The Exo BodyCage body protector is facing an uncertain future despite being credited with saving an event rider’s life.
The makers of the Exo BodyCage, which was designed to protect a rider from being crushed by a horse, says only “a few hundred” of their body protectors have been sold because it has not been welcomed by the industry.
The designers are cutting their “six-figure” losses and donating the patent for the body protector to the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).
“Too many people opposed it too strongly — and no one has had the guts to stand up and say everyone should wear it,” said Alasdair Kirk, co-director of the Exo BodyCage company.
“Untrue rumours have spread that it wasn’t safe, that you can’t roll in it and, as a result, it has sold very few.”
The Exo BodyCage was designed by engineer Matthew Asprey after he witnessed the fatal fall of Simon Long at Burghley in 1999.
Mr Asprey and his business partner Mr Kirk spent £1million developing the concept, and sold a licence to Woof Wear to manufacture the finished product.
The body protector went on sale in 2005, but was greeted with caution by some doctors.
“Hyperextension of the neck [whiplash] is what doctors are worried about,” said Ted Adams, of Doctors at Events, a company that provides medical assistance on cross-country courses. “That, and how long it takes to get someone out [of an Exo in an emergency].”
But Woof Wear told H&H that although sales have been disappointing, people have credited the Exo BodyCage with saving their lives.
The most recent of these was Katie Hamer, who was airlifted to hospital after a rotational fall during the novice class at Spring Hill Horse Trials, Gloucestershire, on 25 August. Three weeks later, with only bruises and a broken wrist, she told H&H she was lucky to be alive.
“The horse I was riding went head-over-heels over the first jump,” said Katie, 41. “Doctors have told me that, if I wasn’t wearing the Exo BodyCage, I wouldn’t be alive today.”
In 2005, event rider Lisa Bray said she would “never ride cross-country without an Exo again” after walking away from a rotational fall at Milton Keynes Equestrian Centre.
But on 17 September, the BodyCage company will cease to exist. Exasperated by what they term as “antagonism” towards the product, Mr Kirk and Mr Asprey are donating the patent to the RDA.
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