Equestrian-Design “Air Bag” Vests for Eventer Safety: Cautious Optimism from the FEI

 I love this video. It is the so-called “blooper” reel from filming the demo video for the Hit Air equestrian vest. They made this poor guy fall off the horse but do you notice anything incongruous here? Yes! He’s wearing an inflatable air vest to protect his body…and no helmet on his head. I guess that is why it is called a blooper.

If there’s an image that sticks in my mind from the 2010 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, it is the photo of British champion Oliver Townend sandwiched between the beautiful Kentucky Bluegrass and the handsome grey butt of his mount, Ashdale Cruise Master. It was not Olli’s shining moment to remember that he had in mind for that weekend; he ended up in the hospital and lost his chance to win the Rolex Grand Slam.

A key point of that photo is that Townend was wearing an inflatable safety vest which was anchored to his saddle. It may have saved his life.

What people don’t mention about these vests is that the anchoring lanyard to the saddle is critical. If the rider is not thrown from the horse, the trigger isn’t pulled as you might wish; or, if you dismount and forget to detach the anchor, your vest may inflate and publicly embarrass you.

Townend was sufficiently impressed with the air vest to become an agent for the Point Two, one of the manufacturers offering riding vests, and he now sells them on his web site. How much is a potentially life-saving vest? It will set you back roughly $679 before tax and shipping when purchased in the USA from a retailer like Dover Saddlery.

US WEG Eventing Team rider Phillip Dutton endorses the Hit Air Vest model, sold by LR Equestrian in North Carolina. “I recommend the Hit Air Vest to all my students and wouldn’t leave the start box without mine on,” Phillip says on his web site.

If you have ever bought a safety vest, you know there are ratings and a detailed analysis involved in how the vest was tested, usually by the British Equestrian Trade Association’s body protector standards; BETA standards were updated in 2009.

With everyone jumping on the inflatable bandwagon, it’s perhaps wise to remember that the new vests are just that: new. They are new to the horse world in the United States but have been around other sports and industries for a while, and have been available to equestrians in Europe for at least ten years that I know of.


I share my office with our town’s Harbormaster, and the US Coast Guard is next door. I can attest to auto-inflatable safety vests being in use on the water.

I can also attest that lots of times, people fail to ever hook them up. Without the attachment to the saddle (or to the cockpit of a boat), an air vest is just a four-pound decoration.

The FEI issued a lukewarm statement last week about the inflatables. The FEI Eventing Committee has recommended that National Federations and riders “keep themselves informed of all the latest developments and consider the potential benefits of their use.”

However, the announcement added, “specific data on air vests will need to be evaluated in detail before any further advice on their use is issued”.

“There is no doubt that air vests represent an important development in rider protection, but protective clothing is not the magic solution to rider safety. It needs to be considered in combination with active measures such as correct training, responsible riding, course design and fence construction”, Giuseppe Della Chiesa, Chair of the FEI Eventing Committee, said. Can anyone tell me why bull riders and racetrack exercise riders don’t wear these vests? Or do they?

I’ve always wanted to invent some sort of an inflatable landing pad for dismounting that would absorb the shock of landing and spare my poor knees and hips. I’ve experimented with the Quaboing! rubber tile squares from Vibram (they make the rugged boot soles and horse hoof pads) but I’d need a whole lot more of them and I think I need more of a trampoline effect. Inflatable products sound good when you’re sore.

From what I can tell the only thing really wrong with the inflatable vests, besides the fact that they’re expensive and that I’d surely forget to unhook before dismounting, is that they’ve come along at the same time as these neat vest covers for the old-style vests. I saw these tabbards from Carrot Equestrian in Horse and Hound recently. But there will have to be some other way to get creative with the air vests.

After all, you’ll have the rest of your life. Something you might not have had without it.

Blog by Fran Jurga | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

Be friends withFran Jurga on Facebook.com

Don’t miss Discover WEG with Fran Jurga for fun at the Games!





Related Posts

Gray horse head in profile on EQ Extra 89 cover
What we’ve learned about PPID
Do right by your retired horse
Tame your horse’s anxiety
COVER EQ_EXTRA-VOL86 Winter Care_fnl_Page_1
Get ready for winter!


"*" indicates required fields


Additional Offers

Additional Offers
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.