Safety is always the top priority in equestrian sports. equitrends International presents products such as helmets, vests and safety shoes for riders and explains what you should look out for in terms of fit, size and material when giving advice.
Working and dealing with horses is not only fun – it also involves risks. Prudence and the right equipment help to minimize or completely prevent injuries. It is the equestrian sports retailer’s job to ask customers about their everyday life and habits on and around the horse and to advise them accordingly.
Martin Heiland is an employee of the prevention department of the SVLFG and also a horse owner and breeder himself. He names insufficient risk assessments and negligence as the main causes of serious or even fatal accidents: “Accidents happen mainly on the ground and in close contact with the horses. A real focus of accidents is leading. Accidents happen here mainly by kicking or when the rope is wrapped around the wrist”. Besides gloves, safety shoes are important to mention here.
Heiland emphasizes: “The use of safety shoes in the horse business is mandatory and an important protection against foot injuries, such as bruises”. The manufacturers Hobo Shoes and USG attach importance not only to increasing comfort but also to modern design. Safety shoes must be certified and should offer the necessary toe protection, the soles must be force-resistant. Heiland adds: “Safety shoes should be worn in high-risk situations, such as when the horse is handled close to the ground. Safety shoes are not necessary when riding”.
In the footwear test, shock resistance, pressure resistance and the cushioning and fixing of the toe cap of safety shoes are tested. The Hobo Shoes team adds: “Safety shoes must protect the foot from crushing and breaking. In equestrian sports, they should be ankle high and have a non-slip sole. The freedom of movement of the joint must be guaranteed by elastic inserts or lacing. The protective cap protects the toes from injury with a protection of 200 joules. This corresponds to a pressure of 1,500 kg at a fall height of zero.” There is also the GS test mark. The abbreviation stands for “tested safety”. Heiland holds: “CE must be. GS is a voluntary, additional test with higher requirements.” Markings and pictograms of any kind must be clearly visible be affixed to the packaging. In addition, instructions for use in German language should be enclosed with all PPE products. Foreign markings are not permitted. The employees of Hobo Shoes also mention the European ISO standards as quality marks. The ISO standard certifies that the footwear has a profiled outsole, as well as Antistatic and a closed heel area.
Safety vests protect riders in case of a fall and can prevent serious injuries – if they fit right. Perfectly fitting vests reduce the impact energy and are thus intended to minimize injuries. The British Equestrian Trade Association, BETA for short, had safety vests tested and established a standard for them, which was later adopted for the whole of Europe and laid down in DIN EN 13158, the valid “Standard for protective clothing in equestrian sports”. Three levels are distinguished here: Level 1 vests have a low protective function and are recommended exclusively for professional jockeys. Vests with level 2 fulfil a medium safety standard, for example with different back protectors. Vests with level 3 offer the highest level of protection – comprehensive protection during competition riding or training at home.
The actual protector is usually made of plastic or foams. Safety vests should not restrict the rider’s freedom of movement, but must not slip in the event of a fall. Experts advise that a safety vest should cover the entire circumference of the torso. At the front, the lower edge should end at least 2.5 centimeters below the ribs, approximately at the height of the navel. At the neck, the vest should extend at least 2.5 centimeters over the sternum. At the sides, the gap between the iliac crest (hip bone) and the vest should not exceed three centimeters. The shoulder straps must cover the middle 50 percent of the clavicle. The greatest risk of injury is on the back: the safety vest must extend to the seventh cervical vertebra. The seventh cervical vertebra is the protruding bone below the neck. It should also overlap the upper edge of the pelvis towards the buttocks. Caution: The vest must not be too long at the back, otherwise it will stand up on the saddle and be pushed upwards. In order to determine the ideal back length for the customer, a saddle can be tested.
In addition to vests, riding helmets should also fit perfectly – and: be worn at all times. Heiland regrets: “When riding, the helmet obligation has not yet penetrated everywhere. But if an
accident happens, we have some seriously injured riders without helmets, but only minor or no injuries thanks to helmets. In some cases, the victims would no longer be alive if they had not been wearing helmets.” The first glance also applies to helmets that are to be added to the portfolio of the company’s own equestrian sports business. When trying on a helmet in the shop, the salesperson / dealer should make sure that the helmet fits comfortably and is pleasing to the eye. Ask if the helmet pinches in one place and give enough choice to suit the customer’s taste.
Replace in good time
The personal protective equipment must be replaced at different intervals depending on the manufacturer’s risk assessment: In the case of USG safety vests, for example, this time window is 7 years. For riding helmets the guideline is 4 to 5 years. The protective effect of the helmets can be reduced by constant UV radiation, for example. If protective equipment is damaged in a fall it should be replaced directly. In case of cracks, holes and porous materials a new purchase is necessary, too.
Author: Lisa Freudlsperger/equitrends International