How to Choose a Horse Riding Back Protector

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How to Choose a Horse Riding Back Protector

A horse riding back protector (or body protector) is a wise addition to any equestrian’s wardrobe. It can be the difference between life and death, just like a helmet and for most riders is definitely not a piece of kit that should be ignored. If you’re a beginner or looking for a new horse riding back protector, then there are some important considerations when choosing the correct one.

Most would say riding horses is a dangerous sport, but as an experienced rider or owner, we get up on our horses and ride away, as if we were just going for a casual stroll around the park on foot. Riding becomes so second nature to us that we often forget about the risks involved.

You will nearly always find riders with back protectors on for certain equestrian sports such as racing, cross country and eventing, which tend to have a higher degree of risk involved. Just because you may not be taking part in those disciplines, does not mean you shouldn’t try and protect your body from severe injury.

Double Olympic Champion and reigning three-time European Champion Michael Jung from Germany will be bidding for a record fourth individual title at the 2017 FEI European Eventing Championships, Strzegom, Poland (FEI/Jon Stroud)
Double Olympic Champion and reigning three-time European Champion Michael Jung from Germany wearing a horse riding back protector. Image FEI/Jon Stroud.

“Ok, ok, I want to buy a back protector, but where do I start?” I hear you say. Well, let’s take a look at how you can take successful steps to buy a suitable protector.

Choose a reputable establishment

Choosing a reputable establishment to buy your back protector is the first step. It’s best to go to some of the bigger equestrian warehouses and online stores, where you will have a massive choice to choose from. Finding the perfect fit can involve trying on a fair amount of different brands, so plan to go where you have the most choices. Preferably not somewhere too far away from home in case you need to go back again for a second look.

Branding vs Style vs Cost

We all have a good idea of which brands we like and which brands we don’t, but buying a back protector is somewhat different. Yes, you may want to go for a brand that is your favourite or a design you love, but it doesn’t necessarily mean their product line will be the best fit for you or fall in line with your price range. Try to go into this purchase with an open mind and get a good balance of branding, style, fitting and price.

Fitting a Horse Riding Back Protector

Most of the big equestrian stores will have a free fitting service available, which is ideal if you are feeling a bit clueless about fitting the horse riding back protector yourself. You can, however, still very successfully fit a back protector yourself if you choose to buy online. Take a look at our quick step by step guide below to fitting back protectors for equestrian use:

  • Back protectors should always be fitted over light clothes. Something similar to what you would most likely be wearing when you are riding. Heavier garments are always worn over the top.
  • Run the tape measure around the widest part of your chest. The tape should be snug, but not tight. This is probably one of the most important measurements.
  • Run the tape around your waist in the same way. This measurement is not so important.
  • Run the tape measurement from the base of the back of the neck down to 2-4 inches above the bottom of the base of the spine, whilst sitting in a saddle or chair. If the back protector you choose is too long for you, it will interfere with the saddle whilst you are riding.
  • Most manufacturers will have their own sizing charts that you can compare your measurements up against and the one that is the closest fit to your measurements is probably the one that will fit you the best.
  • If your measurements fall between sizes, opt for the smaller one, as back protectors should fit snugly against your torso.

Always remember, the correct fitting, determines the effectiveness of the back protector, which is why it is so important to get a perfect size that fits snuggly. It is advisable to get some help with fitting if you have not owned a back protector before.

Safety is an important consideration for riding and dedicating just half an hour of your time for a fitting session could actually save your life. If unsure, take your current back protector to any retailer who sells horse riding equipment and ask for a qualified assistant’s guidance. Additional information can be found on BETA’s official standards page so you can best inform yourself when choosing the right horse riding body protector for you or a child.

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