Air Vests: A Safety Option for Riders

Safety vests are becoming more and more common in the jumping ring. Let’s break it down.

Riding horses definitely has its risks. How likely are you to be injured while riding a horse? According to Equestrian Injury Statistics conducted by Ohio State University, a survey of riders in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho found that surprisingly 81% were injured sometime during their time in the saddle. Most riders know and accept the possibility of a fall, and yet it does not deter them from enjoying the sport they love. 

According to that same study, 10% – 30% of horseback riding injuries are head injuries. With this knowledge, the world of equine sports, for the most part, has adopted a helmet-required policy. Fortunately, riding helmets have proven to protect riders against head injuries, and helmet designs continue to evolve and improve. 

81% of riders in OR, WA, and ID report being injured in the saddle.

The eventing world made it mandatory to wear a protective safety vest for the cross-country phase in 1996. These body protectors are made with dense foam that absorb some of the impact of the fall to help shield the spine, ribs, and internal organs. This has proven to decrease the risk of injury, and these safety vests are also in use for horse racing, colt starting, and rodeos. 

Relatively new to the equestrian crowd is the inflatable air vest, and it is becoming increasingly popular with riders in all disciplines. If you fall from your horse, a cord attached to your vest and saddle is pulled to activate the airbags in your vest in less than a second and cushion you before you hit the ground. 

10% – 30% of injuries incurred while riding occur to the head and neck.

There are numerous inflatable air vests for riders with name brands such as Hit Air, Point Two, Helite, and Horse Pilot. These designs and styles have become more fitted and lightweight, and so more appealing to riders. Eventers who choose to wear an air vest, are also required to wear a body protector vest under it. This is because if a rider and horse fall together, the air vest will not deploy. You must separate from your horse to trigger the airbags to inflate. 

There is a mechanism to inflate the air vest, and like anything, a possibility of a malfunction. The manufacturers of these vests are quite clear about having them tested annually or after any accident when the airbag has been deployed. The CO2 canister that is punctured to inflate the vests must be replaced after each use as well. 

In 1996 it became mandatory to wear a safety vest while competing in eventing.

With all the considerations involved with choosing whether to wear an air vest; it has prevented serious injuries to the riders wearing them. A wealth of information about air vests can be found at Rideequisafe.com, a company that specializes in safety equipment for horse riders. A selection of air vest brands is represented at this site and the safety standards and ratings explained in detail. 

Riding horses for many is a lifelong endeavor that brings joy and happiness to our lives on many levels. The safety equipment available today; helmets, safety stirrups, body protectors and air vests are options worth pursuing to make it safer as well. 

By Sarah Crampton


The Best of the Vests

We’ve sorted through a few stellar options on the market, for both air vests and body protectors. Here are some of our favorites:

Helite Zip’in 2 Air Vest

The Helite Zip’in 2 is an upgrade from the original, with its slimmer style and smaller cartridges while still offering the same protection to vital organs. Like the original, this version also zips into a number of approved equestrian jackets to elminate bulk while still maintaining safety. This vest fully inflates beneath your jacket upon ejection from the saddle. Accessories need to be purchased. $755

Horse Pilot Full Set (Air Vest, Canister, Outer Gilet)

The Horse Pilot air vest seen here comes as an entire safety pack. Designed for ergonomics and safety, this vest inflates when the rider is ejected from the saddle. The Airbag vest is an innovation that protects the vital areas: abdomen, neck, spine, rib cage. Canisters, leashes, and vest are also sold separately. $915

Champion Titanium Ti22 Body Protector

Certified under one of the highest safety standards in the world (BETA 2018 Level 3), this vest has military grade features to hold up for years of use while maintaining a low profile. Known for comfort and popular among eventers and endurance riders, this body protector will not inflate upon a fall, but rest assured it offers a significant layer of safety. This adult version comes in sizes ranging from XS-Short to XL-Long. $350

Airowear Womens Outlyne

The men’s and children’s versions of this vest are designed for proportions appropriate for each body type, allowing the vest to maximize protection while maintaining comfort. A certified safety vest that is highly customizable in terms of colors, this vest is also known for comfort and design among riders. $425

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