Whether you are looking for extra protection just starting out riding or are a more experienced rider that needs a vest or wants extra security, you are going to want to learn everything you can to find the best options for what you can afford.

In this article, I have already done the research for you, along with testing out various body protectors. I will share the best body protector I have tried. I will also share the best body protector I have researched and recommend. I hope to answer all the questions you may have about body protectors.

You want to make sure you are getting a body protector that is tested and certified but at the same time not overly restricting while you ride and also the best bang for your buck.

Do You Need A Body Protector?

For everyday riding and lessons you don’t need a body protector.

However, for the eventing cross country phase, a body protector is required.

Why You May Want To Wear A Body Protector While Horse Riding

Other than cross country jumping, you may choose to wear one for extra protection while riding a young horse, jumping, going on a trail ride, or if you are just starting out in horseback riding.

Some riders like to wear body protectors because it helps them to feel more confident and secure as it adds another level of protection.

The primary function of body protectors is to protect your vital organs, muscles, ribs, and spine under the covered area of the vest, in the event of a fall or kick by the horse.

Many riders have said that they believe their falls and accidents could have been much worse without a body protector.

Now we will go over more on body protectors and what I recommend for a good protector.

How Does A Body Protector Work

A body protector is commonly made of foam and compresses under pressure.

It is fitted snugly around your upper body and forms to your body for the best protection.

The foam is meant to absorb and spread out the shock during impact most often due to a fall or kick by the horse.

Safety Standards For Body Protectors

But be aware there are different standards and testing for body protectors and some of the body protectors have not even been tested.

All testing is voluntary and this is not to say that non-tested vests may not offer as much protection as the tested and certified versions, but you have a guarantee of a certain level of standards if you go with a certified vest.

Here is a list of different certification standards and testing for body protectors.

ASTM/ SEI

ASTM F1937-04 – Standard Specification for Body Protectors Used in Horse Sports and Horseback Riding

ASTM is the most common certification. However this is just a set of standards that need to be met. The SEI certification means that the body protector has passed the ASTM standard and has been tested by SEI.

Tip: Be careful to make sure the body protector is both ASTM and SEI approved! If it is just ASTM approved it means that it has not been tested.

BETA 2009 & BETA 2018

British Equestrian Trade Association, Body Protector Standard – There are 3 levels of protection:

  • Level 1 (black or green label) Protectors providing a lower level of protection that is considered appropriate for licensed jockeys. “WARNING: This level 1 garment is designed to meet the weight restrictions that apply to licensed jockeys while racing. It is not intended for use in general horse riding as it provides significantly less protection than a level 2 garment, which is the minimum recommended for normal riding.”
  • Level 2 (brown or orange label) Protectors providing a lower than normal level of protection that is only considered appropriate for use in low-risk situations.
  • Level 3 (purple or blue label) Protectors providing a level of protection that is considered appropriate for normal horse riding, competitions and for working with horses.

The BETA Body Protector Standard is the newer standard. The body protectors are both approved by the association as well as tested. It is said the standards and level of testing are slightly more rigorous than the ASTM and SEI standards and testing.

Tip: Check with your riding association. Some riding associations are now requiring the body protectors to be a Beta 2009 or 2018 level 3 in order to compete in the cross country jumping phase.

SATRA

Shoe and Allied Trades Research Association – An independent British testing company that certifies vests along with other safety equipment like steel toe boots and safety glasses.

EN 13158- Testing standard used for body protectors sold in Europe.

SATRA is able to test all aspects of EN 13158 and carry out EU type-examination for CE marking against the PPE Regulation 2016/425. SATRA is also a British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) approved test house for its BETA body protector scheme.

Satra

This is a mandatory declaration that the product conforms to the European Directive for Personal Protective Equipment. Basically, if the body protector is BETA approved it also has the CE mark. The CE mark means it passed the EN 13158 testing.

