Protective vests seem to be the latest safety item to take the equestrian world by storm but there seems to be some confusion about what they are and what they do.
Essentially there are two main types of protective vests on the market, both made by a variety of manufacturers. The first type of vest is made of a foam or gel interior that provides protection to your back, sternum and internal organs in the case of a fall. The Charles Owen Kontakt 5 Protective Vest contains a gel for protection and retails between $270 and $300. Charles Owen also offers the JL9 for children. Tipperary also offers a wide selection of protective vests made from an impact absorbing foam. They come in a variety of colors and are priced between $140 and $170.
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Jan 25, 2014)
The second type of vest may offer body protection similar to the vests mentioned above but also have air pockets that inflate almost the instant the rider becomes separated from his horse. Each vest contains a replaceable CO2 canister that is attached by a small lanyard to your saddle. When you leave your horse in the case of a fall, it automatically inflates pockets that protect your chest, back and neck. Point Two offers vests that range from about $230 to $870. The Point Two Hybrid Jacket for children retails for $869.95. Hit Air also offers a wide variety of protective vests ranging in price from $360-$550. Some of these air vests require a separate body protector vest to be worn underneath them so make sure you do research before you buy. One thing to remember though is that while these safety vests will decrease your chance of injury they cannot prevent all injuries. The inflatable neck protection will give your neck some support and may help prevent whip lash types of injuries but if you land on your head, they probably won’t stop you from breaking your neck.
I have three daughters that ride and luckily for my peace of mind only one of them is into jumping. When jumping she wears the Charles Owen jL9 Body Protector. As a mother and a nurse, I’d really like her to wear one of the Point Two Hybrid Jackets but I’m afraid that I don’t have the nearly thousand dollars that it costs. I know some people that insist their children wear a protective vest every single time they are on a horse and this is probably a good idea. If you or your child participate in higher risk equestrian events like eventing, show jumping or barrel racing then you really must wear the best protective equipment you can afford. Don’t buy them second hand and make sure that they are ASTM/BSE approved. Keep yourself and your children safe when you ride.