Designed to absorb impact from a fall or kick from a horse, certain body protector standards are compulsory for competitions under the rules of certain governing bodies. Here, executive director and secretary of the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) Claire Williams discusses the different standards of body protector and the levels required for competition.

What is the current body protector standards?

BETA body protector standards set the benchmark for safety and are recommended by all leading riding organisations and disciplines requiring the use of body protectors. A number of different styles are available, depending on the individual manufacturer and the design.

In March 2000 the BETA 2000 standard superseded all previous standards. This was then updated with a revision in 2009. Garments may now only be made to the 2009 standard. Since 1 January 2018 British Eventing no longer permits the use of BETA Level 3 body protectors with a 2000 label. No garments with the BETA 2000 standard have been produced since 2011, making any body protector with this label at least seven years old, while some may be up to 18 years old.

Competitors are required to replace any 2000 label items with a BETA Level 3 body protector made to the 2009 standard or any later revision to the standard.

Cross-country riding within the Pony Club, British Eventing, British Riding Clubs and British Horse Society-registered riding schools and exams require riders to wear body protectors that meet BETA 2009 Level standard 3.

What are the current levels of body protector?

There are three levels, each designed for different activities and denoted by a colour-coded label on the garment.

  • Level 1 (black label) provides the lowest level of protection that is only considered appropriate for licensed jockeys while racing.
  • Level 2 (brown label) offers a lower than normal level of protection so is considered suitable for low-risk situations not including jumping, riding on the roads, riding young or excitable horses or riding while inexperienced.
  • Level 3 (purple label) is considered appropriate for general riding, competitions including eventing and working with horses. Level 3 body protectors should prevent minor bruising that would have produced stiffness and pain, reduce soft tissue injuries and prevent a limited number of rib fractures.

Looking ahead

BETA has been working on a revision to the BETA 2009 (EN13158 2009) standard over the past couple of years as part of the European working group WG11.

This work has now been completed and the new standard will start rolling out in a few months’ time. The level of impact protection remains unchanged — the revisions implemented mainly impact on testing houses and manufacturers in the way they design the garments, allowing for larger armholes.

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In parallel with this, the BETA standard will also be reissued bearing the 2018 date. BETA is also planning to change the colour of the Level 3 label to blue, level 2 to orange and level 1 to green. As long as riders’ body protectors currently meet the 2009 standards, there is no need for them to purchase a 2018 model immediately.

The disciplines that set a minimum standard for body protection (primarily the Pony Club, British Eventing and British Riding Clubs) currently only accept garments marked 2009, but have indicated they will accept the 2018 version when it becomes available. They will continue to accept 2009 garments for at least the next six years, which equates to the typical life of a garment of this nature.

BETA continues to advise all riding organisations to accept both 2009 and 2018 BETA standards for the foreseeable future in their rules.

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