Find out everything you need to know to make sure you’re properly protected, whether you’re competing at riding club, affiliated level or ride for fun.

Wearing a body protector is designed to protect you should you fall off, get kicked or trodden on. They might not completely stop you getting hurt, but they will reduce the severity of any injuries so they are essential safety kit. The body protector standards are currently being updated and certain standards have been made compulsory if you compete in sports such as eventing. This article can help you make sure you are up to date with the latest changes.
What are the current standards?

BETA – the British equestrian trade association - brought together doctors, riders, manufacturers and retailers to develop the widely recognised BETA Body Protector Standard. The BETA 2000 standard was the original standard all protective wear needed to meet. This was updated in 2009.

From 1st January 2018, British Eventing (BE) no longer allowed the use of BETA level 3 body protectors with a 2000 label. These have not been produced since 2007 so at the very least, these are 11 years old and some could be 18 years old so are no longer allowed. Competitors must wear a 2009 label as the minimum.

What’s changing?

Work has been underway in the last two years and a new 2018 BETA standard will be announced shortly. Colours for the levels will change.

The BETA 2009 and 2018 Body Protector Standard meet all the requirements of a set European standard (EN 13158). In performance terms there’s no difference in the amount of protection offered by the two versions.

There is no need for competitors to buy the 2018 standard immediately, 2009 standards will be accepted along with the new standards at competitions. It’s believed that the 2009 standard will be accepted for the next 6 years in line with the typical life of the protector and whilst the older stock works through the market.

What are the levels of protection?

The BETA Standard sets criteria for shock-absorption, the area of the body that must be covered and ensures there are minimal gaps between the protective foam panels.

There are three levels and each is designed for different activities, indicated by a colour coded label.

Level 1 (black label) This is the lowest level of protection and is designed to meet the weight restrictions that apply to professional jockeys whilst racing. You’d only wear this if you’re a licensed jockey.

Level 2 (brown label). This is the next level up offering lower than normal protection. It’s not suitable if you’re jumping, riding on the roads, riding a young or excitable horse or don’t have much experience.

Level 3 (purple label). This is the level for competitive riding including eventing. It’s intended to prevent minor bruising, reduce soft tissue injuries and prevent some broken ribs. Falling off in this should help stop you feeling quite so stiff and in pain.

Colours for the levels will change with the issue of the new 2018 standard, so stand by.

Eventing riders who wear the Exo BodyCage were pleased that British Eventing allowed riders to continue to use the protector which only has the 2000 standard. It’s very different to other body protectors and is designed to protect the rider from a crush injury in the event of a rotational fall (where the horse somersaults). BE has permitted their use but encourages riders to check them regularly for wear and tear, particularly to the foam panels and side fastenings. These are not made any more, so it is only existing owners of these protectors that are affected.

Top tips for meeting body protector standards

  • Check your kit meets the correct body protector standards ahead of the start of the season. This can be BETA 2009 or BETA 2018.
  • Check your body protector after you’ve had a heavy fall. If the foam doesn’t return to its shape within 30 minutes and you can still see a dent, replace it.
  • Replace your body protector every 3 to 5 years as the impact absorption foam may not work as well.
  • Hang your body protector on a clothes hanger to stop it getting damaged. Don’t leave it lying around at the yard or in the lorry to get chewed or trodden on.
  • Get your body protector properly fitted by contacting your local Decathlon to find your nearest store with BETA-trained staff. They’ll be happy to help you.