Don Quixote and his horse Rocinante are among the most famous rider/mount duos in literary history. Unfortunately for Don Quixote, however, he and his steed are famous not for any daring deeds but for their many calamitous crashes, disasters, and “unintended” dismounts. From his famous incident with the windmills throughout his many misadventures, Don Quixote goes flying off Rocinante again and again, suffering severe injuries each time — in part because his armor is old, rusted, and hardly fit for equestrian purposes.
Hopefully you’re wiser than Don Quixote and that horse riding wisdom should begin with making sure that you have a proper body protector. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what to look for in body vests and protectors for horse riding, how to find the right fit, and some of the best examples on the market today.
Body Protection 101
As Don Quixote’s rusted iron suit offers very little protection, modern protective body protectors for horse riding are made from special fabric and extra-strength rubberized materials that are incredibly sturdy and able to cushion your bones and organs in the event of a fall. Some protectors are light and pliable while others are akin to a bulletproof vest. Either way, the ideal equestrian protective vest and suit should be strong, durable, breathable, and pliable enough to allow freedom of movement.
- Longevity: As with any protective gear, a protector is liable to wear out. The average lifespan for a body protector for horse riding is between three and five years.
- Measurements: A protector shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. Body protector manufacturers require measurements for your chest, waist, and, in some cases, spine.
- Positions: You won’t just be sitting in place while wearing this vest so you’ll need to consider how it fits both from a natural sitting as well as a riding position.
- Looseness: As with any padding, it will take some time for the vest to loosen up and conform to your body. As such, wearing a new body protector for the first time on the day of a competition is probably a bad idea.
- Breathability: Unless you want to be soaked with sweat, you’ll want to look for vests that boast good, light, breathable fabric.
The Best Body Protectors for Horse Riders
“It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” but you don’t have to look far to see why this protection vest is considered one of the best vests for horse riding. It makes use of tectonic foam plating, which offers great protection via a special pattern of double-layered pads. This vest is SEI- and ASTM-certified, which attests to its high quality.
It also has a live spine and flex lace closures, which means that it follows the bend of your spine when you lean forward while riding. That’s a big plus because, as stated, to achieve an optimal fit with your protector, you need to make sure that it fits well both in a sitting and riding position. Adding to this model’s high marks for how well it fits riders is a drawstring clip that allows for fast and easy adjustments.
The elegance and grace of equestrianism can be undercut somewhat if your vest reeks with the odor of a long day in the saddle. Thankfully, this vest features special antimicrobial fabric that guards against smells.
A more lightweight and less expensive version of Tipperary’s protection vests, this can be a good option for beginners and more casual riders. It features a four-way molded channel system that pads the chest while still being lightweight enough so as not to ride you down. The mesh lining allows for more airflow and breathability. It is also removable, which makes washing it that much easier.
The padding is not as thick as you might expect for a regular protective vest and it is not recommended for more advanced and regular riders. Even so, you have to start somewhere and this vest offers an accessible, affordable starting point.
This protection vest for horse riders deploys more like airbags in a car, remaining flat most of the time but opening up on impact. This makes it incredibly lightweight, weighing just 1.9 pounds. The vest is one size fits all with an adjustable waist strap capable of making it fit snugly around riders with small to extra-large waists and chests.
It should be noted that this is an alternative to the more traditional foam vests included on this list. While this means that it is more lightweight, it is also unable to be certified the same way and is not effective against horse kicks. Nevertheless, for the purpose for which it is designed, this airbag-esque riding vest is an interesting innovation.
This vest is designed specifically for kids so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it can run a little small size-wise. Ordering a size up may be advisable. Nevertheless, it features BSI Level Three Protection, which means that it can protect against falls and accidents that might otherwise be capable of breaking ribs.
This vest makes use of a special blend of polyester and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), which is a high-strength synthetic material that’s still stretchable enough to allow for mobility. The inclusion of EVA makes this vest especially adept at absorbing shocks, giving it superior impact reduction capabilities.
This model features a zippered front along with laced side adjustments, both of which make it easier to make adjustments on the fly. The lower front features a scalloped build, making this model less restrictive and adding to the overall comfort. That padding extends down towards the tailbone, providing you with top-quality protection from top to bottom and front to back.
In order to avoid a quixotic incident while riding, proper protection is of the utmost importance and this begins with making sure that you have a quality body protector.