11 March 2011


March 5, 2011   

Horse jumps are designed and set up to test the abilities of both horse and rider. When that magnificent steed approaches his jumps, you want to know that he is going to safely clear it, and that the rider will take him safely over the jump.

A high tech equestrian jacket that inflates like a surround air bag is a revolutionary new safety device that will be featured this year to protect both riders and horses at jumps during this year’s Red Hills Horse Trials March 11-13 in Tallahassee, Fla.

“Safety has always been the overriding priority of Red Hills,” said Jane Barron, event organizer. ”This advanced feature enhances the protections already in place to ensure that the competition is a clearly enjoyable event for everyone involved—both participants and spectators.”
Course designer Hugh Lochore said, “Designed to absorb impact from a fall or kick from a horse, the air vests protect riders faced with split second decisions during crucially-timed cross-country and driving equestrian events.”

As well as the obvious protection from shock absorption, the air jacket distributes pressure and supports the spinal column so that the neck and trunk have limited movement. If a rider is unseated or thrown from a horse, the airbag system inflates, protecting the neck, ribs, coccyx and vital organs.
Lochore said, “The rider puts on the jacket and, when mounted, a narrow fastener connects the saddle with the jacket. If the rider becomes separated from the saddle, the fastener pulls the activation key from the jacket, triggering a mechanism to set off the air bag system. The jacket inflates, encapsulating the rider’s trunk and collar area of the neck before he or she hits the ground, providing shock absorption on impact.”

Makers of the equestrian jacket maintain that protecting riders’ vital organs through the use of an air jacket is as important as protecting their heads with helmets. Craig Martin, co-founder of the Point Two USA brand of air jackets, said on his Web site, “We have seen the world’s best riders bounce back into
competition after a fall that previously would have prevented immediate competition and training.”
British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) body protectors that were designed to absorb impact from a fall or kick from a horse have become compulsory for some major competitions.    The BETA standard for body and shoulder protectors is now recognized as the world-wide industry standard. Introduced in March 2000, and revised in April 2009 this standard was developed in the late 80’s and first introduced in 1995 as a Standard.

BETA originally brought together riding organizations, doctors, riders, manufacturers and retailers to develop the now widely recognized BETA Body Protector Standard for body protector panels mostly made from heat sensitive PVC nitrile foam. The BETA Standard sets criteria for shock-absorption, controls the area of the body that must be covered and ensures there are minimal gaps between the protective foam panels.

Now, the air jackets have further revolutionized safety in the equine world by combining the latest air bag technology within a lightweight and comfortable jacket that can be worn in addition to BETA body protectors.

During independent testing carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory in Europe, the following improvements in protection with use of the air jacket were recorded:

When used with a BETA Level 3 body protector, protection to the spine was improved by up to 69 per cent. Level 3 BETA Level 3 body protectors are designed to prevent minor bruising that would have produced stiffness and pain, reduce soft tissue injuries and prevent a limited number of rib fractures.
Provided approximately 45 per cent more protection for the lower spine than a BETA level 3 body protector alone.

With or without a BETA level 3 body protector, reduced the risk of rib fractures and underlying organ damage by as much as 20 per cent.

Another reason many more riders are opting for the air jackets is that modern garments are more flexible and lightweight than their predecessors. Not only that, 21st century body protectors come in fun, fashionable colors (or plain if you prefer), are quick and easy to put on, and are more affordable.
The air jackets are part of new features for the 2011 Horse Trials. Foremost, this year will feature a challenging cross-country course newly updated and designed for 2011 by Scotland's Hugh Lochore.
Since its inception in 1998, the Red Hills Horse Trials has become one of the premier equestrian eventing competitions in the United States.    The cross country course was initially built by Lochore, and is set in the central area of a 120-acre indigenous plant/horticultural park that features a variety of formidable obstacles, including water, banks and ditches.

For further information, contact    Red Hills Horse Trials, P.O. Box 1176, Tallahassee, Fla. 32317 or www.rhht.org

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