Body Protectors: Everything You Need To Know

What is a body protector?

A body protector is designed to offer a rider protection in the event of a fall from their horse. Body protectors are designed to absorb high levels of energy experience when falling off a horse, being kicked by a horse, or being stood on. Body protectors are also sometimes known as back protectors, or body armour.

Why wear a body protector when horse riding?

Horse riding is an extreme sport and there is always an element of risk. A body protector can help to minimize the chances or severity of injury when falling from a horse.

Do you have to wear a body protector for cross country?

According to British Eventing rules, the use of a body protector is mandatory, and the body protector must conform to the current safety standards. Therefore, an up to standard body protector should always be worn for cross country training, lessons and competitions to minimise the chances of injury.

Can you wear a body protector in dressage?

You can wear a body protector at dressage competitions if you choose to. Many people do elect to wear a body protector for dressage and flatwork to minimise their risk of injury should a fall occur.
According to British Dressage rules, body protectors (including those with integrated airbags), are permitted in dressage competitions, these must be in a conservative or muted colour.

Can you wear a body protector for showjumping?

You can wear a body protector at showjumping competitions if you choose to. Many people do elect to wear a body protector for polework, jumping training and showjumping competitions. According to British Showjumping rules, body protectors (including airbag style) are optional.

Body Protector Safety Standards

Body protector safety standards are constantly under review and being updated to ensure that your body protector offers you the best possible protection in the event of a fall. In order to ride in certain disciplines, such as for cross country riding in British Eventing, Pony Club, and British Riding Club Competitions you will need to wear a body protector that meets current standards.

To find about more about 2020 Current UK Body Protector standards please click here.

When to replace a body protector

As with all safety wear, it’s really important to make sure that you know your body protector won’t let you down when you need it most. For this reason there are certain occasions when you will need to replace your body protector:

  • Your Body Protector should replaced after 3-5 years – after this time the impact absorption properties of the foam can start to decline
  • If you have had a heavy fall – check your body protector for dents immediately. The foam will expand back to it’s original shape over 30 minutes. If there are any dents after this time your body protector will need to be replaced
  • If your body protector no longer meets the current safety standards
  • If you have gained weight, lost weight or for children if they have grown, the body protector may no longer fit correctly. You will need to get the fit checked at a BETA Approved Retailer, and replace your body protector if it is no longer able to offer you the right protection.

How to clean and care for your body protector

There’s a number of things you can do to help prolong the life of your body protector:

  • To store your body protector, hang it on a clothes hanger
  • Fasten any zips or Velcro fastening to help your body protector to keep its shape
  • Close any Velcro fastenings so that they don’t get full of hay, horse hair or dust
  • Keep it in a dry, warm environment. Being too hot, too cold, damp or near artificial heat can reduce the lifespan and effectiveness of your body protector.

Whether you’ve fallen off in a muddy puddle, water jump or wet sand arena, or your body protector just needs a spring clean, follow these steps to get your body protector back to looking its best.

  • If your body protector has a removable cover, take this off and follow the washing instructions
  • To clean the foam, and to clean body protectors with non-removable covers:
    • Use a soft brush to remove any dried mud or sand
    • Use a damp sponge or cloth to get rid or any remaining dust, dirt or grease
    • Hang your body protector to dry, away from any artificial heat sources.
  • To get dirt out of zip, use a special zipper cleaner and lubricant product
  • Here’s a few tips for removing hay or horse hair from Velcro:
    • Remove large bits of hay, hair or fluff with tweezers
    • Brush it out with a toothbrush
    • Brush it out with a fine toothed comb
    • Dab with a loop of sticky tape.

While you clean your body protector it’s also a good idea to keep a look out for any damage, such as dents, stitching coming undone, laces fraying, Velcro coming unstitched etc.

How to check if your body protector fits

It’s important that your body protector fits properly, so that it can give you the best protection in the event of a fall from your horse. A properly fitting body protector will feel snug yet comfortable, it should not move, and should not restrict your movement or breathing. It’s very important that your body protector fits in a way that doesn’t impede your flexibility or balance.

Take a look at our handy guide on how to check if your body protector fits correctly. There’s also some helpful information on how to tell if your body protector is too small or too big.

If you are unsure of the fit of your body protector, or if you need to purchase a new one, it is recommended that you visit a BETA (British Equestrian Trade Association) Approved Retailer. At Eland Lodge we offer a free fitting and checking service with our fully trained and qualified staff.

Which body protector should I choose?

Which body protector you choose is down to personal preference and what fits you best. It is advisable to choose a body protector which meets the current safety standards, as this will offer you the most protection in a fall.

There’s a number of features you can choose from, such as a zip fastening, Velcro fastening, lace side adjustments, elasticated side adjustments, Velcro shoulder adjustments, custom coloured body protector cover, additional shoulder pads.

To take part in cross country training and competitions for eventing, your body protector must have the current safety standards, and must not impede your balance or flexibility in the saddle.