Rider Safety Wear

What is the right safety wear for you? Whether you are planning to go eventing, go out hacking or are only just starting to ride, it is important to consider what safety wear you need. Here is a brief guide to rider safety wear. For more information, or if you would like a safety wear check, please do visit us in our shop. 

Peaked Hat or Skull Cap?

This choice may depend on what sort of riding you wish to do. A skull cap can be used for any riding discipline, but a hat with a fixed peak cannot be used for cross country, whether training or competing, mounted games or racing. 

A skull cap could therefore be more versatile and we have a range of hat covers that can easily and quickly change the look of a skull cap. However, many people prefer to wear hats with fixed peaks and these are suitable for most riding disciplines.

Riding Hat Safety Standards

There are a variety of riding hat safety standards and making sure you have the right one can be difficult. For example, one standard is PAS 015 2011, which is a standard that is accepted by all equestrian bodies. However, some bodies will only accept this standard if it has the kitemark alongside the standard. 

The main hat standards are:

  • PAS 015 2011 + kitemark
  • VG1 + Kitemark
  • ASTM-F1163 2004a onwards + SEI mark 
  • Snell E2016 onwards with the official Snell label and number
  • AS/NZS 3838, 2006 onwards (normally only on hats purchased in Australia and New Zealand)

Something to note about safety standards, which can be seen in the diagram above: Each standard will test riding hats to particular impacts and falls that horse riders may experience. However, each standard tests different levels and scenarios. Therefore a riding hat that has more than one safety standard will be tested to a much wider range of impacts and therefore may offer a greater level of safety. 

MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) is a new technology that is being added to some riding hats to help reduce the risk of concussion caused by a fall. This is not a safety standard in itself but is an added protection available in some riding hats.  

The importance of fit

If a riding hat does not fit properly, it will not offer an adequate level of protection. Make sure your hat fits properly and that the harness is correctly adjusted. 

We spend a lot of time learning about the riding hats we stock and we are all trained in how to fit them properly. Please take the time to make sure your hat fits properly by visiting us to have a fitting.

Body Protector, Back Protector or Air Jacket?  

Gone are the days that your back protection was a piece of foam that you cut to size and strapped under your cross country top in the hope that it was still there at the end of your round!

Now, there is a great range of body protectors, back protectors and air jackets. But which one should you choose?

Again, this choice may depend on what sort of riding you wish to do. 


Body protectors are designed to absorb impact from a fall or kick from a horse; body protectors are compulsory for some competitions (primarily cross country and pony club activities). However, an increasing number of riders wear one in everyday situations from hacking to schooling over fences as they provide additional safety and can help to prevent injury in case of a fall.

Body protectors have certainly evolved and are flexible and lightweight and once used to them, you can easily forget you are wearing one, just like your riding hat. 

Back Protectors also provide protection against impact for those riders who do not wish to wear a body protector and want a lighter, more discreet alternative. They are not intended to replace a body protector and they provide no protection to your front or ribs. They are not permitted for cross country. However, for those riders who do not want to wear a body protector, they can be a useful safety option to provide back protection against impact, whilst remaining unseen under a show jacket.

Air Jackets are designed to inflate if you fall from your horse, providing a cushion to your fall. They can provide added protection to the neck, spine, chest, ribcage, lower back and vital organs. Initially a product most used by riders competing cross country, now riders use air jackets when competing in all riding disciplines and when hacking. In addition to the air jackets that are designed to be worn on top of other garments, we now also stock an air jacket that can be worn discretely underneath modern show jackets.

Air jackets attach to the saddle and are activated if you fall away from your horse. If you have a fall with your horse, they do not inflate and provide no protection at all. They are often therefore used as an additional level of safety on top of a body protector and if used cross country, the rider must have a body protector on under the air jacket. 

Many of our customers use air jackets when schooling or hacking as they do not wish to wear a body protector but wish to have protection if they are thrown from their horse. 

Body Protector Safety Standards

BETA (British Equestrian Trade Association) developed the recognised standard for body protectors with a team of riding organisations, doctors, riders, manufacturers and retailers.

There are 3 levels, offering different levels of protection. We only stock level 3 as this is required by all equestrian bodies apart from racing.

The latest standard was introduced in 2018 and all of the body protectors we fit have this standard.

The 2009 standard has a purple label and is being phased out. It will no longer be permitted in competitions and in the Pony Club or BRC training from 2024.  

The importance of fit

As with a riding hat, a body protector that is too small or too big will not offer adequate protection. Please take the time to have a body protector fitted by our trained staff. 

How often should a hat or body protector be replaced?

BETA recommends that riding hats and body protectors are replaced every 3 - 5 years, depending on frequency of use.

If you have a fall, your hat should immediately be replaced. The protective expanded polystyrene in the hat is made up of energy-absorbing beads that are full of air to form a microscopic bubblewrap. These beads burst when struck so that they can absorb and dissipate the energy of an impact to protect the skull.

Any time your helmet is impacted, the layer of EPS is compressed. It will not offer the same level of protection if it is struck again, even if there is no visual damage to the outside of the helmet. We have a hat that has been involved in a fall. Come and have a look to see what happens to the inside of a hat after a fall. 

Equally, if you have a heavy fall, your body protector should be checked immediately for dents. The foam will expand back to its original shape within 30 minutes; but if a dent is showing on examination, then it’s likely that this part of the garment has lost its impact absorption properties and it should be replaced.

Hidden damage that a body protector may have sustained is also a good reason for avoiding second-hand garments or those with unknown histories. 

Hi Viz  

All riders wish to be able to ride as safely as possible. Wearing Hi-Viz can help you to be seen on the roads by other road users, and when off road by cyclists, dog walkers and anyone else.  

We have a range of Hi Viz wear for riders and horses, in yellow, orange and pink, with retro-reflective highlights to make sure you can be seen in dim light. This can make a huge difference to your visibility and safety and is easy to wear. 

The BHS have been working hard to improve rider safety on the roads and had a major role in the recent changes to the highway code.

Visit their website to find out more about their work and the Dead Slow campaign.