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Equestrian Safety Vest Options for Kids

Safety Standards, Tips, and Options for Young Riders

Hit Air Pro Kids

What is the first concern of any parent whose horse crazy child wants to start riding lessons?

Or even as an adult picking up riding as a new hobby or getting back in the saddle after several years?

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How Can We Make This As Safe As Possible?

It’s completely natural for new riders, re-riders and even consummate professionals to be concerned about safety when it comes to dealing with and riding 1200lb animals. Even the very best of riders can find themselves in unpredictable situations and over the past 15 years, the equine industry had made great efforts in improving the technology and safety standards to ensure that our sport is up to date and operating at the highest safety protocol.

A Welcome Trend In the Horse World

A recent hot topic in the equine world has been the use of safety vests. While these have been seen for years in other disciplines like Eventing and Show Jumping, the safety vest has not been common attire in the Hunter, Dressage or Western Worlds, until now.

Body Protectors vs. Air Vests

Body Protectors

Body protectors have been around the longest of all of the safety vests. A classic body protector is made up of a variety of materials depending on the style that are designed to absorb the impact and concussion to the body in case of a fall. Most are made of heavy-duty foam, designed to support and concussion the body on impact, reducing injury.

Air Vest

The Air Vest is the newest type of safety vest. These were originally designed for motorcycle riders to provide some protection and then brought to the equestrian industry. These vests have a removable air cartridge embedded in the vest with a lanyard that is attached from the vest to the “D” located near the stirrup bar. In the event that the rider parts with the horse, the lanyard will deploy the airbag, with most air vests fully inflating in under .2 seconds. As the cartridge deploys, the airbag inflates around the rider’s upper body and absorbs the impact of the fall.

Body Protectors & Safety Vests DO:

  1. Protect the abdomen and internal organs
  2. Protect the thorax (chest and ribs)
  3. Prevent against soft tissue injuries, including bruising, lacerations/cuts, abrasions and contact burn.
  4. Stabilize the neck (air vests)
  5. Reduce injury

Body Protectors & Safety Vests DO NOT:

  1. Offer direct spinal protection
  2.  Protect from crushing of the body
  3. Protect against injuries involving severe torsion, flexion or extension.

Certification Organizations

The following organizations that manage the standards and test to ensure body protectors meet their safety requirements.

What are the equestrian safety vest standards?

  • There are three international equestrian safety standards for foam-based body protectors: CE EN 13158, ASTM F1937 and ASTM F2681.
  • There is one specification for air-inflatable equestrian body protectors: Satra M38.
  • Motorcycle body protector standards are sometimes used for equestrian body protection: EN 1621-2, EN 1621-3 and EN 1621-4. However, these are not typically the same as the risks they test for are quite different from those that an equestrian faces in the event of a fall.

British Equestrian Trade Association

British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA)

The BETA standard for Body and shoulder protectors is recognized as the world wide industry standard. The standard has been in place for over 25 years, starting in 1992 and being regularly reviewed and amended in 1995, 2000, 2009 and 2018. The BETA Standard sets criteria for shock-absorption, controls the area of the body that must be covered and ensures there are minimal gaps between the protective foam panels. It encompasses three levels, each designed for different activities and denoted by a color-coded label on the garment.

BETA Safety standard levels

  • Level 1 (Green)
    Provides the lowest level of protection that is only considered appropriate for licensed jockeys. Level 1 is designed to meet the weight restrictions that apply to professional jockeys whilst racing.
  • Level 2 (Orange)
    Offers a lower than normal level of protection. It is considered suitable for general riding in very low risk situations and for professionals such as licensed jockeys when specified by their racing authority or regulatory body.
  • Level 3 (Blue)
    Considered appropriate for general riding, competitions including eventing and working with horses. Level 3 body protectors should prevent minor bruising that would have produced stiffness and pain, reduce soft tissue injuries and prevent a limited number of rib fractures.
  • Level 3 Carriage driving (blue label)
    Body protectors designed to meet the needs of horse drivers. Navigators are best wearing a standard level 3. It does not provide adequate coverage of the back for those riding horses or those working with them.

 

 CRITT Sport Loisirs

CRITT Sports Et Loisirs

CRITT Sport Loisirs is authorized to perform a “EC” type for masks and visors to protect the face, mouth guards, breastplates, and protective shells (Opinion of 24 July 2010 Official Journal of the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Employment on the application of the code of sport).

Nature of tests:

Mechanical tests

Impact tests

Dimensions, sizes

Load tests

Markings, Etc.

Quality approach:
As part of its quality assurance program, CRITT Sport Loisirs accredited by the COFRAC as No. 1-1570 accordance with the ISO 17025 standard on several test programs.

SEI ASTM logo

SEI (ASTM)

SEI maintains ASTM standards.

ASTM F1937 is a standard that specifies:

• Requirements for the body protector assembly the extent and form of the protective material used the attachments

• The dimension, sizing and body coverage provided. Testing procedures include a shock attenuation test, a penetration and deformation test, an impact sites test, a padding separation test, and a closure test.

These tests are done in four conditions: ambient temperature, low temperature, high temperature, and water immersion.

ASTM F2681 is a standard for body protectors that covers the minimum performance criteria and outlines test methods for body protectors that will be used specifically for horse racing.

