For Charles Owen, providing the safest possible helmets and body protectors is a 365 days a year operation.
A ping from his smartphone signals the arrival of another accident report detailing how, yet again, a rider’s life has been saved. Roy Burek, managing director of Charles Owen, receives about three accident reports a day, and these remind him that safety is a 365-day-a-year mission.
“You read about another rider falling from their horse and you know that there is still much too do,” says Roy, who is also the top designer and safety researcher at Charles Owen. “It is our mission: to make the riding world a safer place. The horse has so much to offer us that it is vital that we reduce the risk as much as possible.”
Making that happen isn’t just about dreaming of new innovations. It takes a whole team of people to produce a single helmet or body protector.
This is where Charles Owen strives to do the impossible — analysing the design of each product to see how it reduces injury. The process starts with the helmet, ensuring sufficient protection against brain injury, and follows with body protection. It is an endless quest for perfection. Once the products have been fully tested, the focus moves on to fit. It is often stated that fit is essential to the wearer’s safety. If the fit is poor, the rider could be exposed to injury.
Too tight, and you can disable one of the primary defences of the body. It is where Charles Owen and Airowear staff spend a lot of time in the field trying on helmets and body protectors, adjusting them and sending their feedback straight to the design team.
Once the design of a product is complete and ready for production, no vital process is trusted outside of the company.
“After so much has been programmed into protecting the rider, we must ensure the quality of each product,” stresses Roy. “We have created one of the largest equestrian manufacturing units in Britain with more than 80,000sq ft and 140 people making as many as 120,000 helmets and 50,000 body protectors each year.”
For many, safety is just staying out of trouble, but for Charles Owen, it is its life blood, 365 days a year. Charles Owen is one of Britain’s finest equestrian institutions, the bearer of a legacy that has taken more than a 100 years to build, and very much at the cutting edge of injury prevention.