Debate over body protectors for working hunter classes *H&H Plus*

  • A new British Show Pony Society rule means all working hunter riders will have to wear body protectors this year. H&H finds out more, and speaks to those on both sides of the fence

    A NEW British Show Pony Society (BSPS) rule requiring all riders to wear body protectors in working hunter classes has sparked debate.

    The 2021 rule states that body protectors must be worn when jumping in any working hunter pony or horse classes, including the practice ring, at BSPS-affiliated shows.

    BSPS company secretary Karen Ward told H&H body protectors had always been “strongly recommended” in those classes but the society made them mandatory following the first lockdown in March last year.

    “We felt we should protect the NHS and reduce the risk of people getting an injury that could force them to go to hospital.

    Towards the end of 2020 we debated whether we should put it in the rulebook and decided at this present time it is the right thing to do,” she said.

    “Although showjumping doesn’t have the rule, I think what people forget is a lot of our fences are very solid compared to a showjumping pole. We took advice from our medical officer Nicola Shaibel, who said that while wearing a body protector probably wouldn’t reduce the risk of a serious injury, it would certainly reduce the number of injuries we were likely to have when people fall off.”

    Ms Ward said the organisation was aware some members were against the rule but that the decision had not been taken lightly.
    “Some adults feel they should have a choice but as a membership organisation we can’t say its OK for over-18s not to wear body protectors and make under-18s wear them – we have to protect all our members, not just children,” she said.

    “We’ve had several members say this is the right thing to do. The problem is, if you don’t make it mandatory people won’t wear them. We will review the rule after 12 months but we felt for the health, safety and welfare of all our members it was of the utmost importance that we reduce the risk of injury thereby negating the need for A&E, especially during Covid.”

    Competitor and BSPS star judge Vicki Smith told H&H she does not agree with the rule.

    “As an adult I should have the choice,” she said. “BSPS said the rule is to protect the NHS which I fully understand, but no other society has brought this rule in and there’s no evidence a body protector will protect the NHS. I’m worried for BSPS area shows because people might choose to go elsewhere where they don’t have to wear one.”

    A parent, who did not want to be named, told H&H she is “very much” in favour of the rule.
    “Given everything that’s going on at the moment with coronavirus, if we can do anything to reduce the risk of hospitalisation I think we should be doing it,” she said.

    Do you agree with the rule change; do you think body protectors should be worn in more sports? Email hhletters@futurenet.com for your chance to be featured on our letters page. The letter of the week wins a bottle of Champagne Taittinger.