Velcro attachments to keep them securely on the rider. Advanced materials make most safety vests comfortable to wear in cold or hot weather. Here are the major types of safety vests:
- Air vests – eventers, show jumper and hunter riders, steeplechasers and anyone regularly galloping and jumping may benefit from high tech air vests, which deploys CO2 air cartridges to protect the rider in case of a fall. A lanyard attached to the saddle from the vest signals that the air canisters should open if a rider falls. These vests are usually worn in conjunction with conventional safety vests for added security.
- Hybrid vests – these vests combine air vests and body protectors in one package, and are considerably lighter for the rider than wearing a separate air vest and body protector.
- Polyester/foam body protectors – these functional vests offer protection for any discipline at an economical price.
- Leather body protector vests – while marketed toward rodeo competitors, these attractive leather safety vests with high density protective padding are also a good option for the trail rider.
- Racing vests – these safety vests are designed with higher cuts for riders in the galloping position.
- Gel foam vests – high tech gel foam vests offer top shock absorption and light weight. The material will mold to the rider’s body with use. These vests also suit any discipline, including combined driving, which mandates safety vests in the cross-country phase under FEI rules.
How to Care for Your Safety Vest
Safety vests require minimal care. Brush your safety vest off after each wearing. Hang it up using a strong coat hanger in your tack room. If your vest gets dirty, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing and drying. Many safety vests include removable, machine washable liners. Air vests do require annual servicing to ensure all parts are in working order. A well-cared for safety vest should last for many years.