For more information and up-to-date lists of approved body protectors, look at the following websites: ASTM: www.astm.org, SEI: www.seinet.org, SATRA: www.satra.co.uk, and BETA: www.beta-uk.org.

When choosing your body protector either Beta 2009 or 2018 level 3, or a protector that is ASTM and SEI certified are both good choices. You will know the body protector has met standards, passed testing and has some degree of protection.

So Which Is The Best Body Protector I Have Tried?

Out of all the body protectors I have ridden in over the years I have found the best to be the Charles Owen JL9 (available on Amazon).

What I liked about the Charles Owen JL9

  • It is ASTM/ SEI approved.
  • It felt like a good fit and formed well to my body.
  • This protector becomes more flexible when it warms up from body heat.
  • The foam is perforated to help make it more breathable.
  • I did fall off with it and didn’t even get the wind knocked out of me, neither was I sore the next day. Make a big difference compared to without. Unfortunately, I have fallen off more times than I can count.
This is a video of me riding in my Charles Owen about 5 years ago.

Body Protector I Recommend

After researching a ton of body protectors I found the one I plan to purchase and recommend to you. It is the Racesafe Provent 3.0 (available on Amazon). I chose this body protector for several reasons.

  • Good quality at a mid-level price $290
  • Safety Standard: European & BETA 2018 Level 3 protection
  • Lightweight for a BETA Level 3 vest
  • Breathable with perforated foam
  • Flexible with the segmented foam
  • Comes in many sizes XS-XL in short, regular and long
  • There are shoulder pads that can be purchased additionally for added protection.
  • All the reviews I have read around the internet and in forums have been mostly positive. Riders seem to love this vest.

I plan to buy this vest.

Comparing Some Top Body Protectors

To help you get a better idea of what’s out there for body protectors I have made a comparison table with different body protectors that have good safety standards.

Body ProtectorTypeFont ClosureSafety StandardNotesAvg
Price
Racesafe PROVENT 3.0segmented perforated foam panelszipperBETA 2018 LevelNo shoulder adjustments but attachable shoulder pads available$275
Ovation Comfortflex foam panelszipperASTM/SEI and BETA 2009 level 3Stiffer foam$175
Kanteqnew foam material in large, well-shaped panels zipperBETA 2009 Level 3 20% more shock absorption
& shoulder protection
$475
Airowear Outlynelarge pieces of shock-absorbing foamcovered zipperBETA 2009 level 3Doesn’t need heat for foam to be more flexible$385
Charles Owen JL9Gel foam wraps around like a turtle shell covered zipperASTM/SEI, BETA 2009 level 2 Needs heat from body to become more flexible. Perforated in back.$300
Champion Adult Titanium Ti22 Segmented perforated foam panelszipperBETA 2018 Level 3No shoulder adjustments$400

Measuring Yourself For A Body Protector

Here I will include the basic steps to measure your body in order to determine the correct size body protector you need. You will need a soft fabric measuring tape, a pen, and paper to write down your measurements.

If you are interested in The Racesafe Provent 3.0 they have their own Racesafe Fitting Guide, which tells you how to measure for fit and to make sure it fits correctly for these particular body protectors.

How To Fit A Racesafe Body Protector
  1. Chest measurement: Measure around the largest part of your chest, making sure that the tape is level and snug but not tight. (Most important measurement to determine size)
  2. Waist measurement: Check your measurement for your natural waist. Your natural waist is the narrowest point between the bottom of the rib cage and the pelvis. Most vests have side adjustments.
  3. Back Measurement: Measure the length of your spine while sitting in a saddle or a chair. Run the measuring tape from the bone on the back of your neck down to wear the body protector should finish, or 4 inches above the chair.
  4. Body Measurement: Take the measuring tape just below the ribs, up over the shoulder & down to the level point on the back, meaning across from where you started just below your ribs.
  5. Compare Measurements: Use your measurements to compare with the manufacturer’s size chart for whichever body protector you are interested in. Choose the size that has the closest measurements to yours. If your measurements don’t match up with the manufacturer’s size chart and are in between sizes, choose the smaller size, because body protectors are supposed to fit snugly against your body.

