Most falls from a horse are no big deal, but they can be scary — especially considering the distance you may fall and the speed at which you’re riding, which give equestrian sports a higher injury risk than most other sports have. Although falls like this don’t happen often, wearing a safety vest will help you feel confident that you’re protected when they do. You have two options for safety vests: body protectors and air vests. In this post, we’ll compare the top horse riding vests, so you can best determine what is right for you.
Body Protectors vs. Air Vests
Before we jump right into the comparison, let’s do a quick level-set to make sure everyone knows the differences between body protectors and air vests. Both protect equestrians in the case of a fall, but they work in different ways. Body protectors are made of lightweight foam that dissipates a fall’s impact. They are designed to protect the torso at all times, and also protect riders from horse hooves and poles. They don’t protect against crush injuries or spinal injuries, however.
Air vests have a lanyard or cord that attaches to the saddle. When a rider is thrown from their horse, the lanyard triggers the vest, which punctures an air canister and inflates the vest before the rider hits the ground. Air vests only protect a rider when inflated, unlike body armor, but they protect the torso, neck, and pelvis. Deflating an air vest is easy, as most air vests deflate on their own automatically a few minutes after they are inflated.
Top Horse Riding Vest and Body Protector Brands - Compared
There are a lot of different horse riding safety vests and protectors on the market today. One even has a “secret” feature where it can be zipped into partner brands’ riding jackets! Here are our favorites at the Farm House that our staff and customers use and recommend.
Body Protectors Comparison Table
SEI-ASTM, CE level 3 certified, and Beta Level 4
Front zipper and hook and loop shoulder and side adjusters
We love this safety vest, as it offers all the protection you need for English riding at a great budget-friendly price. This Ovation body protector is comfortable and non-restrictive, so it won’t compromise your ability in the saddle. It offers solid protection while reducing the severity of energy dissipation experienced during a fall. It even has reflective piping on the front and back for riding safety in low-light conditions. This vest is SEI-ASTM, CE level 3 certified, and Beta Level 4.
Body protectors don’t have to be bulky and uncomfortable! This one is incredibly flexible with the feel of gel and the performance of foam. It’s less rigid than others, so it molds more effectively to your body, especially your ribs, without restricting breathing. It’s also lightweight and adjustable, with a dual security and fastening system over the shoulders to ensure it stays put. This body protector is certified to BETA level 2. We love this body protector so much that it’s featured on our list of top horse riding vests.
This is a solid all-around body protector vest that’s durable, comfortable, and machine washable for easy cleaning. The small triangular blocks allow for maximum movement, and it’s easy to customize the fit in the waist and shoulders. This vest is certified BETA label level 3 and EN 13158-2009 level 3.
We love this lightweight body protector, as it’s a perfect compromise between a body protector and an airbag vest. It comes in sizes ranging from adult to child, and it’s perfectly designed both for children who don’t yet fit into an airbag vest and for adults who don’t want an airbag vest but want protection. It’s made of breathable materials and has a removable back protector not found in most other body protectors. This vest is certified to the European safety standards ECE1621-2.
Areas it protects: torso and back when the back protector is worn
This air vest offers a “harness type” airbag deployment for a faster response time. It’s comfortable, lightweight, and even protects your hips when inflated. It also deploys outward, away from the body, so it’s more comfortable when it does deploy. For English riding, this vest has a saddle strap attachment to be used with an English saddle that connects to the stirrup bars. This connects the vest to the saddle, and when a rider is ejected, it pulls on the connection and punctures the air can, inflating the vest. This vest is available with a clip enclosure or a zipper.
If you want an air vest that’s comfortable, safe, and has a secret weapon, then go no further than the Helite Zip’In airbag vest! It’s a minimal, lightweight, and discreet design that partners well under an approved show coat for the ultimate in style and safety. This vest has an attachment lanyard and saddle strap to connect the vest to the saddle. Not only does this vest offer the safety features you expect in an air vest, but it can also be zipped into partner brands’ show coats for a perfect fit. You can grab a couple of great options at the Farm House, including this Equiline Airbag Compatible Show Coat and the Oscar & Gabrielle Women's Jade Light Show Jacket.
This low-profile air bag vest offers superior protection from the top of your neck to the tip of your tail bone. We love how discreet this vest is, it’s practically invisible under your jacket, and it’s only air vest that comes in two bust lengths for a more precise fit. Made in France to CE EU certification standards, and outperforming all CRITT certifications you can ride with confidence knowing you’ve got top level protection. The stretch materials and perforated fabrics will keep you cool and comfortable. The FreeJump airbag vest is perfect for everything level from schooling to top competitons.
Areas it protects: neck, cervical, back, lumbar, sacrum, pelvis, thorax
Designed to meet the needs of riders, the Seaver Safefit airbag vest is made from leighweight fabrics that move with you. It’s so comfortable, you’ll forget you’re wearing an airbag vest. The breathable mesh panels will help keep you cool when competiton heats up. Available in navy and black, you can choose and option that best fits with your show attire. The safefit comes with a year of free access to the SafeRide app, which tracks your ride and can detect falls and reach out to your emergency contact if there is no response after a fall detection.
Areas it protects: neck, back, abdomen, thorax, trunk
The Belair is is mostly catered for dressage, hunter, and jumper displines. The vest can be worn with any zip-up show jacket that has at least 15% or more elastane. This Allshot airbag vest is at the forefront of safety standards, certified to European AFNOR standards. It comes with a removable D30 backprotector that helps spread the concussion of impact in case of a fall. If you’re a petite equestrian or youth rider over 66lbs, this vest is perfect for you.
Areas it protects: cervical, dorsal region, hips, pelvis, sacrum, tailbone, vital organs
If you’re looking for added safety protection when you’re riding, a horse riding safety vest is a great way to go. Body protectors and air vests work differently, but both offer an added measure of safety any rider would appreciate.
If you have any questions about air vests, give us a call at 864-457-3557. We’re always glad to help.
It’s no secret that we love Ariat here at The Farm House. In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about the Ariat Ascent line, along with some great options to consider for your own riding wardrobe.