From: Equestrian Clothing
Body protectors are a protective piece of clothing that offer horse riders some protection in the event of a fall or accident (although cannot prevent serious injury from occurring). They are compulsory for all levels of eventing and cross country riding and highly recommended for jumping, hacking, riding on the road, breaking in youngsters, racing and for any other time that you feel that wearing one is necessary.
Body protectors consist of an outer shell which helps to protect the shoulders, rib cage and and back area. They are made out of shock absorbing materials that will aid the spread of impact should the rider fall off.
Technology is always updating and many body protectors today are made of soft, flexible and heat sensitive materials such as PVC nitrile foam that give a close fit that moulds to the riders body and which is also light weight and of a breathable material, with either tough velcro straps, laced closure or both so that a really snug fit can be obtained without too much bulk.
Body protectors are available for children and adults in many different styles and colours. The measurements you will often require are around the chest size in centimeters, around the waist size in centimeters and from the waist over the shoulder and back to the waist also in centimeters.
Body protectors are now available in a wide range of colours and sizes such as pink, green, blue and black.
Body protectors are labeled in levels according to the safety level that they have achieved. They are approved by BETA in the United Kingdom and are put into three levels from 1 to 3 as a guide to their most suitable usage. Some competitions require a specific level of up to date body protector to be used, for example in eventing where only a level three which is the purple label is permitted, so it is worth checking the rule book prior to competition with regards to what is permitted for the sport you wish to undertake:
Air jackets can be worn on there own such as for hacking and schooling horses and during competitions although for competitions such as eventing they must be worn in conjunction with a standard level 3 body protector as well. Air jackets potentially further increase the level of protection offered to the rider and it is recommended to only use air jackets that have been certified for horse riding.
Air jackets work by being inflated by a CO2 canister when a lanyard that is attached to both the rider and D ring on the saddle is triggered, with leading air jackets now able to inflate roughly within a tenth of a second.