How effective the body vest will be depends on if the fit is correct or not.

How To Know Body Protector Fits?

Depending on the brand and style of body protector, each will fit you differently. It is super important that you get a good fitting body protector and you might have to test out different brands and styles until you find the right body protector for you. If you are worried about the fit, ask a knowledgable instructor or trainer to take a look and give their advice.

  1. Loosen all of the closures and flex the body protector before you put it on.
  2. Put the body protector on.
  3. Fasten the chest, waist and shoulder closures making sure the fit is very snug.
  4. Take a look at how much room you have left for further tightening or loosening.
  5. If you can’t tighten it up much more or if you can’t loosen it anymore then you will need the next size up or you should try a different type of vest.

Tip: If you have a body protector that forms to your body as it warms up while you’re wearing it, make sure that you readjust the closure after 10-20 minutes.

  1. Check the front length of the body protector which should cover your breastbone or sternum down to your bottom rib.
  2. Make sure the neckline and shoulders lie flat against your body. If the vest is not able to do this and is pulling away from your body you need to try a shorter length.

Tip: Some of the body protectors have shoulder adjustments while others don’t. With shoulder adjustments, you can adjust the length. However, if the vest does not have this feature then you will want to try that protector in a different length or a different body protector altogether.

  1. Now its time to make sure the back length is correct. You are going to want to sit down in a chair.
  2. Imitate all the riding positions you would be doing if you were riding.
  3. You want 3-4 fingers between the bottom of the body protector and the saddle. If the body protector is too long it can bump on the saddle and rise up while you are riding. This ends up affecting the rest of the fit, is not very comfortable and interferes with your riding.

When To Replace Body Protector?

Your body protector should be replaced every 3-5 years at the very least. This is because even with no visible damage the properties of the foam that absorb the impact during a fall start to deteriorate and the protector loses part of its protection value.

Body protector technology is continuing to change and advance. Past body protectors with older standards are becoming obsolete.

You don’t need to replace the vest after a fall except in certain circumstances. Make sure you look over the body protector for any damage. If you see some indents know that it is normal for the foam to compress after impact.

Now wait 30 minutes to an hour and check those indents you found earlier. If they are still there the protector needs to be replaced because the foam is no good at this point and no longer considered safe.

How To Take Good Care Of Your Body Protector

  1. A quick wipe down after each use– Use a rag or a sponge with fresh water and wipe down dirt and dust. Let air dry.
  2. Good Cleaning Once In A While– Every once in a while or when dirty clean your body protector by hand washing with a sponge and fresh, warm, soapy water. Clean thoroughly. Let air dry.
  3. Check your body protector after a fall– As was just mentioned about when to replace a body protector. Part of taking good care of your body protector is making sure it is still safe to use.
  4. Don’t keep your body protector in a hot place– Keeping your body in your car where it can get intensely hot or direct sunlight will cause the foam to deteriorate faster.
  5. Don’t keep your body protector in a damp or dirty place-Dampness will cause mildew and potentially mold, and leaving it around the barn dust will accumulate, and get into the velcro enclosures.
  6. Close velcro enclosures– To help prevent dirt, hay, and hair from getting stuck in the velcro
  7. Hang up your body protector with a coat hanger– So that the vest doesn’t get stepped on or smooshed and warped over time.
  8. Keep zipper zipped up– To help the protector maintain shape and protect the zipper.

Tip: If your vest uses PVC nitrile foam store your body protector in a warm but not hot place, then when you put it on the protector will be more flexible and ready to go.

Wearing a body protector other than cross country eventing is a personal choice. For the same reason you wear a helmet… safety and protection are also why you would want to consider wearing a body protector.

Wearing a body vest regularly will make riding safer for you and will prevent further injuries in the event of an accident. Something for you to think about.

Cheers,

Kacey