Satra logo

SATRA

Some air vests are tested to the SATRA M38:Issue 3 February 2015 air vest standard.

Following a detailed research project funded by the Injured Jockeys Fund and conducted by independent test house SATRA in conjunction with the British Racehorse Authority a standard was established for the use of air bag vests by jockeys, and an amended version covering the use of air bag vests for riders across all other equestrian disciplines.

SATRA M38: February 2013 – Requirements for air-vests, for use in horse riding, intended to give protection in the event of a fall to ground SATRA M39: February 2013 – Requirements for jockeys’ body protectors additionally incorporating airbag technology.

The SATRA Standards cover ergonomics, total area covered by the air bag, impact attenuation, activation force, lanyard strength, lanyard length, inflation speed and pressures and have been adopted by most of the major air jacket manufacturers.

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One of the challenges is that unlike the ASTM and BETA standards for body protectors, there is currently no commonly accepted standard for air vest testing.

Air Vest Tips for Parents & Kids

There is a Minimum Rider Weight for Air Vests

 

Airowear AyrPS

Weight minimum: 70 lbs

 

Helite Air Jacket – Child

Weight minimum: 70 lbs

 

Hit Air Pro Kids

Weight minimum: 50 lbs

 

Hit Air Advantage Kids

Weight minimum: 50 lbs

 

Point Two Hunter

Weight minimum: 70 lbs

 

Point Two ProAir Child

Weight minimum: 70 lbs

 

Point Two Soft Shell

Weight minimum: 70 lbs

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For Small Children, a Body Protector Is Recommended Instead of an Air Vest:

 

Reasons Include:

 1. Children may not remember to clip/unclip the lanyard and accidentally inflate the vest when dismounting.

 2. Canisters cost around $30 – $40 each and need to be replaced when a child forgets to unclip.

 3. Body protectors have a lower cost of entry when kids are outgrowing them quickly.

 4. Body protectors are more durable (can be cleaned more easily, thrown around, etc.)

Air Vests Are Mechanical

 

A chain of events have to occur for an air vest to inflate.

The air vest is activated when a rider is separated from the saddle. This may be due to a rider fall or a dismount without unclipping the vest. When a rider is separated from the saddle, the pressure on the lanyard results in a key ball pulling out of the trigger. A piston is then released and shoots into the gas cartridge to deploy the CO2, which results in an inflated vest.

The air slowly releases out of the vest automatically and the vest will self deflate. Some vests will require minimal tucking, snapping, and/or velcroing to put it back together to be used again. In all cases after deployment, the trigger will need to be reset and the gas canister will need to be replaced.

If the rider does not separate from the saddle, the air vest will not deploy. This means that an air vest is not 100% safe for every fall scenario. For example, if the horse falls with the rider, and the rider doesn’t separate from the horse, the air vest will not deploy. It’s important to understand the limitations of an air vest so you aren’t surprised when it doesn’t go off. Every piece of protective equipment has its limitations. As long as you know what those limitations are, you can make the best decisions about what products to use to maximize you and your child’s safety.

Most of the body protectors also do an over-the-shoulder measurement, but not the air vests.

Safety Vest Fit Guide

There are four measurements that will determine what size body protector you need.

  1. The circumference of the widest part of the chest to find the appropriate size range. Some models for kids and teens are adjustable and designed to fit a growing rider.
  2. The circumference of the natural waist to ensure that the body protector won’t feel too loose or shift on the body.
  3. The measurement from waist to waist over the shoulder.
  4. The measurement of back length, starting at the base of the neck and ending at the base of the spine, approximately at the cross seam of the seat of your breeches.

Once you’ve referenced the size chart available on each body protector tag, try on the one that best matches your measurements. Fasten any adjustable straps to make a snug fit. If possible, the final step should be sitting on a saddle to check the back length of the body protector. There should be approximately four fingers between the saddle and the base of the body protector so that it won’t interfere over a drop fence. At the front, the body protector should each the breast bone at the top and cover the bottom rib but should not cover the belly button.

Thanks to Our Models, Writers, & Contributors!

We had a fun day with Catherine Winter of Ride EquiSafe trying out their wide selection of equestrian safety vests for kids.

Contributors
Emma Fogler is a professional hunter/jumper rider and trainer. Emma and her husband, Nick Stewart, own and operate Across Town Farm out of Mebane, NC. They specialize in teaching riders of all ages and levels and attend local to "AA" shows throughout the Southeast. Emma graduated from The University of South Carolina with a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication and enjoys combining her love of horses and writing by working for equine-related media and publications.

Visit: www.acrosstownfarm.com

Catherine Ride EquiSafe

Catherine Winter of Ride EquiSafe: At Ride Equisafe, you will find the largest selection of air vests, body protectors, and safety stirrups. Their goal is to serve as a destination for all things safety, eliminating the need for you to visit multiple tack stores or websites to shop and compare. All of their products are state of the art with the latest technology and certified. Ride EquiSafe is not your standard tack store. They offer one thing and one thing only: equestrian rider safety equipment.

Visit: https://www.rideequisafe.com/

Catherine Ride EquiSafe

Susan DiFelice of Allpony: Owner and creator of Allpony, the horsemanship for kids website and activity book. Susan provided photos, illustrations, web design, and content creation for this article.

Visit: https://allpony.com

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