‘If it saves one life, it’s worth it’: top showjumpers lead the way with body protection

  • One of the riders flying the flag for wearing body protection in top-level showjumping says that if one person can be saved from death or serious injury, that will be worth it in itself.

    A number of the competitors in the international classes at last week’s Royal International Horse Show were seen in body protection. They are not compulsory for showjumping under national or international rules, but those riders H&H spoke to believe they are the future.

    Andrew Bourns, who represented Ireland in the Nations Cup on Friday (29 July) and jumped a superb round for just one time-fault in Sunday’s King George V Gold Cup, told H&H that there is less stigma around wearing them in the US, where he is based, than there is here.

    “A good friend of mine, [fellow Irish showjumper] Kevin Babington, broke his neck and was paralysed in a fall,” Andrew told H&H. “After that happened, my mum insisted I started wearing one and Freejump [which makes his air vest] gave me full sponsorship. It gives you an enormous amount of protection.”

    Andrew said he “very strongly” promotes the wearing of the vests. He uses his whenever he is jumping, including at home.

    “All my clients wear them, and anyone I’m close to,” he said. “My mum broke her neck in a horse accident and was in a wheelchair for eight years before she died so it’s a very close to home subject for me.

    “I’m very thankful for Freejump’s support and it’s important to draw attention to it. If it saves one life, or someone being badly injured, it’s totally worth it.”

    Jodie Hall McAteer, who is one of the British reserves for next week’s World Showjumping Championships, believes wearing body protection for jumping is “the way forward”.

    “It’s a dangerous sport and it’s easy to forget the risk involved every time you canter into the ring, so to have that extra level of protection and security is definitely worthwhile,” she said.

    Jodie is also sponsored and supported by Freejump, which makes the air vest she wears.

    “I wasn’t sure at first, I was a bit sceptical,” she said. “I’d never worn one before but you can’t really feel it when you’re wearing it. It’s so comfortable and light, and easy to slip on and off.

    “You don’t see it so often, especially competing at the higher levels, but in January, I had a bad fall and wasn’t wearing one. I really hurt my neck and I thought, if I’d had something, had this [perhaps I wouldn’t have been injured]; it’s definitely worth doing, and I’d be silly not to.”

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